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View from the Press Box: Spring Game Edition

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Huskers wrap up spring camp with 54,000+ of their closest friends and potential signees for future recruiting classes.

Tyler Wieseler

Mother Nature served up a perfect Saturday to put a bow on end of spring camp for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 58 degrees at kickoff with 54,000+ in attendance, Big Red faithful everywhere were treated to a glimpse of what this team has ahead of it beginning on August 27th in Ireland versus the Northwestern Wildcats.

Fresh faces and a new offense led by Coach Mark Whipple and Co, were the buzz since their hire. But did new players like Casey Thompson and Trey Palmer live up to the hype?

Coach Erik Chinander has a lot of production to find with no COVID-19 Super Seniors in his starting unit? Who showed up and gave him optimism heading into the 2022-2023 season?

Which walk-on(s) got their moment in front of appreciative Husker fans?

Offense vs. Defense: How they kept score

12 minute running clock during the quarters. Offense wore red today and with the exception of a few quarterbacks in green non contact uniforms, we would see some early thud tackling, to protect the health of vital players for the fall, and full contact for the third and fourth team squads.

Offense

Touchdown: 6 pts.

FG: 3 pts.

PAT: 1 pt,

2 Pt. Conversion: 2 pts

4th down Conversion: 1 pt.

Defense

Defensive Touchdown: 6 pts. (1 pt. for PAT)

Turnover: 6 pts.

3 & Out: 2 pts.

Sack: 2 pts.

4th Down Stop: 2 pts.

Offense does not cross 50 yd. line: 1 pt.

***First Quarter***

Offense starts without a kickoff at the 25 yard line. Casey Thompson takes the first team reps. Completing his first throw in front of Husker Nation to walk on TE Nate Boerkircher for 11 yards. Boerkircher has been praised by coach’s all spring for stepping up in a depleted TE room for Coach Sean Beckton.

False start on the next play by WR Alante Brown. Penalties again an issue for the offense. 2 plays later a sack by OLB Garrett Nelson for a loss of 7 yards on Thompson. Nelson said he was really focused on his quickness off the edge this spring, so getting an early sack against the presumed 1st unit is a good sign for the Scottsbluff native.

Another 10 yard reception by Boerkircher is not enough to sustain the drive and Red team punts. First time seeing former FCS All American Brian Buschini in action. He boots it 63 yards, but doesn’t manage to keep it out of the end zone, which brings the average down. White leads Red: 3-0.

Alabama native Logan Smothers in at QB now. After an incomplete pass and a completion with a loss of 1. Smothers hits JUCO RB addition Anthony Grant on a crossing route for 15 yards. 2 rushes for Grant totaling 1 yard and an incomplete pass by Smothers brings on Buschini again. 29 yard punt fair caught by Arizona State CB transfer Tommi Hill at the 36 yard line. White leads Red: 5-0.

Thompson back in at QB. LT Brant Banks is blocked in to Thompson, who loses 7 yards. A Trey Palmer sighting. The WR transfer from LSU catches a 10 yard pass from Thompson. But can’t complete a pass to Alante Brown to extend the drive. Buschini punts. Ball out of bounds on the White 39 yard line. White leads Red: 9-0.

Smothers back in and our first look at Redshirt Sophomore Rahmir Johnson, carrying the ball 2 times for 7 yards. Incomplete pass by Smothers on 3rd down to WR Omar Manning. A very poor 14 yard punt by Buschini out of bounds. To be fair, he’s punted 4 times in the span of about 8 minutes. My average would probably start to dip too. White leads Red: 11-0.

Thompson back in. 1st play of the series with the ball on the Red 40 yard line. Anthony Grant takes a handoff and makes a jump cut to the left and follows an opening where he takes it 60 yards up the sideline, untouched. Touchdown Red. Chase Contreraz kicks the PAT. Good. White leads Red: 11-7.

Smothers back in at QB. Florida product Jaquez Yant takes 3 straight carries for 8 yards. Offense elects to go for it. Smothers pass to WR Wyatt Liewer is incomplete. 4th down stop. White leads Red: 14-7.

Chubba Purdy now in at QB. Purdy was limited until the 2nd half of spring camp. The FSU transfer must be ready to slide into that potential 2nd or 3rd string role. After a double pass play that ends in a loss of 5 yards for Alante Brown, Purdy finds Palmer for a 1 yard reception and Creighton Prep product, TE AJ Rollins, for a beautiful corner route between two defenders for 27 yards down to the 10 yard line. Rahmir tries to take it in with 2 carries, only gaining two yards. End of the 1st quarter.

***Second Quarter***

On third down at the 8 Chubba Purdy misses a pass to AJ Rollins. 4th down. Chase Contreraz on for a field goal. Makes the kick from 26 yards out. White leads Red: 14-10.

Smothers on again at QB. Anthony Grant for 1 yard. Smothers for 2 yards. On 3rd down Smothers is sacked by OLB Jimari Butler for a loss of 5. Buschini punts the ball 62 yards, downed at the 15 yard line. White leads Red: 18-10.

Smothers comes back in. Same inconsistent results. Yant runs for 1 yard, 2 incompletions by Smothers. One to WR Oliver Martin and One to Yant, respectively. Buschini punt of 38 yards. White leads Red: 21-10.

Purdy back in at QB. Leads the team from the Red 46 yard line, to the White 24 yard line with two nice passes. One to AJ Rollins for 8 yards and another to Redshirt Freshman WR Kamonte Grimes for 15 yards. Mixed in were a couple of runs by Rahmir Johnson for 7 yards and a 2 yard run by Purdy. After two incompletions, Contreraz came on to attempt a 42 yard field goal. Missed. Wide left. A nice drive for the Freshman signal caller from Arizona. Just couldn’t cash in on points. White leads Red: 21-10.

Smothers back in at QB. Anthony Grant runs for loss of 1. A missed exchange leads to a loss of 7. An incomplete pass to Brown on 3rd down ends the drive. Buschini punts the ball 44 yards. Downed at the White 40 yard line. White leads Red: 23-10.

Purdy back in. Another solid series by him. 2 runs for Yant for 5 yards. A 6 yard run to the left sideline for Purdy. A 12 yard reception by converted WR Zach Weinmaster. 2 more Yant runs of 5 yards total and a incomplete pass bring up another 4th down, which the offense elects to try for again. Denied. True Freshman LB Ernest Hausmann of Columbus applies the pressure on an incomplete pass to Weinmaster. Strange to think he has only been here a few months and is making plays with top 2 units. 4th down stop. White leads Red: 25-10.

Smothers in with 1:34 until Halftime. Ball on the Red 30 yard line. 2 straight completions. First, a completion to Elkhorn South product, walk on WR Elliot Brown, for 10 yards. Second, a 16 yard reception by Oliver Martin.

Then a weird thing happened.

Referees called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on RB Anthony Grant. Costing the offense 15 yards.

In a glorified scrimmage.

I think there was some talk amongst Coach Frost and the crew that maybe that wasn’t necessary, considering he might have just been jawing like he does in practice. Nevertheless, on we go.

Smothers went incomplete to Johnson-Brock standout, WR Ty Hahn. Completed a pass to Rahmir for 6 yards. Got sacked by OLB Garrett Nelson for a loss of 3. His 2nd sack of the day. On 4th down again going for it was the offense before the half. An incomplete pass defended by ILB Eteva Mauga-Clements ends the 2nd Quarter.

White leads Red at Halftime: 29-10

***Halftime Thoughts***

  • Husker fans didn’t get the show they were hoping for with the new offensive weapons Coach Mark Whipple and other offensive coaches have been answering questions about all spring. Thompson played 2 series. Palmer was quiet with 2 catches for 11 yards. The most explosive play was Grant’s TD run. Showing Husker fans what the defense has seen all spring.
  • Purdy looked more comfortable than Smothers (5 -10, 63 yards). They put Logan under center a lot. We saw he has work to do, only completing 5 passes on 14 attempts for 46 yards. I hope he figures it out and they were not purposely putting him in a position to question whether he should stick around on this roster.
  • Defense, while thin in spots, set the tone early and often in this half. Keeping the offense off balance often lead to the 19 point advantage at the half.
  • Garrett Nelson is a DUDE. B1G Quarterbacks beware. That is all.

***Third Quarter***

Tackling is now allowed. Quarterbacks are also live. Redshirt Freshman Heinrich Haarberg is up first. Offense starts on their 25 yard line.

Yant runs for 1 yard. Haarberg hits Rollins for 5 yards. Back to back runs by Yant of 3 and 4 yards. A missed handoff resulting in a fumble recovered by the QB for a 3 yard loss. Reception by Weinmaster for 6 yards. Haarberg off left tackle run for 7 yards. Markese Stepp takes back to back carries for 3 and 12 yards, respectively. These were his only carries of the afternoon unfortunately, as he came off the field with a possible groin issue. Grant rushes for 8 yards. Incomplete pass.

Then, on 3rd and 7 from the White 34 yard line, Haarberg connects with Kamonte Grimes on a 34 yard post pattern. Touchdown Red. Redshirt Sophomore Gabe Heins misses the PAT. White leads Red: 29-17.

Redshirt Junior Matt Masker in at Quarterback. Four straight runs by Elkhorn product Aiden Young for 24 yards. Redshirt Junior Cooper Jewett for 1 yard. Masker throws back to back incompletions to Jewett and Georgia native, WR Shawn Hardy II. Buschini punts for 40 yards, downed at the White 10 yard line.

Kearney standout Jarrett Synek in at QB. He moves the team to the White 23 yard line before the end of the third quarter. 2 completed passes to WR Latrell Neville (11 yards) and TE James Carnie (2 yards) are sandwiched between a workhorse display by Wahoo native RB Trevin Luben of 6 carries for 61 yards. One false start penalty by OL Ian Boerkircher. End of 3rd Quarter. White leads Red: 29-17.

***Fourth Quarter***

Millard South product Isaiah Harris carries for 5 yards. Then on 4th and 4, Synek scrambles to the right side, spins off a tackle and takes it in from 16 yards out. Touchdown Red. Heins redeems himself and makes the PAT. White leads Red: 29-25.

Haarberg back to work at QB. First plays is an incomplete pass to Jewett. Jewett then takes 3 straight carries for 28 yards. Heinrich then connects with TE John Goodwin on a dime for 33 yards down to the White 14 yard line. A missed exchange to Houston native Beau Psencik results in a fumble recovered by Norfolk native, OLB Ryan Schommer. White leads Red: 35-25.

Masker now taking snaps. Luben explodes for 24 yards. Masker hits walk on TE Evan Meyersick for 10. Luben for 6. Masker rushes for 10 yards. Another completion to Meyersick for 7. Ashland-Greenwood standout Matthew Schuster takes it back to back for 23 yards total. Back to back penalties. One offensive holding for 10 yards. One defensive offsides for 5. Masker hits Elliot Brown for 8 yards. Schuster takes it in from a yard out. Touchdown Red. Kickoff specialist Brendan Franke nails the PAT. White leads Red: 35-32

Synek back at QB. Psencik has 2 carries for 14 yards. Synek takes it for 8. Psencik for another 5 yards. Incomplete pass by Synek to walk on WR Truitt Robinson, younger brother of DL Ty Robinson. Jewett carries for 6. The Hastings native then connect with Ty Hahn for a 42 yard TD pass. Heins PAT attempt is good. Red leads White: 39-35.

Haarberg in. 2 rushes by Aiden Young for 4 yards. 3 rushes by Isaiah Harris for 21. Then Heinrich has his pass picked off by walk on CB Darius Moore. Turnover. White leads Red: 41-39.

Time for some Masker Magic as the Kearney Catholic product takes the field once more. Incomplete pass to Hardy II. A 4 yard completion to True Freshman Victor Jones Jr. Incomplete to Meyersick. 11 yard catch by Jewett called back for holding. Final play on 4th and 16, a desperation heave to Hardy II deflected by walk on DB Christian Lilienkamp. Game over.

***White defeats Red: 43-39***

***Final Thoughts***

Scoring picked up once the top 2 units called it a day. Good tape on younger guys looking to develop and find their niche in this new offense. I was pleasantly surprised by those groups. Talent in the youth and walk ons has me believe that though many may never see meaningful snaps, they will provide a much needed look in preparing those that do.

Pretty Vanilla though all around. Health and not wanting to show too much too early played into the early offensive strategy. Thompson said it best in the post game presser, “We’ve gone live in the spring.” Husker fans don’t need to see everything that happens behind closed practice field doors. I trust this new staff will have their offensive kids ready by first game.

***Spring Game Stand Outs***

There were a few. Ernest Hausmann getting meaningful snaps with the top defensive units. Injuries played into it, but he still had 7 total tackles, 6 solo stops. Grant had the big run, but I was impressed with Trevin Luben. 8 carries for 91 yards. He may not be in Coach Applewhite’s rotation of 4 or 5 backs, but he can make a name for himself if the room ever gets decimated with injury.

Zach Weinmaster was a pleasant surprise. The transition from RB to WR seems as seamless as Brody Belt’s has. Quick guys who can play the slot. I’m curious to see if he can maintain his climb with more bodies coming in the summer.

Also, I really love Ty Hahn. The coaching staff does too as he was almost awarded a scholarship just to come here in order to not lose him to another program. I’ll be curious to continue to see his development as well. Honestly. there were good moments by a lot of new and young faces. I’m definitely curious how the summer additions mesh with this group.

Now as Bananarama once said it’s time to wait through the “Cruel Summer”. They’ll be attrition, maybe as soon as Monday morning. They’ll be addition, summer enrollees and potential transfer pick ups will trickle onto campus and begin workouts with Coach Duval and the S&C staff. Camp begins in July I believe with our Week 0 matchup. So fear not Husker fans. this may be a shorter off season than you think.

#GBR