By Randy York
It’s Thursday, March 28th, 10 days before the first Nebraska Football Spring Game that will be televised nationally … do you have your tickets yet? I’m serious. According to weather.com,the 10-day forecast sees the temperature reaching 62 degrees on Saturday, April 6th, a day forecasted to be mostly cloudy with 0 percent chance of rain and winds out of the east southeast up to 14 miles per hour. I mean, what is everyone waiting for? Buy and print your Spring Game tickets right here and right now, so Nebraska can show the Big Ten Network and the rest of the country that there’s no spring football like Nebraska spring football.
Everything about it is appealing. Everything the traffic will allow. Nowhere could you have that happy feeling until every single Husker takes a bow. Sorry, Husker fans. I’m not going to knock 38,000 tickets already sold and distributed. I’m just asking the rest of you to DVR the 2 p.m. Spring Game and hightail it to Memorial Stadium, so you can show the world who has been responsible for filling the place up for the last 50 years. Fans can take their own bows when they show their appreciation 4½ months before the Huskers launch a realistic bid to win the 2013 Big Ten Championship, and, perhaps, even make a run at the National Championship. Here then, 10 days before Nebraska’s 2 p.m. spring kickoff that costs only $10 to see, are 10 semi-persuasive reasons to make a mass fast break to Memorial Stadium, wear red, be proud and be entertained:
Reason No. 1: College Football Hall-of-Famer Will Shields and Damon Benning, the MVP of Nebraska’s three-touchdown win over Virginia Tech in the1996 Orange Bowl, both would prefer that you tape the game at home. That way, you can watch it live inside the stadium and then later judge how well Will handled BTN’s sideline reporter duties and what kind of grade you’d give Damon as BTN’s analyst.
Reason No. 2: With Rex Burkhead returning to Memorial Stadium on a projected beautiful Spring Game Saturday, when else is anyone going to get the chance to see ‘ol No. 22 up close and personal? I mean, only Super Man – college football’s Heisman of Character winner – can play 20 years in the NFL, and this might be your last chance with Rex until 2033. Just kidding, but the more I think about it, maybe I’m not kidding. Maybe I’m promoting history, so please thank five 2012 seniors who will sign autographs at the First National Bank of Omaha Autograph Zone in the Husker Nation Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Will Compton, Ben Cotton, Brett Maher and Kyler Reed will join Burkhead for that session.
Reason No. 3: Even though there’s been a moratorium on communicating this very important fact, does anyone remember an N-Sider last fall that introduced the concept of Time Capsules when we asked why look back? Let’s plan the next 50 years of consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium. Well, Nebraska fans still have one final chance to fill 200 scarlet-and-cream time capsules with meaningful memories, mementos and memorabilia that describe and define our half-century journey. The Spring Game will be your last chance to commemorate history and 325 straight sellouts with contributions that will be buried near the East Stadium still under construction (more information coming later).
Reason No. 4: Speaking of the East Stadium, we have a good reason for you to arrive early at the Spring Game, marvel at the new structure that has doubled its height and is almost all grown up to house two large research areas and boost Nebraska’s capacity to nearly 92,000 fans. What you will be looking at is more than just a football stadium. It will be the first on-campus, shared academic/athletic research facility in the history of intercollegiate athletics. Gaze across the sweeping sky, and you will understand why visiting teams will be facing a more intimidating competitive environment. The roar coming from the 15 rows of seats on top of the new sky boxes should reverberate.
Reason No. 5: Let’s not forget the tradition of watching thousands of boys and girls filling nearly every square inch of Tom Osborne Field and taking the drug-free pledge. That’s a big deal, but not an excuse to wait before securing the free tickets that come with that pledge. Use the links at the top of this column. Every kid in the stadium a week from Saturday must have a ticket to get in. “The key is to beat the rush and make it easy, so we advise everyone to purchase tickets as soon as possible,” said Holly Adam, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for Tickets. “We always encourage fans to get tickets in their hands in advance of game day.” In other words, buying tickets at the last minute and choosing Will Call could make the wait just as long as buying tickets on the day of the game. Buying now or early in the week minimizes the hassle and maximizes the game day experience.
Reason No. 6: Who knows? As you walk around the stadium a few hours before Nebraska’s first Spring Game in two years (remember last year’s rainout?), maybe you’ll bump into one of the more than 200 ex-Huskers who will attend another tribute to Tom Osborne on the Friday night before the Spring Game. Hopefully, you’ll still be able to recognize the likes of Terry Connealy, Russell Gary, Guy Ingles, Jeff Kinney, Joel Makovicka, Marc Munford, Clete and Jim Pillen, Tom Ruud, Ricky Simmons, Rob Stuckey or Steve Taylor. They will all huddle up with T.O. and his assistant coaches one more time, but they’re keeping it private and all in the family.
Reason No. 7: An annual Spring Game highlight is one of Coach Osborne’s personal favorite recognition ceremonies – the introduction of the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team that honors the late Nebraska quarterback that died in a plane crash in April, 1996. The team honors Husker players who consistently go above and beyond to provide excellent leadership to their teammates and become involved in service to the community. Jan Berringer, Brook’s mom, helps honor the Citizenship Team on the field. Nebraska Media Relations will release the names of the new class of honorees the night before the Spring Game.
Reason No. 8: Our last three reasons relate to the players, who are, after all, the linchpin lure for Husker fans taking the time out of what should be a beautiful weekend. Offensively, there’s been lots of talk about young players who have had good springs and could push for playingtime in the fall – wide receivers Sam Burtch, Alonzo Moore, Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp, plus several young tight ends. Don’t forget Imani Cross, a known commodity at running back. He’s slimmed down and showing he can be an every-down back. King Frazier, a redshirt freshman running back, has turned some heads, too. There are several young offensive linemen that will help build depth on a veteran team with five returning seniors. One young offensive lineman earning the respect of the upperclassmen is Zach Sterup, a 6-foot-8, 315-pound sophomore from Hastings St. Cecilia.
Reason No. 9: Isn’t it a Spring Game ritual to focus in on whatever quarterback would take the field when the starter might go down? With Taylor Martinez healthy, happy and hungry for his fourth straight years as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, all eyes will be eager to see how Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong play in early April. A season ticketholder called to ask why Armstrong wasn’t getting any pub and if he was hurt. The good news is he is not hurt and we will all get a good look at Armstrong on April 6, so buy that ticket if you haven’t already.
Reason No. 10: Don’t we always save the best for last? Who doesn’t want to see what kind of defense Pelini & Co. parade onto the field? Last year’s defense had some decidedly great moments, and spring is the sign of eternal hope. Nebraska fans will see new faces everywhere on defense, especially in the defensive line, at linebacker and safety. By all accounts, the 2013 defense is a talented group with considerable athleticism. The spring has been about teaching and figuring out the pieces of who fits where. Special teams pose the same question as two years ago. How do you replace an outstanding kicker who handled kicking, punting and kickoffs? Can Mauro Bondi follow in the footsteps of Alex Henery and Maher? Buy your tickets, print them and walk inside the stadium for your own sneak peek. It will bring you closer to a team that just might have the talent to beat every team it plays. Happy Spring Game and Go Big Red!
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