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Embrace Nebraska's Wacky Spring Game Scoring Rules

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David McGee

You could hear a major sigh from many Nebraska football fans when Mike Riley announced that the 2015 Nebraska spring game would be a battle between the offense (in red) and the defense (in white). That means that the scoring rules get modified in a rather unusual fashion.

Except we've kind of seen that two years ago.

Which in turn brought back a lot of bad memories for some fans.  "It's... not ... football!"

My thought?  Get over it.  The spring game isn't about football in the traditional sense. It's never been.  It's a scrimmage.  Nobody really wins (except Jack Hoffman, of course),  and as long as nobody gets seriously injured, nobody loses. Do you really care if the Red or White team wins?

Of course not.

What do you want to see? You want to see players make plays, but in the spring game, sometimes it isn't clear whether a play was made because of a talent difference. Spring games in the Bill Callahan era were filled with highlight reel plays by the starters against the scout team...which were completely meaningless. (G'bye, Bill. Stick to the offensive line.)

So fans want to see the top units facing off against each other, but not for the whole game, because they don't need that much work and we don't want anybody to get injured. So you have to add in reserves to the top units, which means you have fewer players available on the other squad.

And if you have a number of injuries (or possible defections, as it appears on the defensive line) at key positions, you may simply not have enough players to fill two squads at every position.  But you may have enough depth to go at least three deep at each position, you can make it work with offense versus defense.

And that means you'll get to see the first string offense facing off against the first string defense, for part of the game. The reserves will be facing off against the reserves, which means when someone catches your eye, they might be someone to keep an eye on in the fall.  For example, say Patrick O'Brien throws an interception. If it's Joshua Kalu with the pick, you might say that O'Brien just needs some more work.  If he throws one to, say Tanner Zlab or Reid Karel, you might get a little more concerned.  If Mikale Wilbon runs through Dedrick Young and Nate Gerry on a touchdown run, you get more excited than if he runs through Noah Lazaro and Jeremiah Stovall.

So yes, the scoring is going to be non-traditional. Deal with it. There are plenty of scoreboards inside the stadium, and BTN will have a scoring bug on the screen, so you'll know what the score is. (Radio people will have to depend on Greg Sharpe to provide the score updates, though.)  Besides, the score isn't really important in the spring game.

The spring game is really all about the kids anyway: the kids who wouldn't otherwise get to step inside of Memorial Stadium (free tickets for the Spring game vs. $57 face value in the fall) and the kids who are playing for the first time in front of 60,000 or so people.  The kids in the stands may be disappointed that they won't be able to run on the field at halftime, but with the game consisting of four 20 minute quarters with a running clock, they won't have much of a chance to get bored.

Let's just have fun, shall we?