AMES — Iowa State sophomore defensive back Nigel Tribune’s perfectly content toiling on an island.
That’s what good cornerbacks do. Safety help finds work elsewhere. Every stumble, break up, flag or pick becomes magnified. It’s black and white, no gray areas. You win or you lose, period.
Then you line up and do it again — better, this time.
“It’s something I’m growing accustomed to,” said Tribune, who will make his 14th career start in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Texas. “It’s something that (secondary) coach (Maurice) Linguist talked to me about before the season. He just said that the whole coaching staff and the whole team needs me pretty much to be a lockdown corner. I’m not where I want to be right now, but still working towards it and I’ve accepted the challenge.”
Tribune embodies all the qualities necessary to turn that lock into a deadbolt for opposing receivers. He’s brash, eager and determined — unfazed by the size of the stage or the scope of the task. He’s endured the hard knocks and been hit with the tough penalties.
“You’re going to get beat,” Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said. “Everybody does.”
It’s the reaction that matters. It’s what happens next. Case in point: The moment Tribune gained significant game snaps last season. Starting cornerback Jansen Watson went down with an ankle injury midway through the third quarter of the 31-30 loss to the Longhorns.
Tribune heard the words, ‘You’re in,’ so he grabbed his helmet.
“It was just like a shot of adrenaline and all of a sudden I’m out there,” Tribune said.
He was ready to play, but not yet up to game speed and it showed. Longhorns star Mike Davis caught two balls on Tribune right after he entered the game. Officials then hit Tribune with consecutive pass interference calls, and moments later, Texas took a 24-20 lead.
Talk about a “baptism by fire.”
“Everything didn’t go too good for me, but I learned,” said Tribune, who has five pass breakups and one interception this season. “I learned from my mistakes and it made me better.”
He still gets beat, but his ability to physically man-up receivers allows the defense to be more creative.
Liking more blitzes?
Happy safeties are able to focus more on run defense support?
Thank Tribune’s development, along with Sam E. Richardson’s and Ken Lynn’s on the other side.
“That factored into our preseason thoughts and our philosophy of what we could start to become because we have some guys out there that we can can cover on an island, cover in space and he’s doing that,” Rhoads said.
Not that he won’t continue to get beat while getting better.
Case in point: Last week vs. Toledo.
Tribune ended up on the Rockets’ star receiver, Alonzo Russell.
The result: Two pass interference calls on Tribune. Also, just two catches for 16 yards for Russell. Both season lows. Russell has caught six touchdowns this season.
“The next step for me is consistency,” Tribune said. “Consistency in covering my guy and getting my job done.”
It will come. That’s why Rhoads played him as a true freshman. That’s why the defense has adapted to his capabilities — which have come a long way in about a year’s time.
“It’s just game experience,” Cyclone defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “I think it’s hard work at practice and things like that; being technique-conscious and assignment-conscious and alignment-conscious. You cant replace those game reps. I say that, I guess, every week but you can’t with a young guy.”