MANHATTAN, Kan. — Tearrius George felt his heart fluttering.
“At first, I was pretty tense. I had to fill a big man's shoes,” said George, a junior Kansas State defensive end. “I was ready, but I was nervous.”
At least until Nebraska's second series from scrimmage Saturday. George, who got the start because Scott Edmonds was hurt, stuck his paw in the air and deflected a pass by Huskers quarterback Joe Dailey. The play earned a roar at KSU Stadium, and it allowed George to let out a sigh.
“It kind of put me at ease,” he said.
Dailey and the Huskers must never have felt that way with George on the field. In his first start as a Wildcat, George lived up to his billing. He tied for a team-best six tackles, including one sack for a 16-yard loss, crucial in K-State's 45-21 win.
George and K-State's other end, Kevin Huntley, terrorized the Huskers. Huntley picked up where George left off, collecting six tackles, one sack and forcing a fumble. That was one of four turnovers that doomed Nebraska.
George never assumed he would start, although Edmonds left the Oklahoma game and never returned.
“I had to be ready,” George said. “I knew who I had to fill in for today and that all eyes would be on me.”
Defensive coordinator Bobby Elliott said George improves weekly, and it was simply a matter of taking advantage of his chance. That came against the Huskers, and George pounced on it.
“He's a lot like Maurice Mack (K-State reserve free safety, who recovered a Nebraska fumble). “They are guys that are helping us now because they are figuring out what they are doing,” Elliott said.
K-State defensive tackle Jermaine Berry was especially proud of George.
“He stepped up and played. He had to show whether he could step up,” Berry said. “That helped take some of the pressure off my back.”
The goal, George said, was to pressure Dailey early and often. He didn't complete a pass in the second half, so the plan worked.
“We were trying to play aggressive, take it a notch above,” George said. “Every person on this defense wanted to take it a notch above.”
A native of Spring Lake, N.C., George arrived at K-State following two seasons at L.A. Valley Community College. He was rated the No. 27 non-high school prospect by Rivals.com and already was receiving rave reviews in August. But going into Saturday's game, George only had six tackles all season. He matched that figure in one game, and it came just in time.
“I know I can help,” George said. “It's a matter of doing it.”