Red-White Game Has Fall Feel, Appeal
Leave it to football-crazy Nebraskans to figure out how to import a mild, breezy fall afternoon into April.
Actually, I don’t know if Tom Osborne or Bo Pelini have that much pull with Mother Nature, but whoever gets credit, Saturday’s weather gave the annual Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium a true gridiron feel.
Hordes of red-clad Husker enthusiasts. The scent of hotdogs and Runzas. Big Red balloons in the air. Tunnel Walk music.
You could have sworn we were in the middle of September.
Of course, had it truly been September, there would have been more than 80,000 fans crammed into the stadium, rather than the announced 66,784, and our distinctive N decals would have adorned the helmets. But, no reason to nitpick. It was another day to enjoy in Memorial Stadium – and you can’t get enough of those!
Nebraska faithful don’t need much reason to flock to our state capital in support of their Huskers. Big Red Nation would probably fill the house for a mid-January clash with a club team from Germany.
The spring game is reason enough – an annual date that for many officially closes a long, cold winter and provides a “football fix” before the dog days of summer set in. In Nebraska, we wish fall were year-round, but we take what we can get. And the spring game is a chance to cheer for returning heroes and welcome promising new Huskers.
The 2011 game was no exception. Some old, some new. Dependable Rex Burkhead doing what Rex Burkhead does, along with Jamal Turner somersaulting onto the Big Red stage.
The flavor of the day was once again vanilla, as in Coach Bo Pelini and staff keeping things basic and close to the vest, not disclosing a new offensive scheme and the defensive blitz packages that have been hinted at during spring practice.
In talking to one ex-Husker who had attended several practices earlier in the month, it sounded like Saturday’s offense was more from the old playbook than what is expected to be unveiled September 3. Following the scrimmage, coaches warned reporters and fans not to draw many conclusions from what they saw.
With that in mind, it was still tantalizing to see the exploits of true frosh Jamal Turner (228 all-purpose yards, 59-yard punt return, 54-yard kick return, 49-yard TD reception complete with end zone somersault). Whoosh! There he goes again!
Likewise impressive was redshirt freshman QB Brion Carnes, completing 11-of-15 passes – including the TD hook-up with Turner – for 173 yards, plus rushing for an additional 40.
There were others. Eric Martin storming around the field from a new DE position. Diminutive halfback Ty Kildow (all of about 5-foot-5, but lightning quick). Speedy WR Kenny Bell. Frosh DBs Corey Cooper and Josh Mitchell. Stellar LBs Lavonte David and Will Compton. A deep defensive line. A slew of young secondary talent.
Of course, there were some negatives, as well. The “veteran” QBs – Taylor Martinez and Cody Green – were, well, not good (to be kind). Nineteen penalty flags (again). Offensive line inconsistency (still). A dropped touchdown pass.
Not drawing any conclusions, mind you. There are several months of summer conditioning and drills ahead, followed by fall camp. Everything will shake out and shape up by the first weekend of September.
Saturday was just another little slice of football fun, an appetizer of the full menu to come. Here’s hoping Bo and company cook up a winner!