With fans back in the stands, White tops Red 21-20
The story of Nebraska’s 2021 annual Red-White Spring Game on Saturday had already been written before the opening kickoff.
For the first time since Nov. 29, 2019, fans were back in the stands of Memorial Stadium after last season’s COVID-19 disruption.
It wasn’t a packed house, as ticket sales were capped at 75 percent capacity, and 36,406 fans made it out for the game.
But that didn’t keep the Huskers’ spring scrimmage from being an emotional relative return to normalcy for coaches, players, and fans alike.
As for the game itself, the Red squad – featuring the majority of the projected starters on both sides of the ball – jumped out to a 13-0 lead but saw the White rally back and win it on a 25-yard touchdown pass as time expired, 21-20.
It marked the first time since 2016 that the White team had beaten the Red.
The first half was played with only “thud” tackling, meaning ball carriers weren’t taken to the ground. That allowed Red quarterback Adrian Martinez to operate with ease in and out of the pocket, as he finished 12-of-20 passing for 127 yards and rushed nine times for 49 yards.
Logan Smothers got the start under center for the White team, with Heinrich Haarberg handling the next four drives of the first half. Smothers completed 8-of-14 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown while moving to the Red team at half, while Haarberg went 9-of-23 for 121 with a touchdown and an interception.
Running back Marvin Scott, who finished with a game-high 75 yards on 11 carries, kicked off the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run on the opening drive for the Red. Connor Culp followed up with two field goals from 30 and 23 yards out to send the Red team into halftime up 13-0.
The Red defense gave up just two first downs and 19 yards of offense in the first half.
The game got a little more interesting after halftime, as the second half moved to full tackling. Walk-on running back Jaquez Yant broke loose on the third quarter's first drive for a 21-yard touchdown run for the White to make it 13-7.
Yant led the Whites with 63 yards on nine carries, all of which coming in the second half.
Gabe Heins missed a 29-yard field goal that would have pulled the White even closer, but Isaiah Harris gave the White its first lead at 14-13 with a 29-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter.
The Red finally went back on top when Smothers connected with Brody Belt on a 23-yard scoring pass that made it 20-14 with 6:26 left in the game.
Darius Moore picked off Haarberg to end a promising White drive, but Haarberg got the ball back with 66 seconds remaining to try and engineer one last winning march.
On a fourth-and-11 with seven seconds to play, Haarberg hit Wyatt Liewer on a 40-yard pass to the Red 25. While the clock read zeroes, head coach Scott Frost had the teams run one more play.
Haarberg hit Liewer again for a 25-yard touchdown, and the extra point by Tyler Crawford won the game for the white, 21-20.
The Red team finished with 443 yards of total offense (239 rushing, 204 passing), while the White ended up with 342 (221, 121).
Nebraska will open its 2021 season on Aug. 28 at Illinois.