Monday, April 8, 2013
Spring game recap: Nebraska
By Brian Bennett
The first Big Ten 2013 spring game is in the books, as Nebraska concluded its 15-practice session on sunny day in front of more than 60,000 Big Red fans at Memorial Stadium. And we're here to recap it.
You can find coverage of the Huskers' spring game here, here, here and here.
Star of the game: No question about it, 7-year-old Jack Hoffman stole the show. Hoffman, who is battling brain cancer, lined up in the backfield wearing Rex Burkhead's old No. 22, and ran 69 yards for a touchdown as the crowd roared. The entire team celebrated with Hoffman and he finished the day as the game's leading rusher.
The idea was hatched by football operations director Jeff Jamrog and fullback C.J. Zimmerer. Burkhead has been leading a support group for Hoffman and won a service award for his work.
It was a tremendous gesture by Nebraska, and you won't see a better moment in any spring game this year.
"Jack's a young man who's touched the hearts of a lot of people," head coach Bo Pelini said. "Our football team, the student body, people have gotten behind him and he's become a big part of the team. I wasn't sure if he was going to want to do it before we brought the idea to his dad, and I thought it was a pretty special thing."
How it went down: The Red team beat the White team 32-25, with Hoffman's touchdown for the Red finishing the scoring. So what did we learn?
Not a ton. It was a fan-friendly event with several stars either held out of action or playing limited snaps, plus moments like offensive linemen fielding punts. The biggest question going in was how the rebuilt defense would look. Answer: shaky, as expected.
The offense had six scoring drives and piled up 421 yards -- in the first half. We shouldn't be surprised by that, as the Huskers' offense is explosive and full of veterans, while the defense is full of youngsters and still learning. The offense didn't turn the ball over, which is a great sign for a team that struggled with that all last year.
The defense played a little better in the second half and was missing several key players.
"I think our defense has potential to be very good, but it is going to require a lot of hard work between now and [the start of the season]," Pelini said. "There's going to be a tremendous competition to see who is out there on the field come that first game. Who that's going to be, I don't know yet. There's a lot of potential, but like I said, there's a lot of work to do between now and then."
The Huskers also showed that they have some options should something happen to quarterback Taylor Martinez. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong lived up to his last name with some nice throws and finished 5-of-7 for 102 yards and a touchdown. Ron Kellogg III also had a strong performance, completing 11 of 12 passes for 148 yards and a score. (Martinez went 8-of-10 for 105 yards).
"Coming out of the spring, I would probably say Tommy was a little bit ahead of Ron," Pelini said. "We have some talent at the quarterback position and some guys that made a lot of progress this spring."
Remember that Nebraska also has to replace valuable kicker Brett Maher, and Mauro Bondi gave reason for optimism by nailing a 50-yard field goal. He also missed a 55-yarder that had enough distance but was wide.
"He still has to work on some consistency things, but he has a big leg," Pelini said.
And the Huskers showed a big heart in letting Hoffman live out a dream.