LINCOLN — One of the things Stanley Jean-Baptiste liked most about playing receiver was the part where he got to run with the football after the catch.
It's no different since he moved to cornerback — and so far this season he's shown he's still pretty good at it.
On top of intercepting a pass in each of Nebraska's first four games, the senior from Miami has returned them 42, 43, 34 and 15 yards. The 134 total yards already have him closing in on the single-season school record of 187 interception return yards by Daniel Bullocks in 2004.
“I guess in my head I just tell myself that all I see is the end zone,” Jean-Baptiste said. “And I'm just trying to get to the end zone every time.”
He already has done it once, taking his first-quarter interception back 43 yards against Southern Mississippi for the first points of the game. He has returned the football inside the opponent's 35-yard line on two other picks.
Something he always remembers about playing receiver was that he was coached to take the ball upfield and not mess around. He took that mentality over to the defensive side when the NU staff moved him early in the 2011 season.
“They always told me to run north and south,” Jean-Baptiste said. “You don't get nowhere going east and west. I guess that always stuck with me.”
Jean-Baptiste is tied with Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson for the national lead with four interceptions. Only Washington State cornerback Damante Horton has more interception return yardage with 147 on his three picks.
Jean-Baptiste showed a sureness of purpose against South Dakota State when he sat waiting for an Austin Sumner pass, then jumped a route and was simply too big and strong for a Jackrabbit receiver to disrupt.
The ensuing 15-yard return took the Huskers to the SDSU 32 with 4:51 left in the first quarter, and Nebraska scored two plays later for a 35-17 lead.
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“I'm just breaking on the first movement,” he said. “I'm trusting what I see on film and understanding the scheme and where my help's at.”
Jean-Baptiste came into this season with three career interceptions, including a game-changer against Ohio State his sophomore year. But he knows he probably hesitated on some other plays and may have let opportunities slip away.
“I knew what I had to do, but I wasn't really clear on what other people were doing and what my help was,” he said. “So I guess you could say I just have a better understanding.”
Jean-Baptiste also has figured out how to better utilize his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, which stands out as you watch him patrol the perimeter. It all started coming together for him before this season, with NU head coach Bo Pelini saying in mid-August that he thought “the light's come on for him in terms of playing the position.”
Jean-Baptiste smiled when asked about his streak of interceptions and if he possibly can extend it when Nebraska returns to action Oct. 5 against Illinois. The last Husker to intercept passes in four straight games was Daniel Bullocks' brother, Josh, in 2003.
“I'm just trying to keep it going,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Hopefully they keep giving me one every game.”
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Video: "The Big Red Today Show, Sept. 24"