It was the dawning of a new era in Lincoln. Even with the inclement weather, many Cornhusker fans were eager to see it.
Nebraska’s Red-White Spring Scrimmage
An announced crowd of 86,818 showed in the mist and drizzle at Memorial Stadium to see the return of favorite son Scott Frost as head coach of the Cornhuskers. There were a lot of predictable Spring Game-type things that happened Saturday. There were many line-up questions left unresolved. But the one thing that was an obvious is that Frost’s return as head coach has Nebraska fans buzzing with anticipation for the first time in several years.
At the end of the day, the good news for Huskers’ fans is that the starters and “regulars” in terms of playing time are better than they guys who are third and fourth on the depth chart. In typical order, Frost put the “ones” and many of the “twos” on the red team, and those somewhere below that pecking order on the white squad. The reds beat the whites, as they were supposed to, 49-9.
Those in attendance were so enthusiastic over the new coaching regime that they may not have even noticed the White team jump out to a 6-0 lead. Walk-on quarterback Andrew Bunch hit Kurt Rafdal with a 25-yard touchdown pass, as Rafdal went up high for the catch and managed to just get his toes in bounds along the sideline. While Bunch moved the White team well throughout much of his appearance, that was their high point for the afternoon.
The Quarterback Battle
Much of the rest of the attention for the afternoon was spent focusing on the real quarterback battle. Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia started the game for the red squad, though it is not clear much should be read into that. Gebbia had two touchdown passes, and looked good as more of the pocket passer that was recruited by previous coach Mike Riley. But it was true freshman Adrian Martinez who showed why he was so high on Frost’s recruiting radar in Lincoln. Martinez was clearly the more adept sprint out quarterback as he had 74 yards rushing, (unofficially) and three rushing touchdowns. He was also 10 of 13 passing for 114 yards and another touchdown.
Of course, the quarterbacks, in green jerseys, were off limits to real contact and literally touch football rules were in effect when it came to them. So, we are still far off from seeing how they perform against an actual starting team defense with real contact. For Martinez, an early enrollee, it was also his first chance to play a game at real speed in long time, having missed his high school senior season in Fresno with a shoulder injury.
In addition to the 49 points, the red team also piled up 508 yards of total offense against the second, third and even fourth stringers. But the two teams also had their moments of sloppiness with four turnovers and offenses that stalled out. There was a clear uptick in the tempo of the offenses compared to recent years, and a lot more players were put in motion, giving Martinez the roll-out options. Still, the offense was kept basic and simplistic.
What Did We Learn?
With all of that in mind, what are the takeaways from Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage in Lincoln? The Cornhuskers have one more practice on Monday before heading off into official off-season hibernation and un-official workouts. It is clear that the quarterback competition will go well into Fall camp, even if Martinez did come away with a slight edge after Saturday. We know the running game looks strong. Both Greg Bell and Mikale Wilbon looked very impressive with the more traditional plays that go up the middle, as well as running wide. Mostly, we know that the faithful in Lincoln are excited, if not a more than a little unreasonably so, about the new Scott Frost era.
While his former school, Central Florida, spent their Spring scrimmage celebrating a mythical national championship from 2017, Frost urged the fans of his new team to be patient. “It’s the first step in a journey for us.”