LINCOLN — Eric Lee’s day in Lincoln finally arrived.
Since committing to the Nebraska program five years ago, Lee has been waiting for a day like Saturday.
“Since I committed here back in 2014, being able to finally reach this day and make the plays I’m capable of out on the field to showcase it on this level, I’ve been waiting for that my whole life,” Lee said.
The senior defensive back got his first interception Saturday against South Alabama, and he turned that into his first pick six with a 38-yard return in a 35-21 victory over the Jaguars.
Just to prove that wasn’t a fluke, he added another interception in the fourth quarter.
Those two interceptions combined with one by Cam Taylor helped propel the Huskers to the win.
“The DBs make a lot of plays,” said senior linebacker Alex Davis, who made a play of his own when he recovered a fumble by South Alabama quarterback Cephus Johnson for a touchdown. “You can tell they’re confident in that room. It looked natural for E. Lee making those plays. It looked natural. You could say that about that whole room. You can really say that about the whole defense. Everybody is competitive and ready to go.”
Linebacker JoJo Domann, who has a way with words, said, “E. Lee, Pick Six Lee, he’s jumping routes out there. It was awesome to see.”
With the offense struggling, the Huskers needed the defense to step up and make plays. Lee was one of those guys.
“If you look at our secondary, we’ve got a lot of guys who persevered through the coaching change and what we were expecting of them and now they’re some of our best teammates and today some of our best players,” head coach Scott Frost said. “Lamar Jackson, Eric Lee, Marquel Dismuke, there’s others.
“Those guys were here when we got here and it takes a while to learn what we expect and want guys to do and what the standards are. Those guys are just living up to the standards now. They’re setting other people to standards now and setting a new standard. I’m glad to see those guys having the success they’re having.”
Lee moved from cornerback to safety where he teamed up with Marquel Dismuke to fill a spot with Deontai Williams out with an injury.
“They’ve been in my bad graces a little bit going back to when I first got here,” Frost said. “They’re doing everything the right way now.”
That move to safety seems to have paid off big early this season.
“I’m definitely glad,” Lee said. “I feel like it allows me to come down and make a lot more tackles and that’s something I’ve always been good at. Then just from a mental aspect, you just do so much more mentally. You need to know so much more. It just keeps you engaged more a tremendous amount.”
The Huskers may be lucky to still have Lee with the program. He admitted that there was a time he was ready to move on, but his dad talked him out of it.
“I’m thankful to have my dad,” Lee said. “‘Just keep your head down. Keep working. Keep working.’ Like when I called him after the game, he was in tears just saying how proud he was of me. Just being able to keep working, keep working, putting my head down and I’ll see some of the results that came from this first game.”
The Huskers saw the kind of results they wanted. Nebraska probably doesn’t win the game without those five turnovers.
“Turnovers win the game,” cornerback Lamar Jackson said. “If we win the turnover battle and limit our mistakes, we’ll win every game. That’s the goal is to win the turnover battle and limit mistakes. We won the turnover battle and got a win.”
That’s just putting the team on the shoulders of the defense according to Lee.
“We want to try and make all the plays that are in our favor,” he said. “The secondary, we just try to make all the plays we can and try to elevate everyone else’s game and continue to grow and grow as the season goes on.”