The last of 14 spring practices wrapped up Wednesday evening, and, for one final time before Saturday’s annual Red-White Spring Game, Coach Mike Riley said both sides of the ball did some significant work on Wednesday, as the practice featured a substantial amount of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, coupled with some special teams toward the end.
Riley excited for debut, crowd
Riley’s official debut comes this weekend. He’s been running practices, talking to the media and meeting with certain personnel, but this weekend is the first in which he’ll see a somewhat-full Memorial Stadium, and the first time most fans will see him.
It’s an important day, and Riley knows it.
“It’ll be my first picture of what the whole football deal looks like,” Riley said. “It’ll be fun to see the stadium. It’ll be fun to see the crowd. See the excitement for football. It’ll just be fun.”
Coming from Oregon State, which recruited – and played – in the shadow of national power Oregon, Riley didn’t see the passion for football that he’s seen at Nebraska, he said.
“I’m not sure. A few thousand,” Riley said when asked the attendance of last year’s Spring Game at Oregon State. “I don’t know (for sure), but it won’t be 70,000.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, 65,000 tickets had been sold, and a large walk-up crowd is expected on gameday.
But that’s nothing Riley wasn’t expecting.
“This is a real good indicator of the things I was talking about with Nebraska and the pride here,” he said.
Format of game laid out
Riley laid out the basic formula for the game this season.
Last year, fans saw a departure from the traditional rules they’d been accustomed to. This year, Riley wants to get back to the basics.
“I think we’re just going to play it,” Riley said. “We’re going to kick off, we’re going to punt return. We’re just going to play.”
Teams will be very similar to those that have been divided up this spring, with a few players moving over to round out special teams. The biggest news, though, is that quarterbacks are open to be tackled.
“I was afraid you were going to ask me (about quarterback contact),” Riley said, with a chuckle. “But I think so, yeah. I’m leaning toward that now, and don’t hold it against me if I change my mind.
“I asked A.J. (Bush) when the last time he actually got tackled was, and I guess it was during a scrimmage about a year ago. That’s a little scary, too.”
The game will also feature four 20-minute quarters, with running time. The clock will be stopped when the ball switches hands from team to team, and during extra points.
A.J. Bush finishing up fantastic spring
Redshirting last season, A.J. Bush has been able to iron out his game’s kinks in time to make an impression not just throwing the ball, but running it, too.
“I really have a passion for this game. I really just try and find every single way to get better, no matter what it is,” Bush said. “I just try to better myself in every single way possible.”
Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf made a huge difference for Bush, too, he said.
“It’s been a real learning process for me (with coach Langsdorf),” Bush said. “I felt like I developed in those four weeks way better than I ever have.”
When asked if Bush’s attitude had improved over the course of the spring, Riley didn’t hold anything back.
“Absolutely,” Riley said. “Right up until today. Which is very good.”
Bush, however, just wants to get better.
“I’m just trying to stay consistent,” Bush said. “I bring a work ethic that I don’t think a lot of people have.”
And that’s evident both on and off the field.
“In class, I got in trouble for looking at film,” Bush said with a chuckle.