Ask any of the Nebraska Husker players if they deserve to be ranked in the top ten and they’ll say yes. Not because they necessarily care about the ranking itself, but because they believe in the hard work and effort they have put into their season so far.
Why the sudden interest in this topic, though? Thank ESPN’s College GameDay crew. During Saturday morning’s show, they asked and answered whether or not Nebraska is “for real.” Many took the comments of the GameDay crew as a dig at Nebraska.
Fans had their own opinions on the comments. As for the team? The comments got back to them and they didn’t sit well.
“Oh, yeah, they laughed at us for five minutes,” safety Kieron Williams said. “They couldn’t even get through the segment because it was so funny that we’re not a serious team. But what we do is we’re going to play Purdue and we’re going to do our best to game plan and win that game and then we’re going to keep going down the schedule and just try to prove everybody wrong.
Williams wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
“When I heard about it this morning, I really didn’t say anything to anybody,” cornerback Chris Jones said. “I took it, just in silence, as a sign of disrespect – disrespect to me, disrespect to this team, disrespect to these coaches. We worked hard to get where we’re at right now. Just like every other team in the summer, we worked just as hard as anybody else. We deserved where we were at. I took it as a chip on my shoulder to prove nationally that we are not a team to play with this year.”
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. wasn’t as silent about the matter as Jones. While adamant that the opinions of others don’t really matter, he did take offense to the belief that his team is not great.
“I don’t care what people say,” Armstrong said. “I don’t care what… other people may laugh laugh at us, talking about ‘are we real’ or ‘are we really a great team?’ Great teams win games. That’s all I got to say about it. You can say what you want about my team. At the end of the day each week, we come out with a win. You know, once we keep winning, what are they going to say then?”
Armstrong also talked about Nebraska’s strength of schedule, noting how the Big Ten fared after non-conference play. He felt the Big Ten as a whole proved its strength across the board, showing that the Huskers are not playing bad teams.
“We’re not playing great teams?” Armstrong said. “At the end of the day in the non-conference, the best conference was the Big Ten. We came out of our conference, I think, 8-3 and everybody else was .500 or 5-5 or 5-6 but we get criticized about who we play. We play great teams. At the end of the day, the Big Ten came out of the preseason as one of the top conferences going into conference [play].”
Beyond that, Armstrong believed he had a better comparison point for analysts to use when looking at Nebraska.
“We’re 6-0,” Armstrong said. “Tell me any other teams that are 6-0. You compare us to any other team around the world, OK. Indiana is a great team. You can’t let up on that. Ohio State beat them by 14. We beat them by 5. Compare that.”
When it comes to respect, that’s all the Huskers are looking for. And if Nebraska doesn’t get it? Armstrong said the team will demand it.
“You can win by two points, you can win by a field goal or you can win by 30 points, but we’re 6-0,” Armstrong said. “We have room for improvement, but this team is growing. We actually needed this. We needed a team like Indiana to come in and give us a reality check of what we need to fix and what we need to work on. So like I said, we’re going to keep going, keep moving forward. We have Purdue to look forward to and Wisconsin, but at the end of the day, we take it one week at a time.”
Will the comments motivate the team? Maybe for some, but not all.
“A lot of guys I’m pretty sure are motivated by it,” Josh Banderas said. “I don’t really care. They can say whatever they want to say but it has no bearing on the field.”
It’s also not about the opinions of the GameDay crew or anyone else for that matter. Armstrong and his teammates are more concerned with accomplishing certain goals.
“We want to succeed past the top ten,” Armstrong said. “If we keep winning and doing our job, there’s nothing anyone can say about our team. Like I said, our team is working their tail off to win every single game. We’re not working our tails off to be in the top ten . We’re not working our tails off to win more games than we did last year. We want to win every game. Every game is important to us. Every guy in that room, if you ask them, ‘What do you want to get out of this season?’ They’ll say we want to go undefeated and win a national championship. It’s out there for us. We have to work for it.”
Beyond that, it’s simple for Armstrong and his teammates.
“They can say what they want to say,” Armstrong said. “A 6-0 record don’t lie and if we keep moving forward and we keep winning, what else can they say? That’s how I feel about our season and that’s how I feel about those critics.”
Nebraska is 6-0 to start the season for the first time since 2001. For the Huskers, that is just another testament to what this team feels it can accomplish whether people believe it or not.
“A lot of people feel like we don’t belong here but we’re ready,” wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. said. “We’re listening and we’re ready to play.”