WAS JUST A SCRIMMAGE, FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD!
Okay, so I don't care too much for Spring games.
There I said it. It just ain't right. I mean, where is the Cornhusker Marching Band, the beautiful crisp weather, the gorgeous fall colors? And most of all, where is the &*^$! opponent?
I'm sorry, but it's just not the same. Spring games are like flat beer, kissing your sister, a filet without cabernet, Laurel without Hardy, Bob minus Ray, "The Sopranos" widdout Tony, (fagettaboudit), Lum without Abner, coffee without caffeine or Scarlet without Cream.
It was Saturday, April 15th-Tax Day, for cryin' out loud. Okay, so it wasn't really Tax Day, but you get my drift. Instead of an array of spectacular autumn colors, there were blossoms on the trees-BLOSSOMS! We don't need no stinkin' blossoms!
Tradition! That's what's lacking in Spring games. A quick glance down Stadium Way before the game revealed only a handful of gas-guzzling SUVs in the parking spots that are reserved for the mucky-mucks (I like that term) and only a smattering (there's another good word) of tailgaters. This can't be a football Saturday in Lincoln. No way. Baylor or Iowa State, maybe, but not in Lincoln freakin' Nebraska. No sir-ee-Bob!
I long for a real, honest to goodness Husker home game. September 2nd can't come soon enough.
Anyway, I know many of you will probably disagree with my take, but Husker Spring Games (or anybody's Spring Game, for that matter) aren't the real thing. There's no real opponent. Oh sure, there's a battle among Husker players for starting spots, but there's no opponent. No team to hate. No mascot to make fun of. No Der Weinerschlinger, no Husker Marching Band (a small pep band in the South Stadium weakly belted out some songs, but missing was the intimidating, 150 piece in-your-face kind of band that we've all come to love).
So what Husker Spring games do offer, is a chance to hook up with old friends like Bud from Denver, Mike from Omaha and a chance to meet new ones like Dan from Des Moines. The Spring Game is about families and friends being able to sit together in seats that during the regular season they'd never be able to afford or to find all together in this lifetime. I'll give you that.
JUST SAY MAYBE
The Game also is about thousands of kids who stormed the playing field at half-time to take a pledge to just day no to drugs and alcohol-(that is until they go away to college and join a fraternity).
What is very hard to determine (by mere mortals such as I am) is how to judge player performances in a scrimmage. The defenses show more vanilla than Baskin & Robbins. There's no blitzing. No live punt returns, no quarterback sacks. You could just sense the frustration that Adam Carriker and Jay Moore must have felt all afternoon. I mean, they wanted to kill somebody, but those somebodies were wearing green jerseys-sack one of those suckers and you own the Stadium steps.
I did put my binoculars on Matt Herian to see how he blocked, ran pass patterns and to see how quick he was. It's hard to say, but it appears that his blocking is fine. But he seems a step slow. Having said that, it's really hard to judge his performance under controlled conditions. He was thrown to only once-a pass in the end zone that was batted away at the last second.
Zac Taylor looks as though he's picked up where he left off in the Alamo Bowl. Terrence "Second To" Nunn, Nate "The Great" Swift and Todd "Not Steve" Peterson remain Zac Taylor's go-to guys. Frantz Hardy and much heralded receivers Tyrell Spain and Chris Brooks were pretty much non-entities.
It was really unfortunate Husker fans didn't get a chance to see Harrison Beck play. Until a suitable backup can be found, the position will be thin. Joe Ganz and Beau Davis did little to prove that they're ready to fill in should something happen to Taylor.
What was quite apparent was the speed, quickness and footwork of running backs Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky. Both seem to have all the tools necessary to be explosive, but without any blitzes, it's hard to evaluate their pass blocking skills and their ability to pick up stunts. With Kenny Wilson joining the group this fall, running back depth should be substantial.
One thing I did see, and that got me out of my chair, was a play by Husker right tackle Matt "Cut Off Your" Slauson. The dude took on three defenders and won the battle. It wasn't even close.
The Red (first team) defense, if it would have been allowed to blitz, would have destroyed the White (2nd team) worse than they did. Linebackers Steve Octavien and Corey McKeon looked nasty.
My sense is that the defense will have to carry the offense through most of the first half of the season. The development of offensive line play is going to be essential for this team to have any kind of chance against teams like USC and Texas.
NO PUNTS INTENDED
It was hard to determine how good our punting will be this year. Saturday, the wind made it difficult to launch any kind of a punting game. Jordan Congdon should be everybody's All American this year.
All in all, the areas of concern before the Spring Game will probably still be question marks going into the season opener.
SO LONG, FAREWELL
It usually upsets me when I see someone who has a great deal of talent leave the Husker football program. The departure of Jeff Souder and Leon Jackson are two such players. Both kids apparently have had some issues to deal with. All Husker fans wish them well in whatever they do.
Last week, April 18th, marked the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of former Husker quarterback, number 18, Brook Berringer. Husker fans were stunned at the news of the plane crash.
Brook Berringer was dead.
I remember listening to the radio broadcast of his memorial service held in his home town of Goodland, Kansas. One by one, friends, family members, his coaches and his teammates got up to tell about their love for Brook and how he had touched the lives of so many people. There were no dry eyes that day. None.
The NFL draft was just days away. Brook was going to have a chance to play on Sundays, right? But it wasn't to be. Brook was gone.
His debut as a Husker quarterback was inauspicious.
It was a home game with University of Pacific early in the 1994 season. In the first quarter, Tommie Frazier was taken out of the game and replaced with Brook, an unknown backup quarterback from a small town in western Kansas. Husker fans were thinking at the time that Coach Osborne was just giving some real game experience to Brook-you know, let him play in a game everyone knew the Huskers would win going away. Not to worry, Tommie would be back later in the game.
But Frazier didn't return-Brook played the rest of the game. Something must be wrong with Tommie, we all wondered. Remember, Frazier had led his Husker team to within 1:18 of a national championship the year before in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Tommie would be back. Sure, he's just a little nicked up, but he'll be back, we all thought and hoped.
We were wrong. The news came in. Tommie was out indefinitely with blood clots. There goes the season, we thought. There goes Tom Osborne's chance at a national championship. Right out the window. And for what? A blood clot? Tom Osborne couldn't win for losing. Snake-bitten again-just as he was in '82 at Penn State and just as he was the following year in the "Going For Two" Orange Bowl loss to Miami, which to this day, is, by far, the most painful loss in Husker history.
Brook started the next week at home against Wyoming. He cracked some ribs, but sucked it up and played most of the game.
The rest is history. Brook Berringer became one of the most courageous players in Husker history. It was almost as though he put the team on his back and said, "We're going to win and keep on winning. Together, we can't lose."
His greatest game was at home against the favored Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs entered the game ranked ahead of the Huskers and boasted a lineup that included future NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart and eventual Heisman Trophy winner, running back Rashaan Salaam.
It was the loudest game I've ever experienced at Memorial Stadium. The noise was deafening. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm fall afternoon in Lincoln. As the game moved along, the Colorado defense had every Husker player covered except our tight ends.
Brook played a great game and put his passes right on the money. I still get chills thinking about that game. Bill McCartney didn't have an answer for the Huskers. Kordell Stewart kept tossing his passes into the turf. The Huskers jumped out to a 24-0 lead before relinquishing a second half TD making the final score 24-7. It would be the only loss in a 11-1 season for the Buffs. The Huskers, of course, with Brook's help, won the rest of their games that year and beat the Miami Hurricanes for the national championship in the Orange Bowl.
THE LAST DANCE
The following year, the Huskers went undefeated, and with a healthy Tommie Frazier at quarterback, Brook's role diminished mostly to that of a mop-up. His last game was the Fiesta Bowl in which the Huskers danced over and around the Florida Gators, handing them a 62-24 pasting. The Huskers had just won their second consecutive national championship.
No one knew it at the time, of course, but that would be the last football game in which Brook would ever play. Brook Berringer is gone from this life, but number 18 will live on in the hearts of all true Husker fans forever.
If you'd like to write Husker Dan, you can email him here. For past Husker Dan columns click here.
WAS JUST A SCRIMMAGE, FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD!