LINCOLN, Neb. - Mike Riley’s first spring season is in the books. In front of 70,000+ fans, the new head coach’s squad participated in the annual Red-White game on Saturday.
The storyline of the game - redshirt freshman quarterback’s Zack Darlington’s 147.1 quarterback rating.
Considered by most fifth on the depth chart coming into the season, Darlington finished his spring strong, completing 7-of-11 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m not saying that I did everything I needed to do, but my goal going into the spring was to work my way up. I think I worked my way up,” said Darlington. “I think that going into fall camp, I’m going to be put my name into consideration.”
Darlington’s 29-yard pass was to wide receiver Jamal Turner. The fifth-year senior said Saturday’s three catch performance was a big step in his attempt to comeback from an Achilles tear last season.
“This was amazing. Everyone told me I played good. It’s one of those things that if I played bad this game, I was going to be really depressed,” said Turner. “I’m just really excited to start the summer off. This game gave me so much momentum.”
With a running clock and 20 minute quarters, the game featured the Red team (first-team and reserves) against the white team (second-team and reserves). The score is never important, but the Red squad held on 24-15 after a 22-point lead.
“I like the fact that we played a game where the specials teams were playing and it was offense versus defense,” said Riley. “I think that has to be really good for a team’s development and getting ready for a season. There were some nerves because of the crowd, playing in a situation like that, so I think that’s good for them.”
Riley says he's been in great football environments, but never like Nebraska’s for a spring game.
“I did have some nerves,” said Riley. “There has been a lot happened in the last two months…people here think we have the greatest fans in college football and they are out to prove it all the time. That’s pretty interesting to be part of.”
Tommy Armstrong, who started every game at the quarterback position for Nebraska in 2014, finished the contest 6-of-12, for 77-yards and a score. While Darlington and A.J. Bush likely made a strong push this spring for his job, it appears the junior will be the first-team quarterback heading into fall camp.
"I felt like I improved, just mentally. Being able to know where I needed to go with the ball. My assignments, giving other guys assignments. Putting myself in the right situations," said Armstrong.
The Huskers open with BYU to start the 2015 season on Sept. 5.