LINCOLN – The quarterback race won’t be decided for some time, but Husker Nation will have Adrian Martinez on their minds for the next four months.
The true freshman from Fresno, Calif. stole the show, completing 10-of-13 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 60 yards and three scores on 14 carries to help the Red Squad roll over the White 49-9 on Saturday in front of a record crowd of 86,818 at Memorial Stadium.
The red team, which had most of Nebraska’s stars on its roster, clicked offensively and piled up 508 yards of offense. It was a balanced attack with 239 yards coming through the air and 269 on the ground.
The red team led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter, but a 21-point burst in the second set the two sides apart. The red shut out the white 21-0 in the second half.
“It’s the first step in a journey for us,” head coach Scott Frost said after. “I thought we did some really good things at times, I thought there were some guys making plays. It was a little sloppy at times and we made some mistakes. First spring, I think the guys have come a long way already, and I told them that they can’t see this as the end of the process.
“They just have to see this as they’re familiar with what we’re asking them to do now for the most part, and we’ve got to take a little time off and really have a resurgence and a lot of effort and summer conditioning to make sure we’re getting better at everything we’re doing.”
As for Martinez’s play, Frost wasn’t too surprised and was pleased with all four QBs at game’s end.
“To speak on Adrian, the one thing that impresses me is his composure as an eighteen-year-old that could still be in high school to come out and do some good things,” Frost said. “That was a good job, but I thought all four handled the situation really well.”
Overall, Nebraska’s quarterbacks operated smoothly. Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia led the way in passing, completing 12-of-17 throws for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Andrew Bunch led the way for the white team, completing 8-of-14 for 89 yards and a score.
Sophomore Noah Vedral struggled at times, going 6-of-12 for 53 yards and an interception. He was also sacked three times, but Frost won’t let the spring game alone determine the depth chart.
“I told the quarterbacks just before the came to just go play, we’re not going to choose who the starting quarterback is today,” Frost said. “In a game like that, you might be the guy that’s in there when the right play is called and the right guy is open. You might be the guy that’s in there when somebody misses a protection and you get sacked and quarterbacks can look good or bad through no fault of their own. So, we’re not going to judge them too much on the play today.”
Elsewhere on offense, junior running back Greg Bell was as good as advertised, racking up 54 yards on eight carries. He also caught two passes for 41 yards.
“Greg’s got a gear that is pretty special,” Frost said. “I think he’s got good vision. He’s got to get lined up a little faster, be a little more urgent sometimes but he does some special things when the ball is in his hands.”
Junior Mikale Wilbon had a strong showing with 10 carries for 54 yards.
On the receiving end, sophomore Todd Honas on the white squad led the way for both teams with six catches for 46 yards. Redshirt freshman tight end Austin Allen looked solid, hauling in three passes for 43 yards. Neither J.D. Spielman or Stanley Morgan, Jr. played due to illness.
“They’re a bunch of great guys and they’ve been working all spring,” Gebbia said. “I was really glad that they got to show what they could do today. We have a lot of great play makers on this team, and they’ve been working really hard. I’m really proud of them.”
Defensively, junior linebacker Mohamed Barry led the red team with eight total tackles. Another junior linebacker Jacob Weinmaster, had a game-high 13 stops, including two tackles for loss.
Junior defensive back Reid Karel stood out with 11 total stops. Junior outside linebacker Alex Davis made the highlight reel with a game-high three sacks and an interception.
“I feel like I got a lot better at playing in space,” Davis said. “I’m more comfortable out there. Right now, I feel very comfortable dropping back and knowing my assignments when I drop back. Over the spring, I’m just getting better and better every time I step out.”
Junior defensive lineman Daishon Neal came through with a pair of sacks, while junior corner Lamar Jackson came through with a pick in the first half.
Jackson has yet to get an INT in his playing career, but he hopes Saturday is indicative of better things to come.
“About time I get one in a game situation,” he said. “I plan on getting a lot more. I feel like I got a lot better just mindset-wise. I kind of know some of the things I struggled with, so I focused on those areas this spring. I’m going to continue to work on them this spring and through the summer until fall camp.”
Frost plans to meet with each player individually starting on Monday after the team completes their final practice of the spring to go over what individual needs to keep working on.
“We’ve only had 13 (practices) and we’ve got a window for one more,” Frost said, “So, we’re going to do some type of practice on Monday and then I’ll start individual meetings with guys after that.”
Frost watched his team work as he walked all around the field without a headset, talking with a variety of players and assistants. Mostly observing, just as he said he would do.
With play calling duties left up to the staff, Frost got the chance to do what the sold out crowd got to do – relax and enjoy.
“I was just trying to watch effort, maybe see more things than I’d be able to as a play caller,” Frost said. “Mostly watching the offense, because I’ve got a lot of guys on the defensive staff that I trust to do their job. I was kind of enjoying the day a little bit as a fan, I don’t really get to just watch football very often. I was coaching some but also just kind of taking it in and enjoying the experience.
“That was kind of special for me, walking out of the tunnel and hearing the fans. That brought back more memories than a lot of other things have, especially just the smell of the stadium with the food in there just took me back a long time. It was a special day for me.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.
Post game reaction