Lamar Jackson sat at his locker stall for about 30 minutes after the game, replaying the night, glad it was over. His phone was blowing up with messages.

The Husker true freshman's mind was just as active.

"Right when I got back to the dorm, I started thinking, 'Dang, I should have made that play. I should have made that play,'" Jackson said. "But at the same time, it's a whole other week. It's going to move fast. It's no time to harp on the past."

The highest-rated recruit of the 2016 Husker recruiting class, Jackson made it clear after he signed with Nebraska that his plans included playing right away.

But even the cornerback had to admit on Tuesday, "It's one thing to say it. It's another thing to actually do it."

There were times over the past few months, Jackson said, when he called back home to California and received some pep talks from those who had trained him.

He was playing behind people. That's normal for a true freshman and he wasn't pouting about it. But it was an adjustment. "I'd never had to do that."

The advice from home: Go to work. Get better every day. Control what you can control.

His work combined with his obvious high ceiling had him on the field Saturday, one of four Husker true freshmen to play in the season opener.

He was on an island in a stadium with 90,000 people. He took some deep breaths. Just play, he told himself.

"I think I did all right," Jackson said Tuesday, his first time in front of the media since joining the Husker program this summer. "The biggest thing I learned is that people are going to catch the ball and you got to have a short-term memory."

Fresno State made sure to test the new guy. And, yes, the Bulldogs got the best of him a few times.

Most notable was a 7-yard slant in the end zone, caught by Aaron Peck, who had nine catches for 112 yards against the Huskers.

Jackson said he had "bad eyes" on the touchdown pass. He was a hair of a second late reacting to the throw, the ball just above his reach.

He slapped himself on the helmet after it.

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"When I got scored on, none of my teammates really knocked me down, they kind of built me up," Jackson said. "Once I realized that, I was like, 'Let's go out there and play.' They depend on me to be out there. They trust me. So I just do my thing."

Through the ups and downs, Jackson ended up putting together a full stat line in his first game. Husker coaches even sent him on a couple of blitzes. He already has a career sack. He had six tackles and two were for losses.

In the locker room after the game, his position coach Brian Stewart gave him a hug and asked how it felt to have his first game out of the way.

"That's one of the things I was thinking," Jackson said. "Just get through this game. Don't get scored on again."

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker felt Jackson started tentatively, but picked it up as the game progressed.

The coach has no doubt that the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Jackson can be good. "And more importantly, he wants to be a good football player," Banker said. "We're not going to hand anything to him. He's going to compete just like everybody else."

But you also want to keep a young player encouraged, especially at cornerback, a position where confidence is needed to thrive.

"Because even veteran corners, if they lose their stinger, it's not a good thing," Banker said. "And that's not him at all. He's a very confident young man."

On Saturday, Jackson worked the corner spot opposite Chris Jones in Nebraska's nickel package, with Joshua Kalu playing the nickel back role.

Husker head coach Mike Riley said Monday he wants to find ways to keep playing Jackson on defense going forward. How the young corner fits into the plans against Wyoming will be something to monitor.

If the Cowboys' offense causes the Huskers to play more of a base defense with three linebackers, Kalu and Jones figure to be the top two corners.

When Jackson is out there, though, he understands opposing teams will keep trying him out.


"If I come out and get better each day, at that point I'm going to start winning," he said. "If they target me, they can try me, and after time it's going to be harder than they think."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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