CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – As quarterback Tanner Lee met with reporters following Nebraska’s 28-6 win at Illinois on Friday night, there was nothing different about him.
Lee just finished his most complete game as a Husker, going 17-of-24 for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Despite his big night, The junior quarterback's approach with the media was the same as it was after losses to Northern Illinois and Oregon.
He is a model of consistency. A steady hand. Lee doesn’t read what’s out there, he doesn’t get involved with social media. He just worries about doing his job. In today’s world that’s a lot easier said than done.
“Just continuing to work hard and trust my coaches,” Lee said when asked how he’s stayed the course. “The support from my teammates and my family, that’s been huge. Just straight-line focus on the next opponent and how I can help the team win the next week. That’s how I’m going to continue to go.”
After three pick-six interceptions the previous two weeks, the cry to see back-up quarterback Patrick O’Brien was a legitimate discussion around the state.
Despite the boos last week in Lincoln, and being questioned about it, Nebraska's coaching staff continued to back Lee, and Friday night was more of a snap shot of who he really is. If you give Lee a running game and protection, it’s going to look a lot more like we saw against Illinois.
“I thought he was excellent,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said of Lee’s performance. “He probably missed the first throw that he had, but the rest of the day was very good. Accurate, smart, had a couple good throwaways. When we made a play maybe late third quarter that they covered up, he scrambled a little bit and then threw the ball away. He was really smart, so I was pleased with him really throughout the whole day."
Not many quarterbacks would be able to mentally stay the course after throwing nine interceptions in three weeks.
Lee’s approach to the game, and his ability to tune out the noise, makes him a rare exception.
“Every Big Ten game I think there’s that heightened level of focus,” Lee said. “Going home we’ve got Wisconsin, we’ll enjoy this win – 24-hour rule. We know what we have ahead and we are looking forward to that challenge.”
The question is has this two-game stretch gotten the Huskers to where they need to be as two top-10 opponents loom?
“There's no magic pills that we've taken, we've just done a better job of preparation and studying opponents has been better and all of it's improved,” Langsdorf said. “That's shown in our play and I think that added focus is going to be really necessary coming into Wisconsin week.”