Nebraska linebacker Demorrio Williams drags down split end Ben Cornelson during Saturday's Red-White scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. Williams emerged this spring as a surprise standout among the NU defense.
Red-White clash leaves unanswered questions
By Matthew Hansen
April 22, 2002
The Red team's 17-7 win in the annual Red-White scrimmage, and the three-week spring season that preceded it, served to answer many questions brewing in the heads of Nebraska's football faithful during the long winter.
Yes, Jammal Lord is Nebraska's starting quarterback. The running back position's talent extends far down the depth chart. And a Crouchless offense in disarray for much of the spring is starting to round into shape as fall quickly approaches.
There remain many unanswered questions as Nebraska heads to summer conditioning. Will the offensive line protect Lord? Can an injury-depleted secondary rebound from the memory of Miami? How tough will life after Crouch be?
All in all, though, Coach Frank Solich is less worried than he was one month ago.
"We still have a long ways to go, but there's no doubt we have improved," he said afterward.
Lord's emergence this spring has done more than anything to calm Nebraska staff nerves, NU Quarterbacks Coach Turner Gill said.
While challengers Curt Dukes and Mike Stuntz got much publicity this spring, it was Lord who separated himself from the pack, making life after Crouch worth living.
"He's improved his composure, his poise, his leadership," Gill said. "He has performed at a level that we knew he was capable of performing at."
Lord didn't get much of a chance to show his improved stuff Saturday. The junior quarterback played only two series both to reduce the risk of injury and give Dukes and Stuntz more playing time, Gill said.
The starter did lead the Red team down the field on the game's first series. His 21-yard scramble moved the ball to midfield, and another nine-yard scramble highlighted by a juke of Demorrio Williams set up a fourth-and-two at the 23.
Dahrran Diedrick was stuffed on the next play, though, keeping the game scoreless.
Neither team scored until Josh Brown's 36-yard field goal put the Red up 3-0 at the 5:14 mark of the second quarter.
Ira Cooper's punt block on the White team's ensuing series set up an easy, 16-yard touchdown drive for the Red, sending them to halftime with a 10-0 lead.
The final 17-7 score and combined 401 yards were far from an offensive explosion, but an NU offense that had been fodder for the defense for much of the spring did move the football in spurts Saturday.
The most successful spurt came just after halftime, when the teams traded touchdowns before again going dormant.
The White team's lone touchdown came from the legs of Marques Simmons. The redshirt freshman gained 76 of the White team's 77 yards on the seven-play drive.
The Red answered with first-string I-back Diedrick, who found a gaping hole up the middle and rumbled 54 yards to the White 20-yard line. Seven plays later, Dukes found split end Wilson Thomas in the corner of the end zone.
Diedrick led all rushers with 100 yards on 12 carries. He and Simmons, who had 88 yards on 12 carries, led an offensive charge that's been missing this spring.
"They came out and smacked us in the mouth," said linebacker Demorrio Williams of the Husker offense. "I wasn't expecting them to do that, but they did a good job today."
The reviews were less favorable for Stuntz and Dukes, the two competitors for the backup quarterback job.
Stuntz, a sophomore, completed two passes for 24 yards and also recorded an 18-yard run. He also fumbled twice and could have been credited with another on a misplayed center snap.
Dukes, a freshman, completed his last four passes. His first, though, was intercepted.
It adds up to a clouded picture even as the spring season ends. Gill and Solich both said the competition could extend into the fall. The winner will be the backup, while the loser may redshirt.
"They've been battling it out all spring," Gill said. "(Solich and I) need to sit down, watch tapes and get our opinions together and decide."