The Nebraska football team ended the 2009 spring practice season as Zac Lee connected on 15-of-18 pass attempts, including three touchdown tosses, to lead the Husker Red team to a 31-17 win during the annual Red-White Spring Game in front of 77,670 fans at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Playing under sunny skies after an early morning rain, the White team dominated the first quarter but managed just three points on the scoreboard. After the Red team's opening drive stalled, Washington led the White squad on a 75-yard drive in 16 plays to put his team in field-goal position. The newly converted quarterback completed his first three passes, including a 21-yard catch by Chris Brooks, while Austin Jones pounded out 17 yards on the ground, before Adi Kunalic capped the drive with a 25-yard field goal.
The White defense held the Red squad to just six plays and four total yards in the first quarter, but the Reds nearly managed to tie the game midway through the second period on an Alex Henery kick. Lee notched three passes over 10 yards, including two to tight end’s Mike McNeill and Ben Cotton, while Quentin Castille added a 17-yard run to push the Reds into field-goal position. Henery had enough distance on a 50-yard attempt, but the kick was wide right.
The White team capitalized on the mistake with a touchdown just three minutes later. Washington connected with Antonio Bell twice on the drive, including a 26-yard catch down to the four-yard line, before tossing a four-yard TD pass to Brooks. Washington went 4-of-5 on the seven-play, 67-yard drive.
Lee and the Red offense got going late in the second quarter to post its first touchdown of the half. On a seven-play, 73-yard drive, Lee aired out the ball several times, including a 21-yard strike to newly converted wide receiver Marcus Mendoza for the squad's first touchdown. Lee was 6-of-7 passing on the drive.
The Red defense continued the squad’s momentum with the game’s first turnover on the first play after the kickoff. Terrence Moore ripped the ball out of Lester Ward’s hands and the Red recovered. Two plays later, Lee found Cotton in the middle of the field for a 24-yard score and his second touchdown pass in 26 seconds.
The Reds took a 14-10 lead into halftime, as Husker fans took to the field to continue a Spring Game tradition during the break. More than 10,000 children and their adult sponsors and parents converged on the FieldTurf to take the Drug Free Pledge, led by assistant coach Ron Brown and former Husker Joe Ganz.
After the fans cleared the field, the Reds continued to impress. The defense forced the White team to punt, and Lee struck quickly with three straight completions, including a 40-yard pass to Wes Cammack for a touchdown.
Neither squad found the scoreboard the rest of the third quarter, but Cody Green led the Red squad on a methodical 11-play, 47-yard drive late in the period that resulted in a Henery field goal early in the fourth. Green completed four passes and Collins Okafor added 14 yards on the ground before the drive stalled and Henery made a 40-yard attempt.
The Reds held the White squad to a three-and-out and extended its lead on the legs of Okafor on the following possession. An 11-yard pass from Green to Mendoza started the drive, but it was four straight runs and a touchdown for Okafor after that, including a 33-yard burst through the line for the score.
Washington guided the White team to a quick counter strike with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Reed. Washington found the wide receiver on a quick slant and Reed sped down the sideline to the endzone for the longest play of the game.
Lee led the offenses with 214 yards passing while Washington added 190 passing yards (13-of-21) and two touchdowns for the White squad. On the ground, Okafor's late play led to a game-best 79 yards on 11 rushes. Quentin Castille added 33 yards for the Red team while Lester Ward led the White squad with 53 yards on 10 carries.
Eleven players caught a pass on the Red team with Cotton leading the way with four catches for 48 yards. Mendoza added 58 yards and score while five Red players had at least 30 yards receiving. Chris Brooks led the White team with five catches for 48 yards and a score.
In special teams, Antonio Bell returned five kickoffs for 107 yards and added 21 yards on three punt returns. Justin Damkroger led the way with two punts for a 47.5-yard average. Henry, an all-league kicker last year, is trying to add on the punting job this year and averaged 43.2 yards on four punts, with a game-long 55 yarder. Henry had six kickoffs for an average of 69.2 yards per game to round out his day.
NU’s Red-White Spring game marks the end of the spring practice period, while student-athletes will complete the spring semester in a few weeks. Nebraska opens the 2009 regular season against Florida Atlantic in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Courtesy: Nebraska Media Relations