All it took was the Tunnel Walk to confirm that the 2014 Spring Game was going to be more of a party than anything else. Bo Pelini and a cat? The gags didn't stop there. Kenny Bell ran a camera and challenged Bo Pelini to a contest to hit the goal posts with a football. Or maybe it was the other way around. Doesn't matter. It was a fun day from start to finish.
Oh there was football too be played too, and while we got to see the top offense line up against the top defense, I still believe we should take everything we saw skeptically. We've played this game before, watching Brion Carnes star in the spring game and never seriously contend for playing time ever again. So I'll give you some high level thoughts on what I saw, but won't go too far, because it doesn't really matter.
QB: The talk about Tommy Armstrong this spring was that he was entrenching himself as Nebraska's starting quarterback. We didn't exactly see that on Saturday, so this is probably one of those things where you'd better believe what you read and hear, as opposed to what you saw with your own eyes. Should you be concerned that Armstrong's third pass of the game was picked off? I'd be. I did like what I saw of sophomore walk-on Ryker Fyfe, especially when he got a chance leading the rest of the first team offense against the first team defense. He completed nine of twelve passes on the day. Johnny Stanton looked OK; Brandon Reilly made his stats look better than they really were. Grade: B
I-Back: Imani Cross had just six carries, but that was enough for 100 yards. He's improved his vision and made reads to turn a simple counter play into a 39 yard touchdown run. Adam Taylor looked fine in his first action, but what impressed me more was how Terrell Newby hung onto the ball. Last year, it seemed he fumbled the ball every other time he touched the ball, but yesterday, he had 16 carries and ball security was never an issue. This could be a four-headed monster this season. Grade: A-
WR: Kenny Bell didn't need to show us anything, so he spent most of the day goofing off. He's earned it...though he did have a great catch early on. Sophomore walk-on Brandon Reilly showed everybody why people have raved about him all spring. He caught an off-target Stanton pass with a great move, and then ran for a 51 yard gain for the play of the day. Nice to also see Jamal Turner back and healthy. Taariq Allen's five catches weren't difficult, but even so, you can see that Nebraska has great depth at receiver this fall. Grade: A
Offensive Line: It was pretty vanilla, and I didn't pay as much attention to transfer Alex Lewis as I had planned to. And with the matchup against the top defensive line, I'd call it a draw. Grade: B
Defensive Line: Randy Gregory didn't play much, so that meant there wasn't much depth. So I'm not sure what to read about this. I did like what I saw from Greg McMullen, for what it's worth, even though he didn't make much of a dent on the stat sheet. Joe Keels played a lot, and caught my eye as well. Will the Marcus Newby experiment at defensive end continue in the fall? I think there's something to work with there. Grade: B
Linebacker: I do think Imani Cross made the linebackers look kind of silly a few times. Courtney Love was another one of those players who caught my eye a couple of times. I did get the impression that Pelini wants to see much more from this group. Grade: C
Secondary: With Corey Cooper sidelined this spring, it created an opening for Nathan Gerry to slide back to safety. It took just three plays to make that move look good. Byerson Cockrell (#28, if you didn't pick up a roster before the game) was your "who was that guy?" of the first half, making plays all over the field. Yeah, I want to see more of him this fall. Grade: B
Special Teams: With no punting or kickoffs, it was just an exhibition of place kicking. An exhibition of placekicking that looked like it came from junior high football. Mauro Bondi probably isn't in any danger of losing his job on kickoffs; he was pretty good at it last year. But the placekicking job is wide open, and Bo Pelini seemed ready to hand it to incoming freshman Drew Brown, the (much) younger brother of Kris Brown, after the game. Grade: F
Overall: B Nobody won - or lost - a job yesterday. More importantly, nobody suffered any significant injuries. So we'll call that a successful spring game.
Elsewhere Around Memorial Stadium
CornNation: A+ Forgive us for tooting our own horn, but this really did happen:
Somebody behind me asked their friend if it was true that Creighton was starting a football program. The @CornNation April Fools joke FTW.— Husker Mike (@Husker_Mike) April 12, 2014
I really didn't want to make her feel bad, so I just turned around and said that was an April Fools joke. I have mixed feelings about this one. While it's funny when people fall for gags (yes, especially people who should know better, like John Bishop!), I'd rather that we be known primarily for having good analysis of Nebraska and the Big Ten, as opposed to being a bunch of screwballs on the internet.
And if it's not clear by now... no, Creighton is not starting a college football program.
Drills: Even if we're not quite sure what we're watching, just keep doing them at the spring game. I admit that my wife and I both thought the Kenny Bell/Bo Pelini challenge was to throw the ball through the uprights, not hit the uprights. The whole point of the day is to have fun, and thse things are fun.
The Offense/Defense format: After digesting it, and despite the confusing scoring rules, lets keep it. I like seeing the top units battling each other. One thing I'd change is come up with a way to start drives at different points on the field. Maybe have an offense/defense drill, and if the defense wins, the ball gets placed on the offense's own 5 yard line. If the offense wins, put the ball on the defense's 40 yard line.