Lincoln - A Nebraska Spring Game record crowd of more than 80,000 watched Joe Ganz and the Husker Reds jump out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter on their way to a 24-14 win over the Whites in Bo Pelini's head coaching debut at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Nebraska's returning starter at quarterback from the end of the 2007 season, Ganz completed four passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns to power the Reds, while Marlon Lucky added 37 yards and a touchdown on the ground in limited action. The Reds amassed 311 yards of total offense in just 55 plays in a game that lasted just two hours and 19 minutes because of a running second-half clock.
While the Red offense performed well, Pelini's defense supplied the first highlight on the game's opening play from scrimmage. Linebacker Tyler Wortman broke through the White offensive line and hit quarterback Patrick Witt as he attempted to pitch the ball to I-back Roy Helu. Wortman hustled after the loose ball and recovered it at the White 7-yard line to set up the Reds' opening score.
Three plays later, Lucky plunged in from one-yard out to give the Reds a quick 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. After the Reds held on the next drive, Ganz and wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen provided the game's longest play with a 77-yard scoring strike to put the Reds up 14-0 with 9:06 left in the opening quarter.
The defenses owned the rest of the quarter, before Ganz hooked up with Marcus Mendoza for a 24-yard scoring pass with 11:44 left in the first half to put the Reds up 21-0. The Whites were never able to fully recover, but they did battle to the wire in competitive spring action.
Helu put the Whites on the board midway through the second quarter with his three-yard scoring run, but Alex Henery provided an answer for the Reds with his 35-yard field goal with two minutes left in the half.
The Reds carried a 24-7 lead into halftime, before Husker fans got their chance to take the field for a Spring Game tradition at halftime. Well over 10,000 youngsters and their adult sponsors and parents covered the FieldTurf at Memorial Stadium to take the Drug Free Pledge, led by Pelini and former Huskers and current NFL stars Demorrio Williams and Adam Carriker.
After the fans cleared the field, the teams returned with a running clock in the second half. Following a quiet third quarter, quarterback Zac Lee led the Whites on an impressive and methodical 15-play, 73-yard drive that lasted 10:22. The drive was capped by Lee's 10-yard scoring pass to I-back Austin Jones for the game's final score.
The Whites managed 259 yards of total offense on 60 plays for the game, led by Helu's 69 yards and a score on 16 carries. Quentin Castille added 39 yards on the ground on five attempts. Castille added two receptions for 55 yards to lead a White receiving corps that had eight different receivers haul in at least one pass.
The Reds compiled 243 yards through the air, as Gilleylen had two receptions for 89 yards, and Mendoza pulled down two catches for 39 yards. Mendoza added seven carries for 33 yards on the ground in a solid effort.
While the offenses supplied several highlights, Nebraska's defensive units combined for seven sacks and forced four turnovers, including a diving interception by Armando Murillo late in the first half.
Nebraska's Spring Game concludes the Huskers' spring practice period. NU's players will complete the spring semester in Lincoln in a few weeks. The Huskers will open the 2008 regular season on Saturday, Aug. 30, against Western Michigan at Memorial Stadium.
Scoring (Red 24, White 14)
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (Red 14, White 0)
Red - Marlon Lucky 1 run (Alex Henery kick), 13:20
Red - Curenski Gilleylan 77 pass from Joe Ganz (Henery kick), 9:06
Second Quarter (Red 24, White 7)
Red - Marcus Mendoza 24 pass from Ganz (Henery kick), 11:44
White - Roy Helu 3 run (Adi Kunalic kick), 6:51
Red - Henery 35 field goal, 2:02
Third Quarter (Red 24, White 7)
Fourth Quarter (Red 24, White 14)
White - Austin Jones 10 pass from Zac Lee (Kunalic kick), 11:18