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Feel-good moments aplenty at Red-White game PDF E-mail

Nebraska fans who showed up for Saturday’s Red-White Spring Game got a little more than they expected.
It was a great day to be a Husker.
After last year’s washout, temperatures hovering just over 70 degrees with a stiff breeze seemed like paradise.
To top it off, head coach Bo Pelini was in an upbeat mood following the contest at his press conference, calling this spring a success.
“Overall, a good effort,” he proclaimed. “There’s a lot of work ahead for this football team.”
The best “feel good” moment of the day is one still making national headlines, when Taylor Martinez brought in his secret weapon in the form of 7-year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman. The Husker quarterback handed the ball off and the rest was history, with Hoffman faking left then streaking right behind the blocking of fullback C.J. Zimmerer to the delight of the entire stadium. Both benches emptied and celebrated in the north end zone.
Wow. How does it get better than that?
And as expected, there was a definite Aurora flavor to the game as senior-to-be Andrew Rodriguez played well at the left tackle position. Also, redshirt freshman Tyson Broekemeier looked sharp for the White team once he got warmed up, hitting 3 of 7 passes for 43 yards, although he had one dropped near the Red 15 yard line.
And Garret Johns also played during the final minutes at defensive tackle. Although the true freshman was not officially credited with a tackle, I have video evidence that he was actually involved in a couple.
Rodriguez was also involved in some of the fun as well, catching a punt while play was stopped, showing off his old basketball hands.
“It was all right,” he smiled when asked about it. “It was fun. I didn’t think I would catch it.”
He said he was pleased with his overall performance.
“Individually, I thought I did well. I’ve just gotten better throughout the spring and I’m more confident with the tackle position. Repetition and pass protection is the biggest thing I’ve worked on.”
With so many players returning along the offensive line, Rodriguez said the sky is the limit come next fall.
“We have tremendous potential,” he stated. “We have unlimited potential. It’s ridiculous. If we can be cohesive and work as a team, we can become a pretty good offense. I’ve tried to be more of a leader and be more vocal, to show leadership by example, not only on the field but off the field as well.”
Hoffman’s touchdown proved to be the final difference on the scoreboard, which by the way finished with the Red team winning 32-25.
But the game did show flashes of offensive brilliance, especially by backup freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Whatever the “it” factor is, he seems to possess it.
And while the offense will most likely have its way with many of the defenses they face in 2013, the biggest question mark is of course the defense, where young but extremely athletic players will help fill the void.
Redshirt freshman Thomas Brown finished with seven tackles for the Reds but could be mistaken for a senior. And then there’s crazy linebacker Zaire Anderson, who I would never want to meet in a dark alley.
When play was abruptly stopped during the first half and both teams walked to midfield, not many in attendance knew what was going on.
But the coaches wanted to show a new drill the team has been doing for the past two weeks, basically a three-on-one drill where one defender has to get through two blockers and get to the ball carrier.
All Anderson did was instantly toss aside both blockers, then grabbing and throwing his man down to the turf with force, much to the delight of his White teammates. Let’s just hope he can show that same mentality when it really counts.
Pelini said he was concerned midway through spring practices that his team wasn’t getting it, noting repeat errors that he did not like to see. But he also said his squad “made a big jump” during the final six practices leading up to Saturday’s game.
“Are we where we want to be? No, but it’s April. There’s a lot firmer foundation leading into fall practice.”
And when I asked him about the offensive line, and what he thought about its senior leadership, he responded with an overall evaluation of the big guys up front.
“I think our offensive line is getting better. Right now we probably have four tackles we feel comfortable with. Inside between the guard positions, probably a total of five with the potential of six, so we have some options, but I think that’s going to grow.
“Our young guys are making good progress, and that’s going to be important. I believe the center position is very solid. The guards, those backups, those young guys are coming. Overall, I think we have a chance to be really solid and we should be solid. We have some returnees coming on the offensive line and we’ve had success moving the football, and I wouldn’t expect that to change.
Okay, coach, but what about the senior leadership?
Oh never mind. It is, after all, just spring.

DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
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