After last week's Ball State game Senior linebacker Steve Octavien stated that "If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come out and watch the games." The statement was emotionally charged in response to Husker fans booing the poor play of the Blackshirt defense.
The Ball State game was a great big family disagreement. One side disapproved of the other's inaction and apathy, and the other side responded with a "I don't give a damn". Left by itself, such actions can lead to permanent splits with irreparable harm to both sides.
Today, Octavien apologized for his post-game statement:
"First and foremost I just want to apologize to all the fans for the comment I made last Saturday. I was just very frustrated in the way the defense had been playing for the last three weeks. We have given up a lot of yards.
It is frustrating as a defense when you have the crowd booing. We feed off the crowd’s energy, so it is very difficult in that aspect. Coach (Kevin) Cosgrove is taking shots and the reason he is taking shots is the way we are playing. He is lining us up in the right way, and we are not trusting it and doing our own thing. We are playing bad. I was just very emotional. I truly apologize for all the comments I made. We have great fans. It was just a mistake and something that was very unchristian for me to say. I truly apologize for that."
It took a lot of guts for him to come out and apologize. He could have cowered in the background and let his coaches defend him. He could have left that job to his parents or friends. He chose neither course of action. He didn't. He got up in front of everyone and made peace with the fans.
Along with Octavien, fellow linebacker Corey McKeon displayed a fair amount of emotion and honesty-
"I think it is just a lack of energy and motivation in guys. I can’t sit up here and issue a challenge to anyone. I am just as guilty as anyone. I am just not getting the feeling that I used to get on the field with these guys, and it is accountability on everyone on the defense. It is not just the starters or the Blackshirts. It is not just on Coach Cosgrove. It is on the whole defense, it is on our offense, our special teams.
We aren’t getting that feeling, that emotion of having fun and dominating people. I think once this defense takes a shot in the mouth, we kind of back off a little bit, and we try to feel our way out of it instead of coming back at it. That comes from having new guys on the field and not having them mold together. We have the talent, we have the players, we just need that third aspect of energy. We really lack that out there, and I think that is what has hurt us. I knew that was going to hurt us on the field. I said that a long time ago that we need guys to step up motivation wise, and we have not seen it."
You can spend your time going through McKeon's and Octavien's statements and analyze them 'til you were gasping for beer. Both indicate that the problem is on the field and not with the coaches, although they will ultimately be held responsible. Reading through the comments brings about the idea that the Husker defense really needs a leader. Someone who sees what's missing, finds it, and delivers it at the right moment.
Perhaps Tuesday the Huskers found their defensive leader in the form of Steve Octavien. Some leaders are not born, but make themselves in time of crisis. Two common items to overcoming a crisis are communication and unity. Finding himself in the middle of one, Octavien has seized the opportunity and used both items to bring things back together. Husker fans should recognize that and respond this weekend with the support that he deserves. If it all comes together there's still time to have a good Husker football season. I hope it does, because there are few things better than watching a leader be born.
I'll be heading down to the Iowa State game this weekend and hope to participate in the biggest group hug that Nebraskans have ever seen. Watching us dismantle the Cyclones should make it a blast.