LINCOLN — Stanley Jean-Baptiste kept hearing the woofing from the Northwestern sideline and the Wildcats kept sending receivers down the right sideline to test him.
At least once the Nebraska cornerback decided to bark back a little bit.
“It was a little motivation, because they were in my ear all day,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I just wanted to say something to them, just to let them know that I was there.
“They just kept saying, ‘Oh, you’re tired. You’re tired.’ They were going to come my way. I just told them, ‘I’m ready.’”
Jean-Baptiste was tired and even tapped his helmet at one point to let the Husker staff know that he could use a break if possible. They either didn’t see or just chose to keep the junior on the field.
So Jean-Baptiste kept after it, trying to survive the storm in a game where he was credited with a career-high five pass breakups but was beaten for one touchdown and nearly for another.
“Saturday was the first game that a team came at me like that,” he said.
It also, however, was exactly what Jean-Baptiste has been working toward since he moved from offense to defense before the 2011 season.
Jean-Baptiste has started the past two games after backing up Andrew Green in the first five. The adjustment to the position goes on, but the 6-foot-3 218-pounder from Miami brings size and a physical presence to the position.
“He’s getting better and better every week,” NU safety P.J. Smith said. “They tested him the other day and he made plays on the ball. The one he gave up he just used bad technique. He came to the sideline and he said, ‘I opened my hips,’ and that’s the reason he got beat.
“He’s a heck of a corner. That kid’s got talent.”
The word “raw” might still apply. And Jean-Baptiste admits that he maybe underestimated all that would be involved in his move and how little mistakes can bloom into huge problems at the position.
The second-quarter play where Northwestern receiver Tony Jones blew by him for a 26-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian was a perfect example.
“He got outside himself technique-wise,” NU coach Bo Pelini said. “For whatever reason, he got off kilter and did some things we don’t teach and don’t want him to do. I think he learned a lot from the experience.”
But Pelini also said that Jean-Baptiste has competed and handled the transition well. Last year, he started his learning curve by listening to anything the other defensive backs had to say — “any good information” he could get — although he played a limited amount.
To get the opportunity that he’s currently getting, Jean-Baptiste said he turned it up physically in practice, got into the film room and started learning more about opponents.
“I never knew you had to learn so much before you get on the field,” he said. “It took a little long, but you’ve always got to be patient and just stay ready. I kind of let it get to my head a little bit, but I stuck with it.”
Jean-Baptiste said he’s not sure about his future in the starting lineup. That’s up to assistant coach Terry Joseph and the staff, although he controls the effort he puts in to possibly stay there.
“I can’t really say on that,” he said. “But as long as I keep working hard and keep coming to play every Saturday, then I should be all right.”
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