Nebraska's 'angry' Paul answers his critics
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The same Niles Paul who took verbal abuse from his own fans after dropping two sure touchdown passes a week ago is suddenly the toast of Nebraska after a career day against Oklahoma State.
Paul caught a career-high nine passes for 131 yards and ran back a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in Saturday's 51-41 road victory over the Cowboys.
Consider him redeemed.
Last week, after his crucial drops in a 20-13 loss to Texas, Paul said fans heckled his family as they walked from Memorial Stadium to his car. He later took abuse from people at a fast-food restaurant, then took down his Facebook profile after it was flooded with postings.
"He was just anxious to get back out there, and I thought he did really well,'' coach Bo Pelini said. "We've talked about it. You can't cry about what happens. You can look back at what happened. When adversity hits, you assess it, you make your corrections and you move on. You just give the best effort the next week.''
That's what Paul did, amassing a career-high 274 all-purpose yards.
"I'm an angry person on the field,'' Paul said. "I played with anger. I guess it showed.''
His big day started with Nebraska's longest kick return since Ron Clark ran back one 100 yards against Kansas State in 1949. Paul said Tim Marlowe deserves credit for springing him.
"We knew we were going to have a chance to take one to the house or have a big gain, and I just saw the hole and I followed Timmy,'' Paul said. "Thank God, Timmy, he took on a block for me and just opened me up.''
Paul's 131 yards receiving marked his fifth career 100-yard day and his first this season.
Taylor Martinez, who set a freshman record with 323 yards passing and a career-high five touchdowns, said he never lost confidence in Paul after the Texas debacle.
"He normally never drops the ball,'' Martinez said, "but last week he had some mistakes and everybody else did. Even I did.''
Paul said he let the dropped passes eat at him. He's considered one of the team's senior leaders, and he has a history of fumbling. One of his biggest goofs came against Iowa State last year, when he dropped the ball as he was running to the end zone untouched in a 9-7 loss that featured eight Nebraska turnovers.
"It was just really very humbling,'' Paul said after Saturday's game. "I just got back to the basics and I started doing the little things more in practice, like staying after and catching the ball - catching 50 or 100 balls after practice. Just getting back to what I used to do. I kind of got out of that phase as the season went on.''
Fans on Internet message boards and in letters to the editor came to Paul's defense last week after he spoke publicly about the harassment he took.
And those same fans who derided Paul a week ago probably were his biggest fans Saturday.
Paul said he knows the fickle nature of Big Red rooters.
"I'm not out here playing for the fans,'' he said. "I'm playing for my teammates and my coaches and the reaction I get out of them. I'm proud of all my teammates, and my coaches said they were proud of me, and that's gratifying.''