What nobody saw was perfection in any phase of the game. If you were expecting to come and watch the new offense move the ball at will you were disappointed. If it was a dominating defensive performance you expected, once again you did not walk away happy. If you wanted to see improvement in every phase of the game, you could smile a bit, but even then you had to shake your head at the place kicking that was witnessed. Nothing perfect or even close on this cold April afternoon.
The number one offense opened the game with a pass play. Expected this to draw a few more cheers, but the weather was far from perfect and it was going to take more than a small surprise like a first down pass completion to get this crowd excited.
The offense did move the ball steadily down the field on their first possession against the number one defense. It was the best looking drive the offense had put together so far this spring. Jammal Lord threw the ball very effectively as the offense held the ball for sixteen plays cumulating with a field goal by Dale Endorf. David Horne carried the load rushing as he looked to run with more authority than at any other time this spring. The offense also picked up a first down on a fourth and one to continue the drive around mid-field.
The defense, in particular the top defensive units played almost exclusively base coverage's and alignments with very few stunts or blitzes. What was witnessed was at no time at the end of a play were there players standing around. All eleven white uniforms were within a few yards of the ball. While the first team defense did not look out standing they did look very workman like. They did not give up any big plays and there were very few missed tackles. It must be added that while their performance was far from perfect. Many positives were apparent, but Bo Pelini, new defensive coordinator, was not going to show any packages to the public at this time. Bo made it known earlier in the week he was approaching this as another scrimmage to work on tackling and assignments. He was not looking for perfection but improvement.
A person could have been attending the scrimmage Sat to find a few great individual performances. Nobody would score a perfect 10 if judging were allowed, but there were a few stand-outs. Jammal Lord completed 7-13 passes for 78 yards with one interception on a very gimpy leg. Lord was severely hobbled by a torn muscle in his leg and the green jersey worn on his back. He also made a bone-crushing tackle on Barrett Ruud after Barrett had intercepted a poorly thrown ball. Okay it was not bone-crushing but he did hustle after the play and make a pretty good hit to send Ruud tumbling out of bounds saving a TD.
At I-back, once again nobody established themselves at the true number one, but all five scholarship I-backs showed they had some talent. Horne, as was stated above, had his best showing of the spring. He read his blocks better and ran harder than he has shown at any other time this spring. Cory Ross did not gain a bunch of yards but scored the only TD of the game on a three yard run in which he showed his toughness. Josh Davis looked very quick and close to breaking a long run where he skipped outside and outran the defense until he ran out of field. Josh also looked very good in his lone punt return. Marques Simmons and Robin Miller ran with the white team and both had very little room to operate but they showed some power and Simmons was a shoe lace and a stumble from a 85 yard jaunt as he broke a few tackles getting outside on one play. Miller's yards were all pure power as he had nowhere to run at anytime.
Ross Pilkington showed why he started last season as a true freshman. He made five catches for 69 yards including a nice 26 yard gain. Ross continues to improve his blocking. This young man will benefit greatly from the new offensive scheme in the next three years.
The much maligned offensive line had been manhandled in the first two scrimmages this spring. This day however they held their own and the first units did not allow a sack all day. Standing out was Josh Sewell at Center. He is quickly developing into the leader of this line. Others who were singled out were Junior Tagao'i, who is playing with a very sore shoulder and Richie Incognito, playing for the first week back at Left Tackle. This unit has shown great improvement this spring, and seem to be much more like a unit than last year's O-line ever did. Their performance was not perfect, however improvement and a bit of fire was shown. Baby steps taken? One would have to say yes!
Defensively, the first unit did not have anyone stand out really. They were all aggressive, a nice change to see. The defensive backs were much more physical than we have seen for the last couple of years. Tackling was very impressive by all. Room for improvement in several areas, but all-in-all a very solid performance. Cheerleading award goes to Patrick Kabongo. He just loves to get his guys riled up. Trash talk awards go to T.J. Hollowell and Benard Thomas. These two now have to back up the talk with the walk.
Other notables from the lower units. There is not a chance anyone attending the game could not have noticed number 6 for the red defense. Playing against the lower unit offenses, this young man stood out like a sore thumb. Stewart Bradley, walk-on redshirt freshman, showed why the coaches have been mentioning his name, and the media has been writing about him. While he was playing against the lower units, he showed the ability not only to deliver hard-nose tackles, (OUCH), he roamed from sideline to sideline and also downfield in pass coverage. Stewart undoubtedly delivered the two biggest hits of the day. When he met Garth Glissman straight on and knocked Glissman's helmet off, it was a textbook tackle for the highlight reels. Later in the game he about put Brandon Biodrowski into the west stadium stands with a tackle that Brandon is still going to be feeling on Wed. This kid has to be watched. Perfect you ask? No, but what a joy to see a MLB just blowing people up. On one pass play, a completion to Joel Jackson, Bradley made a bone jarring tackle thirty yards downfield. One has to be impressed even against the lower units.
By the way, the Red won this scrimmage 13-0. A few different wrinkles this season shortened the game as we basically had a running clock. Also the units were not split the same as in the past. No true delineation was made after the #1's as coaches wanted certain players to get reps with certain units.
There will be many more questions raised from this scrimmage then there are answers. The new staff has their work cut out for them over the next few months putting this all together. There were many positives seen, but not close to perfect was any phase of the game.
Over the next few weeks, we will try to get some coach feed back on their feelings about how the spring went. Also add in some player thoughts to the mix and how they see the spring and thoughts on the new staff.
Hopefully we can garner some critic opinions to go with what the players and staff have to say about the upcoming season. All I know is ANTICIPATION is at a peak in HUSKER LAND. Thanks for listening.
Hopeful in Big Red Land!