Everyone already knew Demorrio Williams was good. Last year though, it seemed to be a constant question of just how good he could be. Potential, potential, potential, that rang out almost constantly as nobody thought that they were seeing what this JUCO transfer was touted as being, the consummate and at times, unstoppable playmaker.
Nobody is asking now.
The Nebraska defense didn't start off well, Utah State being able to drive on the Huskers in the first half. In fact, Utah State did what would have seemed impossible after last week's shutdown of OSU, they scored, one of the lowest ranked teams in the country actually putting points on the board. What happened after that was something Nebraska didn't have most of last year under defensive coordinator, Craig Bohl however.
And, one of those biggest adjustments was taking the reins off Demorrio Williams, letting him come off the edge seemingly at will.
3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and one batted ball. To be honest though, those stats can't tell you the impact Williams made on the game, Utah State shifting, moving and adjusting right before the snap almost consistently in the first half, but post-Demorrio, the offense was running much more out of base-sets, little motion and that signaled the beginning of the end. If there is a definition for "single-player impact", this was it. "Demorrio had a great game for the second week in a row." Coach Solich said. "We are really pleased and proud with how he's played."
That play turned the tide of the game, Utah State initially having a great affect to having almost none at all. "They (Utah State) did such a great job early on." Coach Frank Solich said. "We were in an awful lot of zone and they were hitting the creases and making plays after the catch. The quarterback was very composed and it was tough to get to him."
"As the game went on, they started to mix up their offense a little bit, we were able to get to the quarterback."
"Seems like that once we do get to the quarterback and put some hits on him, all of a sudden, it gets a little tougher to make some of the throws you make earlier on the game and I think that wore on him a little bit."
The wear and tear that the defense eventually wrought on the Utah State offense wasn't immediate, not because the initial plan was bad, but simply because the team NU was facing this week was as coach Pelini once stated, "As unconventional an offense as I've seen".
It took some time to finally analyze and adjust, again, something NU didn't do to any great degree last year, this year, it only taking less than a quarter to right the slightly toppling ship. "Coach Pelini said to just settle down and let us look at them." Demorrio Williams said. "Once he finally got them figured out, he said he was going to bring the heat and that's what he did."
All in All, NU sacked the QB 4 times for a total loss of 37 yards, forced 3 fumbles, got 1 interception and had 6 batted balls. Statistically speaking, Utah State managed just 60 yards on the ground, while putting up 178 yards through the air, resulting in one touchdown.
Still though, it was Williams that took the spotlight, something he kindly brushes aside consistently. Despite that, today was on the good side for the star LB. "It felt real good." Williams said of his performance today. "The first three or four times, the guy was kind of laying on me pretty good and I really couldn't do anything, but in the end, I felt like my conditioning was just a little bit better than his."
That's probably not all.
One of the many highlights on the day for Williams was a sack that resulted in a fumble he recovered, but ironically enough, Williams himself didn't even know he had the ball until the play was over. "I didn't even really know it was a fumble." he said. "They guy was just laying there and I didn't see the ball and just so happens, I was laying on the ball."
You could fill up the day with accolades on Williams' performance and this weekend's editions of the newspapers hitting your doorstep in the morning will no doubt laud the JUCO transfer turned superstar for the plethora of plays he made on the day.
Being the dedicated captain, leader and vocal pick-me-up that Williams has been since he took that role this season however, Williams remains humble in what he did while staying vocal as to what his team must do for the future. "I feel like we took a couple steps." Williams said of the defense getting better. "(But), There's a lot more steps to take."
"We can't always start out every week giving a team 7 points, because those 7 points might hurt us one game, so this week, I feel we will make the corrections and get ready for Penn State."
The much anticipated game against the Nittany Lions as Penn State travels to Lincoln is a game that many have anticipated. While some would say the luster has worn off, Nebraska barely ranked going in, while Penn State dropped a game today to Boston College, 44-7 isn't so easily diminished.
The players won't admit it, the coaches won't touch it, but fans will embrace it. Another payback opportunity.
And when you talk about opportunities, Demorrio Williams is the king of taking advantage. "I never know when I am going to be out there, it's just what when my name is called, I am going to try and go out there and do my job."
What Williams considers doing his job, others consider incredible. What Demorrio will eagerly dismiss as him simply taking advantage of opportunities, some will emphatically proclaim that as playmaking. It's all this and more that have drawn comparisons to Terrell Farley, the one-time playmaking machine for NU.
It's quite possible now though that those comparisons will stop. Demorrio isn't the next Terrell Farley anymore.
He's Demorrio Williams.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619