Red Open Riley Era with Win in Front of Nearly 77,000
Lincoln - Nebraska ushered in the Mike Riley coaching era with an exciting Spring Game debut, as the Red held off the White, 24-15, in front of 76,881 fans at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Red team jumped to a 17-0 lead in a game that featured four, 20-minute quarters in front of a Big Ten Network national television audience in addition to the nearly 77,000 fans in attendance.
Adam Taylor put the Red on the scoreboard less than six minutes into the game with his eight-yard touchdown run. Taylor's touchdown capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive that included 42 yards on four carries by I-back Terrell Newby. The drive included a 12-yard run by De'Mornay Pierson-El and a 10-yard pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. to Jordan Westerkamp, before Taylor carried twice for 10 yards to end an efficient first drive.
Drew Brown put the Red up 10-0 just over six minutes later with his 36-yard field goal. Brown's kick was set up by a 46-yard punt return by Pierson-El, who finished with 123 all-purpose yards on seven attempts (2 rush, 3 reception, 2 punt return).
The second quarter featured a 29-yard touchdown pass from Zack Darlington to Jamal Turner to cap a five-play, 79-yard drive. Darlington went 3-for-3 on the drive, including a 12-yard pass to Bryan Reimers and a 14-yard hook-up with Ty Betka. Darlington added a 19-yard run on the march that put the Red up 17-0 with 8:11 left.
The White team got on the board with a safety at the end of the half, when Armstrong took a knee in the end zone after the Red defense got an interception from Creighton Koley at the goal line in the final seconds of the half to end a White threat.
The Red extended their lead to 24-2 with 4:36 left in the third quarter, when Armstrong connected with Pierson-El on a 32-yard scoring strike.
But the White team owned the fourth quarter thanks to big plays on both sides of the ball.
The rally began Ryker Fyfe leading a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Jordan Nelson's 52-yard catch and run for a score. Nelson, who had a 17-yard run earlier in the drive, cut the Red margin to 24-9 with 16:09 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing Red team drive, Johnny Stanton and Imani Cross marched to midfield before a Stanton screen pass went through the hands of Taylor and was intercepted by defensive lineman Garrett Johns.
Four plays later, Tyson Broekemeier connected with Jariah Tolbert on a 25-yard touchdown strike to cut the Red lead to 24-15. The White went for two, but Broekemeier's pass intended for Blake Holtmeier was incomplete.
Brandon Reilly then electrified the crowd with a 44-yard kickoff return to midfield, but the Red team was unable to get a first down and turned the ball over on downs to the White at the 43 with 7:01 left.
Broekemeier then connected with Gabe Rahn on a 38-yard strike to put the White back in the red zone. But Broekemeier's 4th-and-5 pass from the Red 10 went through Rahn's hands in the end zone.
Stanton and the Reds then marched 78 yards in nine plays to the White 12 to run out the final 3:39 on the clock to end the game.
Graham Nabity led all rushers with six carries for 66 yards, including a 29-yard burst for the Red. Terrell Newby, who did most of his work on the Red team's opening drive, carried seven times for 53 yards in the game, including a 24-yard tote. Pierson-El added two carries for 39 yards, including a 27-yarder. Taylor carried a Spring Game-high nine times for 35 yards, including the opening touchdown.
Mikale Wilbon produced six carries for 42 yards for the White, including a game-best 36-yard run. Jordan Nelson added four carries for 40 yards, including a 22-yarder. Austin Rose carried five times for 33 yards for the White, while Imani Cross added five carries for 33 yards in the game, including 26 yards for the Red and two carries for seven yards for the White team.
Armstrong completed 6-of-12 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, while Darlington added 7-of-11 passing for 70 yards and a score. AJ Bush completed 12-of-22 passes for a game-high 124 yards for the White team, but threw a pair of interceptions. Broekemeier and Fyfe combined to go 6-of-12 for 122 yards for the White.
Jariah Tolbert led all receivers with three receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown, while Turner added three catches for 42 yards and a score. Pierson-El contributed three receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown, while Lane Hovey added three catches for 24 yards.
Sam Foltz electrified the crowd on several occasions with huge first-half punts, including a 71-yarder in the air that was downed at the one-yard line. Overall, he punted eight times for 418 yards for better than a 52-yard per punt average. He did not punt at all in the second half.
First Quarter (Red 10-0)
RED - 14:04 - Adam Taylor 8 run (Drew Brown kick) - 9 plays, 75 yards, 5:56, RED 7-0
RED - 8:00 - Drew Brown 36 FG - 5 plays, 14 yards, 2:57 - RED 14-0
Second Quarter (Red 17-2)
RED - 8:11 - Jamal Turner 29 pass from Zach Darlington (Brown kick) - 5 plays, 79 yards, 3:43, RED 21-0
WHITE - 0:00 - TEAM Safety
Third Quarter (Red 24-2)
RED - 4:36 - DeMornay Pierson-El 32 pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Brown kick) - 2 plays, 56 yards, 0:52, RED 24-2
Fourth Quarter (Red 24-15)
WHITE - 16:09 - Jordan Nelson 52 pass from Ryker Fyfe (Spencer Lindsay kick) - 6 plays, 75 yards, 3:51
WHITE - 9:19 - Jariah Tolbert 25 pass from Tyson Broekemeier (2PAT pass failed) - 4 plays, 47 yards, 1:53
Time of Game: 2:27