Nebraska safety Aaron Wiliams walked off the field with tears in his eyes. As he entered the tunnel within Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, a group of fans above yelled his name and clapped in support. Williams looked up and then quickly back down, blinking away the welling tears.
Since the Huskers’ 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois, fans have questioned how much the team truly cares. Some have expressed that the Huskers looked tired and defeated on the sideline throughout the matchup. Others questioned the lack of intensity they witnessed, either from their seats in Memorial Stadium or through their television screens.
The challenge is deciphering how the players truly felt. All we have in those moments are what we see — and occasionally former players to offer insight. As for me, all I know for now is that I watched a tearful Williams walk by me Saturday.
To his right stood linebackers coach Trent Bray. He was yelling at players to hustle to the locker room. His voice was rough in that moment.
And as players heard him, some picked up their feet and moved a little quicker. Others didn’t. I’m sure we could debate their hustle, and how one player seemed to run off the field faster than another. But I’m not confident what good that would do.
Instead, I’m focused a little more on a specific moment from Monday. As sophomore linebacker Mohamed Barry addressed the media at the Huskers’ weekly news conference, he did so with honesty — or at least what felt like honesty to me. When asked about carrying the loss, he didn’t sugarcoat his feelings.
“As a competitor, it stays with you for a time because you think about, as an individual on the team, ‘What could you have done to prevent the loss?’ And I hope that’s what all of our teammates think. ‘What as an individual could you have done to prevent a loss?’” Barry said. “So we’re not blaming anyone individually for that loss. It’s a collective team effort. And then, you just think, ‘If I did something better, then maybe we couldn’t have lost.’ So it sticks with you for a long time.
“But after 24 hours, now we’re on to Rutgers.”
I understand actions speak louder than words, but I’ll take Barry at his word for now. I saw players such as Williams walk off the field visibly upset. Maybe that’s worth something. Maybe it’s not.
But the hope now is that the players’ tears — and their subsequent words — translate to production on the field.