Randy York’s N-Sider
Saturday's 2014 Nebraska Spring Game was a day Big Red players, coaches and fans will remember. Bo Pelini was so open, calm, and collected, The N-Sider can’t help but follow his lead with a column designed to emulate his confidence and respect his nerve. It's a way to get our football groove back, change things up, do an about-face. Consider this a Jordan Burroughs kind of reversal that comes out of nowhere. Instead of writing bushel baskets of words to describe a unique 2014 Spring Game experience, we’re going Sports Center on you – sharing the Spring Game’s Top 10 moments with fewer words and lots of photos. Thank you, Scott Bruhn, for being where the action is, so I can voice my opinions about what struck me most. In the spirit of Sports Center and what is rapidly becoming an outdated David Letterman, I will start at No. 10 and work my way up to No. 1.
No. 10: For me, this has to be in the mix. Brandon Chapek (waving above) received the Cletus Fischer Scholarship 20 minutes before the game started. The walk-on from Wahoo was one of my favorite 2013 stories. Let’s put it this way. If 61,000-plus can crack up watching Bo carry a Nebraska Athletics staffer’s cat onto a hallowed field, we can take time in April to read a Christmas-related story about Chapek.
No. 9: The 31 players on the 2013 Brook Berringer Citizenship Team exemplify the late quarterback’s dedication to community and volunteerism. All members wererecognized at Monday’s annual Husker Heroes Breakfast, presented by Nebraska Life Skills. This was a fourth straight Berringer Team honor for UNL seniors C.J. Zimmerer and Tyler Evans.
No. 8: Sorry Bo, but that throwing motion you showed Saturday while missing the goal post all three times from 30 yards out was a Safaris' like wipeout, and we only wish we had the soundtrack that takes you to that punch line...cackle, cackle. By the way, Bo, talking yourself out of wearing a sweater when you walked out with the cat was a smart move.
No. 7: Kenny Bell wears his own unique hat after beating his head coach in a pass competition. Bell hit the goal post on two of of his three passes from the 30-yard line while Bo missed all three. A dual threat, Bell doesn't look like he's missed a day in the gym. Bo's in great shape, too, and still using humor to his advantage, saying at least his passes were spirals, unlike a certain wide receiver's "wobbling around, bad-looking throws."
No. 6: Johnny Stanton (5) and Ryker Fyfe are battling to back up Tommy Armstrong Jr. at quarterback. Both look poised, throw the ball well and can diagnose a defense. All three are talented, strong, confident leaders. Stanton completed 8 of 12 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Fyfe, a walk-on, completed 9 of 12 for 89 yards and one touchdown. For the record, Armstrong completed four of eight passes for 97 yards and threw one interception to Nathan Gerry on the third play of the scrimmage. We also should point out that the day's leading tackler was redshirt freshman linebacker Erik Evans,Tyler's brother. He had nine. Jack Gangwish and Michael Rose each had eight.
No. 5: Imani Cross lives in All-American Ameer Abdullah’s shadow most of the time, but that was not the case Saturday. Cross rushed for 100 yards on just six carries and led the Reds (the offense) to a 55-46 win over the Whites (the defense). The chiseled I-back had a 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 39-yard TD in the second quarter.
No. 4: C.J. Zimmerer receives the Uplifting Athletes’ National Rare Disease Champions Award, flanked by two Husker leaders who have influenced his career – running backs coach Ron Brown and associate athletic director Keith Zimmer. Talk about a new Omaha probation officer being equipped to make a positive impact on other people's lives. Brown and Zimmer are turbo-charged mentors you just don't find anywhere else.
No. 3: This photo of intrigued little boys caught my eye because most kids their age rarely get the chance to see the Huskers play a regular-season game. Even in the spring, they wait eagerly to see Big Red players emerge from the Tunnel Walk, a sign of pure joy.
No. 2: Two “celebrity” leaders gave drug-free/alcohol-free pledges – ESPY winner Jack Hoffman and three-time Olympic bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz, who brought his 2010 Gold Medal to a Spring Game Luncheon for more than 700 Big Red fans in the NU Coliseum. Professional acknowledgement: I took this photo on my smartphone at the luncheon. Scott Bruhn's photo would have been better, but it's the subjects that count.
No. 1-B: Jeremiah Sirles gets 45,000 more witnesses than Husker basketball walk-on Mike Peltz when he proposed to his girlfriend and now fiancé inside Memorial Stadium Saturday. Sirles asked Emma Stevens the big question in, of all places, the middle of a Spring Game-first Punt, Pass & Kick competition. I had the honor to sit next to Emma, the starting goal keeper on Nebraska's 2013 Big Ten Conference Championship soccer team last December. Sirles was at the head table to receive Nebraska’s Guy Chamberlin Award at the Outland Trophy Banquet in Omaha. Emma is a very nice young lady. My only question is this: Did Will Shields give Sirles any advice while he was helping the Big Ten Network capture that magic moment for a delayed national telecast?
No. 1-A: Bo Pelini’s grand entrance into Memorial Stadium was in a league of its own, even though we made a joint No. 1 to stretch a Top 10 to a Top 11 so we could represent football with the number that each team can put on the field at the same time. Bo's "sacred" Tunnel Walk came Saturday with...drum roll, please...a cat that looked just like his fake alter ego account on Twitter, otherwise known as Faux Pelini. Take 20 seconds or so and study the photo. Was there a better straight man in America than Bo cuddling that cat while walking out with this players? He's looking straight ahead, carrying Faux Pelini, then breaks into a smile when he reaches the turf and hoists the cat over his head as a triumphant sign worthy of Sports Center. You have to wonder though if Bo's dogs experienced any semblance of jealousy. Who's ever viewed Bo as a fun and games guy? What’s next? An appearance on Saturday Night Live?
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