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Published Sunday, April 16, 2000

All tied up
White team rallies for 21-21 tie in spring game


Last modified at 11:44 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, 2000
 

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photo: HuskersHQ
Independent/Gerik Parmele Nebraska Red Team Middle Line Backer Jamie Burrow sacks White Team Quarterback Brett Lindstrom during the Red White game in Lincoln Saturday.

By Terry Douglass
The Independent

LINCOLN -- Two fourth-quarter touchdowns by the White team produced the first tie in 50 years Saturday during Nebraska's annual Red-White spring game at Memorial Stadium.

White team quarterback Brett Lindstrom hit Ryan Ommert with a 46-yard touchdown pass and Tim Reese added the 2-point conversion run with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter as the White rallied from a 21-7 deficit. The last time the Red-White game ended in a tie was 1950 when the Nebraska varsity and an alumni team played to a 13-13 deadlock.

With starting wingback Bobby Newcombe already out of the game with a dislocated elbow, the Cornhuskers' coaching staff elected to dispense with overtime.

"I don't think we were ready for it," Red team quarterback Joe Chrisman said. "Half the guys already had their pads off in the fourth quarter."

photo:
Independent/Gerik Parmele Nebraska White Team I Back Chris Butler is sent flying as he is tackled by Red Teamıs Rod Baker Saturday during the Red White game in Lincoln.

In review, Nebraska head coach Frank Solich said that he had seen enough to get a good picture of what his team is capable of. And overall, Solich said he was generally pleased with his team's performance.

"I thought the execution was decent ... not a lot of mistakes and not a lot of foolish penalties, not a lot of things that when you see as coaches you just pull your hair out," Solich said. "And when you're running as many players in and out as you do in a spring game, I thought that went about as well as could be expected."

Some of the game's competitive aspect was watered down by the fact that Nebraska's three remaining healthy quarterbacks -- two of them converted split ends -- wore green jerseys to protect them from contact. With Huskers' starting quarterback Eric Crouch sitting out spring practice following offseason shoulder surgery and backup Jammal Lord nursing a knee injury, everyone on the team knew NU couldn't afford to lose another quarterback.

"I understand why they did it because we can't afford to get another quarterback hurt, but it doesn't give you an accurate picture on offense or defense," Chrisman said. "It really limited us in what we could do."

Solich said he thought Nebraska's quarterbacks played well, despite their overall lack of experience. Chrisman was the only one of the Huskers' top three quarterbacks in the spring game who came to Nebraska at the position. Lindstrom and Red team backup quarterback Kelly Cook were recruited as split ends.

Chrisman was sacked four times and ended with minus-5 yards rushing on six carries. The sophomore completed 2-of-9 pass attempts for 27 yards, including a 20-yarder to Tom Beveridge.

Lindstrom, who played scout team quarterback last fall, completed 5-of-10 passes for 87 yards, including the 46-yard TD pass to Ommert. He also rushed 19 times for 35 yards and was sacked three times.

Cook, who was switched to quarterback after Lord's injury midway through spring practice, was 4-of-8 passing for 49 yards and had one interception. He rushed three times for 14 yards.

"Usually, the quarterbacks are the trigger for what you're going to get done when you've got the ball," Solich said. "If they can't take the snap and if they can't operate with some efficiency, you're not going to get anything done, so I thought they played well as quarterbacks today with as little as experience as they do have."

Solich said both the Red and White teams stuck to the basics in the scrimmage. With the quarterbacks wearing the green jerseys, the option play was far less prominent that what opponents usually see from the Huskers during the regular season.

For the most part, the play-calling was vanilla in the scrimmage. It was basically a game of smash-mouth, between-the-tackles football.

"We were really cut back in terms of what we normally would do offensively and defensively for a game plan," Solich said. "In being restricted that way it maybe hampered us a little bit on both sides of the ball, yet what it did allow us to do was continue the evaluation process.

"Sometimes it's easier to evaluate a player when there's no blitzing and it's just one on one, using proper techniques."

I-back Chris Butler led all rushers with 118 yards and two touchdowns for the White team. Butler, who had 60 yards in last year's spring game but redshirted during the 1999 season, scored on runs of 40 and 1 yards.

Third-team I-back Dahrran Diedrick led the Red with 55 yards rushing on 10 carries. Redshirt freshman Judd Davies, who is expected to press starting fullback Willie Miller for playing time next fall, carried only twice, but scored both times. Davies had TD runs of 1 and 21 yards, the second score gave the Red team a 21-7 lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

"Any time you get to touch the ball, the goal is to get into the end zone," Davies said. "Especially for us fullbacks -- we don't get the opportunity to touch it very often."

The Red squad, which featured Nebraska's No. 1 offensive unit and No. 2 defense, never trailed in the game. Cook led the Red to a 7-0 lead, capping a 9-play, 29-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring sneak with 7:23 left before halftime. The drive was set up by a Joe Walker fumble on a punt return.

Davies made it 14-0 with his 1-yard TD run with 9:43 left in the third quarter before Butler got the White team on the scoreboard with his 40-yard scoring run with 6:51 to play in the third. Davies answered with his 21-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

But the White team wouldn't go away. With several third- and fourth-team performers on the field, Lindstrom directed the White on a 14-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard Butler plunge. However, backup place-kicker Chance Long's point-after attempt was no good and the Red still led 21-13 with 6:50 to play.

But three possessions later, Lindstrom connected with Ommert on a 46-yard bomb to give the White team a chance to tie. The Red defense halted the White's first 2-point conversion attempt, but was penalized for being offside. The White made good on its second chance as Reese carried for the conversion and the 21-21 tie.

Defensively, first-team rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch shined for the White squad. Vanden Bosch recorded four tackles, including three sacks for 28 yards in losses.

Vanden Bosch said he wasn't about to let the quarterbacks' green jerseys stop him from getting his sacks.

"Actually, I really didn't pay any attention to it," Vanden Bosch said. "We weren't supposed to hit them and I kind of let up a little bit, but not too much."

Vanden Bosch said he was pleased with the play of the defense, which returns five full-time starters from last season. The White allowed the red 215 total yards, including 139 yards rushing.

"A lot of the spring we had been playing at the offense's tempo," Vanden Bosch said. "We wanted to come out and set the tempo like we did last year. We gave up a couple of drives today and that's frustrating because after last year, you want it to be 3-and-out every time out, but that's going to happen.

"This offensive line we went against today is probably better than any line we'll face all of next year and better than any line we faced last year and I'm not just saying that. To play well against them today says a lot for our defense."

Starting middle linebacker Carlos Polk said the White defense played particularly well in the first half. The Red (No. 1) offense had just eight rushing yards on 18 carries and scored one touchdown in the first half.

"The first half, I felt that our guys came out there and they were just excited to play," Polk said. "We got out there, we were loose, we were ready to play and it carried on to the field. We stopped them several times with some 3-and-outs and built our confidence up.

"I felt great about how our defense played."

The Nebraska starting offensive line, which returns four players with starting experience, picked it up in the second half.

"We just talked about it at halftime and decided that we needed to start playing harder and have some fun out there," Red team center Dominic Raiola said. "We just started getting after it a little more and started executing better. We had confidence that we could move the ball."

Red team guard Russ Hochstein said the modest offensive showing by the No. 1 offense in the spring game didn't dampen the offensive line's confidence heading into next season.

"There was nothing that could happen in this game that would shake our confidence," Hochstein said. "We've really been playing well as a group and we know that if we keep working hard this summer, we'll be a good unit next fall."

Solich said he was pleased that the team was able to install a great deal of offense and defense during spring practice.

"We probably put in as much offensively as I can remember," Solich said. "We looked at some new things and experimented with new things. On that end of it, I think we found some things that in the fall we can work at and be able to bleed into our offense.

"Defensively, it was the same way. They looked at some interior line stunts and some things we're wanting to see if we can add to our defensive schemes. It was a spring of experimentation in that regard and I think we came out of it pretty well."



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