LINCOLN — Alone in his office, Keith Williams watched Nebraska’s first three football games this season. The fourth game, played at Northwestern, Williams watched in the airport on an iPad.
“The Big Ten (Network) stream,” Williams said.
The Husker wideouts coach, serving a four-game suspension after a drunken-driving arrest, said it was a particularly hard experience as Nebraska went back and forth against Oregon. Williams went back and forth between looking and not looking at the TV.
Watching alone, apart from the team, “was a stressful situation,” he said. “But I brought it on myself. So you move forward and make it right.”
It has been a stressful six weeks for the second-year coach since the arrest, which occurred halfway through preseason practice and occupied a week of coach Mike Riley’s time to figure out how he’d handle it. Ultimately, Nebraska chose to keep Williams on staff. He first served a suspension in which he had zero coaching contact with the team. He returned to coach in practice during the week of the season opener against Fresno State. He then missed the three hours each Saturday while the Huskers played their four games.
Williams, out of jail on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond, still faces charges of third-offense DUI and careless driving. His next court date is Oct. 24 and, if found guilty, he’ll likely face jail time.
But, for now, he’s on the field with his players, preparing for Illinois.
“That whole process was really tough,” he said. “I’m ecstatic to be back.”
Williams said his wide receivers have played “good” while he’s been suspended. No “bonehead” mistakes. Receivers struggled some with downfield blocking and getting lined up correctly during the Fresno State game. Williams said his absence on the sideline may have thrown off players to some degree.
Graduate assistant Hardie Buck handled Williams’ duties during the suspension periods.
“Buck’s the man,” Williams said.
Senior Brandon Reilly said Buck did a good job, but “I think our wideout play is going to take that next step this game.”
Williams still texted players reminders before games. Reilly said that meant a lot to players. They’d get texts after the game as well.
“He’s our hardest critic but our biggest fan,” Reilly said. “He was always there. He pointed out good blocks. He remembers every play, so if you didn’t run a route good, he’s going to let you know.”
Williams said his first conversations with players and colleagues were like his statement to media about good decision-making.
“You’re responsible for every one of your decisions,” Williams said. “If you’ve got 99 good ones, each decision is independent. The things that you do, you’re responsible for it, no matter who you are.”
One of Williams’ 2016 recruits, Californian Derrion Grim, left the program while Williams was still in the no-practice portion of his suspension. Williams said he was surprised by Grim’s transfer to a California junior college.
“He had a change of heart,” Williams said. “I wasn’t excited about it. But, you know, I want him to be happy, and if he thinks it’s somewhere else, then hopefully that happens.”
Williams said he appreciated the “support and understanding” from Nebraska’s administration, coaches, players and fans.
“Everybody involved has been real supportive and great,” he said, “and that’s just been real humbling.”