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Nebraska Spring Game: Sights, Sounds, And The Eight Wide Receiver Set

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There’s a lot riding on one guy.

Jon Johnston

Nebraska had a spring game. I had the fortunate opportunity to shoot it. It was glorious fun.

I’m going to start completely off topic and say that photographers need to come up with a different term other than “shooting” when using a camera. Whenever someone asked me, “Are you going to the spring game”, I would respond, “yes, I’m going to shoot it” and then I wondered when I was to be reported to the authorities. Just something for future discussions.

It is an altogether different experience watching a sporting event through a lens than by any other means. You are very focused on what specifically is happening in a very small window to the world. You see a lot more emotion because you can see every face.

Fans don’t see that unless someone zooms in one a guy for one play. Media types sitting in the press box don’t see it either.

It is a wonderful, wonderful experience.

We Are All In This Together

Hank Bounds and Ronnie Green were together on the sideline. So were Bill Moos and Tom Osborne. Frost’s recent comments about the lack of leadership from the previous regime has assured that the fate of Bounds and Green are tied to his success. Moos is near the end of his career, so you can’t exactly say a Frost failure would be career-ending and Osborne will remain a legend regardless of what happens. Bounds is University of Nebraska president. Green is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor.

If Frost fails, we’re going to have to replace an entire university administration.

That’s a lot riding on one guy.

I was standing near Hank Bounds before the game started. I tapped him on the shoulder, shook his hand and said, “Good luck”. He said, “Thank you” in return. I took that to mean that he’d read my mind and was in agreement with the comments above.

We’re all in this together.. you know, until we’re not. Then we turn on them because they’re to blame for our unanswered prayers. I thought about asking Bounds about it, but I thought, “Who am I to kill this guy’s buzz during the honeymoon?”

So I didn’t. Instead, I’m mentioning it here. Ha.

Defensive offensive line coach Mike Dawson reminds me of Tony Soprano

I arrived plenty early. Dawson and the defensive line were on the field early running through some drills. I watched, took some photos, but for the rest of the spring game I couldn’t shake the idea that if you crossed Dawson in a bad way you’d end up whacked.

He has a look that says, “I’m gonna kill you, but it’s gonna hurt a lot before you die”. Has that look even when he was smiling. He should have a warning label, maybe like a tattoo of “DNFW” across his forehead.

While Dawson is smashing your knee cap with a ball peen hammer (or letting DaiShon Neal sit on your chest and slowly crush the life out of you) , Mario Verdusco is going to be standing there, saying nothing, just like this.

The Tunnel Walk

I’ve looked around at some shots from other media outlets of the Tunnel Walk. They have some nice shots. I do not. It was crazy down there. There were a ton of media people. Then there are a ton of other people, all wanting to get a shot of Frost’s first Tunnel Walk (even though it’s not, really).

They apparently played some music other than “Sirius”. I did not know this at the time because there was plenty else going on. I know this because I’ve seen comments about it, as if some grand tradition were broken.

They played background music the entire game. It wasn’t obnoxiously loud. I rather enjoyed it.

The Kid That Won $25k

I have no idea who that kid was - the kid that caught the punt and won $25,000. I have no idea whether they showed it on BTN or they talked about it on the radio.

What I do know is that there must have been a shitload of pressure on this kid. It’s kind of like a goal kick in soccer. Fans might think it’s easy kicking at a goalie and a 20-foot net, but they’ve never tried it when a game is on the line.

The kid caught the punt like he was walking to Sunday brunch.

The crowd roared. The entire football team nearly crushed him with glee after he made the catch.

It was fun. Everyone around me was smiling. Okay, everyone was smiling most of the time, but after this, they were smiling even more.

Adrian Martinez, Tristan Gebbia, Quarterbacks

It appears we have a new hero, that being Adrian Martinez. He went “whoosh” more than the others, but let’s be honest - we are always about the new kid in town and that goes doubly so when the new kid is a quarterback.

Martinez was fast, and he didn’t stop running when he was touched down. I don’t blame him. I would find it frustrating that there was a “football game” on and I could not really show off my skills as a runner because some guy touched me down.

Tristan Gebbia looked pretty good. He doesn’t look nearly as tiny as he did last year when you thought that he might get destroyed if he got into a collision. He played with a good amount of poise.

Andrew Bunch played well for the white team. He made some good throws. He looked athletic.

We have good choices at quarterback. None of them are statues, so if nothing else, it’s going to be interesting watching them run around trying to make things happen if the offensive line isn’t doing well.

Who’s going to start? Who the hell knows? I’m guessing Scott Frost doesn’t even know yet because fall is still a long ways off.

Scott Frost stood on the field most of the game

Frost was on the field most of the game about 10 yards behind his quarterbacks. I overheard people say that’s so he could get the best view of what was going on. I think he stayed on the field because otherwise he would have never been left alone. There were too many people there who wanted to shake his hand.

You get the idea that when he was on the field he was at least left alone with his thoughts. He came to the sideline in the fourth quarter, and immediate there were people there to shake his hand. Never mind that the team area was cordoned off.

Yes, There Were Cheerleaders, Butt....

During a Slack room discussion before the game it was recommended that I cut down on the cheerleader shots. I did take some cheerleader shots, but I also told my staff that I was going to take cheesecake shots of linemen, so here are some linemen butts.

You can now analyze their butts and compare them to previous seasons’ butts to determine whether they are more athletic or not and thank me later.

(This is the kind of hard-hitting analysis you’re looking for, right?)

Running Backs

Quarterbacks get all the chicks. They always have. This is not to say that there’s a shortage when it comes to everyone else, it’s just that in this case “chicks” means press... in case you were confused.

Greg Bell was the star Saturday. He had vision. He had speed. He had that elusiveness going for him.

Mikale Wilbon looked tough. He looked bigger, stronger, faster, just like the Six Million Dollar man (boy am I dating myself).

Hopefully we see a lot of desperate reaching like by opposing defenses in the fall.

Devine Ozigbo looked thick. Jaylin Bradley looked like he never really got going.

We have a decent set of running backs.

Receivers

The two best guys, Stanley Morgan Jr and JD Spielman didn’t play. 385 other guys did. We have 124 tight ends and receivers, right?

There were screens here, screens there, Tyjon Lindsey looking great on a jet sweep, Kade Warner making great moves on a long touchdown.

Austin Allen looked good at the tight end position. It’s okay with me if we throw the ball all over the field this coming season. I do not care about this need to run the ball. Just be successful. Score points. We’re going to need a lot of them.

I swear Frost ran an eight-wide receiver set.

I don’t recall a fullback. Is that bad?

Hands On Balls

That’s the line I thought of when Lamar Jackson made an interception. I hope we see a lot more of that this coming season. Maybe it should be a catch phrase.

Then Jackson got tackled by a lineman.

Dude.

There were a LOT of alumni on the field

There were tons of former players around. Name a decade from the 60s forward and you’d find somebody. They mostly had the same gleeful look on their faces that everyone else had. Maybe it’s because they had a chance to spend some time with old friends. Maybe it was in the air.

I talked to a few of them. They were as excited about Frost as you might expect. One commented to me that Frost is “smart, experienced, and good-looking, and all those things matter.” He also said that if Frost couldn’t turn things around, he wasn’t sure who could. I concurred.

There is a lot riding on one guy.

I’m not mentioning names because I did not formally ask for quotes. I should have taken some photos, but I figured these guys were getting bugged enough. Or I forgot. I need to get better at this.

Ameer Abdullah is a good looking, stylish guy. Maybe even more so than Mike Rozier.

I have not even mentioned the Defense

Honestly, I didn’t pay too close attention to the defense, other than the bit about Dawson above. I have few expectations for the defense this coming season. It’s going to stay that way until I see a consistent pass rush.

The Tunnel Walk Part II

The Tunnel Walk sucks.

I know it’s supposed to be this big build up before the team takes the field, but even when I attend as a fan, I find it way too long and incredibly boring. If “Sirius” seems dated and redundant... it’s because it is. I want the team to just run on the field and play good football.

I’m not a big fan of tradition either. I realize people need tradition because then they know what to expect, but tradition tends to keep us from change. Everyone loves tradition because everyone hates change.

I know this is blasphemy. I understand your response will be similar to that of someone who has suggested we change around church service. I don’t care too much about that either, so you can write me off as someone already bound for hell.

I saw a comment on one of the Nebraska media site’s Facebook page that the team didn’t show enough energy coming out of the Tunnel Walk. Holy crap, man.

That comment earlier about seeing a lot more emotion through a lens?

What I saw Saturday was a whole football team of fun. FUN. They were enjoying the holy hell out of themselves. They celebrated touchdowns. They joked with each other between plays.

I stayed on the field for a while after the game was over. The players were running around, high-fiving and hugging each other, doing that “bro” thing were they bump chests. I popped Mohamed Barry on the shoulder pad, and when he turned around, I said, “Was it fun?”

“YEAH, MAN!”

And he hopped around with a big smile like a kid who had just opened the best Christmas present ever.

This is in stark contrast to the last football game I shot at Minnesota. At Minnesota, no one was having fun. Not the players, the coaches, the staff, and certainly not the fans. Everyone looked like they would never have fun again.

Fun is good. Hard work can be gangs of fun, especially if it involves winning. Fun and winning can bring everyone together.

Fun is what you can take away from the spring game. It was a big get-together for Nebraska fans. It was a first glimpse of what Scott Frost football is going to look like at Nebraska.

Perhaps Scott Frost has accomplished a substantial first goal in bringing fun back to Nebraska football.

You don’t have to analyze the quarterbacks, running backs, linemen or the defense, even though the spring game is all we’ll have to live off of for months as a media site.

I know it’s a long offseason; perhaps you should spend that time learning how to cook. Maybe read some books. Go fishing. Stop wishing your life away in hoping that Nebraska football season comes sooner.

There will be plenty of time to obsess over football in the fall, and it will take at least a couple of years before Frost’s tenure will pay off in a meaningful fashion.

What’s that line your Mom always said? “Good things come to those that wait.”

The ego of the entire state of Nebraska is at stake. It’s rather silly, downright asinine if you want to be blunt about it, but that’s what it is.

That’s a lot riding on one guy.


P.S. !!!!

Cheerleaders!

Because who doesn’t like cheerleaders?