EAST LANSING, Mich. — Here he was, lifelong dream finally fulfilled, and Jamal Turner didn’t know what to do.
And some 40 minutes after his first career touchdown won the game for Nebraska, the sophomore receiver was still a bit fuzzy.
“I’m still in La-La Land,” a bewildered Turner told reporters as he stood behind a podium. “I’m so sorry, man.
“I can’t believe that I won the game. I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life.”
Turner’s 5-yard touchdown reception with six seconds remaining not only provided No. 21 Nebraska a thrilling 28-24 victory against Michigan State on Saturday, it also allowed Turner some personal vengeance.
You see, he dropped the exact same fade pass from Taylor Martinez in the corner of the end zone last week against Michigan.
Dropped isn't even accurate. A wide-open Turner lost the ball in the stadium lights and never touched it.
Did Turner pay any attention to where the portable lights were at Spartan Stadium?
“I don’t know if I noticed,” Turner said, “but I didn’t have a visor on this game. I took it off. That’s a lot of the reason I lost the ball last week, when I was supposed to score.”
This time, he did.
“Same exact play. I beat the guy off the line, running the route, stuck at him, jumped inside,” Turner said. “I guess they were taking the slant, for some reason. It was wide-open, and Taylor threw a perfect ball. I caught the ball, got four feet in, made sure it was a touchdown.”
Although he wasn’t 100 percent certain.
“My momentum took me into the stands, and I ended up jumping on this, like, mat or something. I don’t know what it was. I jumped on it, and I remember I seen my guys running to me, and that’s when I knew I had scored.
“I remember going off the field and hugging Coach Fish, and all the wide receivers came and surrounded me and told me they loved me. I deserved it, because I’ve been working really hard for this.”
No argument from Rich Fisher, Turner’s position coach, who just a week earlier told a Big Red Breakfast crowd how impressed he’d been in recent weeks with Turner’s performance at practices.
Fisher said then that coaches wouldn’t hesitate to throw the ball Turner’s way in a critical situation. Saturday proved it.
“It’s just the way he’s preparing, the way he’s playing, his attention to detail, his focus when he’s studying an opponent. All those things add up to building trust,” Fisher said.
“I felt real comfortable when the play was called that he was going to go make the play, and he did. He’s grown up a lot, and for him to have that catch in that situation just kind of speaks volumes for that whole group, the way they battle, the way they prepare, the way they keep fighting.”
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said he’d been preparing to run that play for some time Saturday. He kept holding off.
“I was trying to get to it a little bit earlier, because I figured they were going to pressure us earlier,” Beck said. “They didn’t. And then when they did, we got to it.”
Turner’s catch was a positive ending to a rather tumultuous day for Nebraska’s receivers against a strong Michigan State defense.
“We knew going into the game any routes, they were going to be contested, just with the way they play defense,” Fisher said. “They match up with the corners and they play man, and you've got to win at the line of scrimmage. Ball’s got to be placed right on the money, and, obviously, we weren’t executing great for the majority of the game, just kind of sporadic here and there.
“It seems like we’d make a play when we needed to, and then we’d sputter. That last drive, what can you say? Taylor was phenomenal.”
Turner did his part, too. It’s only uphill from here, he says.
“I’m just going to build off of this,” Turner said. “That’s all I really can do. I’ve been working really hard this year to be able to play — not even to score, but just be able to get on the field.
"They’ve put a lot of trust in me, and I want to thank them (coaches). I won’t stop working hard.”