Spring games are football as you've never seen it.

There are all kinds of sights you're unlikely to find at any other time of the year beyond the rare sighting of Kody Spano in action - although, to his credit, the freshman-to-be played very well for being so new to the program.

After all, spring games are just practices operated as a simulated game, but with a couple exceptions.

The points don't matter - unless you're concerned about your postgame meal - the rules don't always apply, and everyone is rooting for everyone.

The annual Big Red lovefest has grown into an even stranger creature than it once was. All the ingredients of spring games past are still there, but ticket demand has skyrocketed to unknown proportions, which may actually be the exhibition's most curious facet.

A total of 80,149 fans nearly filled Memorial Stadium to see how the Cornhuskers stacked up against themselves. Some of those fans got in free by virtue of N-Cards or drug free pledges (more on that later).

A majority probably got in at the cost of the 10-dollar face value of tickets. That in itself was impressive considering Missouri drew fewer than 30,000 at three bucks a head.

I don't think it's any stretch to say it trumped Alabama drawing more than 92,000 bodies at no charge in 2007.

But that some fans sitting in the stands likely paid multiple times the ticket's face value, probably up to and over the century mark, astounds me. Credit fanaticism and the opportunity to catch a sneak peek of Nebraska's new coach, Bo Pelini.

To be fair, there was more to see than just that. There were new players, new schemes (however basic) and, as an added surprise, a new tunnel walk video that scrapped ridiculous computer-generated airplanes and harkened to Nebraska's illustrious history.

Then the game started, and linebacker Tyler Wortman deflated a stadium with a forced fumble and recovery on what was intended as a tributary option play.

Oh well. At least the defense is going at it.

There were other fun moments in the game, such as when the Red team declined a delay of game penalty. Another instance was when time officials allowed for a do-over on a play late in the first half, and also that kickoff return that would have been a touchdown had coaches not marked the ball at the 20 for the return team in an effort to keep reps moderately even between both teams.

There were beautiful things, like Joe Ganz's 77-yard touchdown pass to Curenski Gilleylen or Quentin Castille's excellent read and patience on an option play that went 17 yards.

And there were instances where you were glad not to be the other guy, such as when the football audibly smacked I-back Marcus Mendoza in the faceguard, or former Husker Demorrio Williams lost his place while reading a drug-free pledge at halftime and omitted a few lines.

Since teams were evenly divided, the most you can take away from the spring game is what individuals accomplished on the field, and there were several performances for fans to be optimistic about.

But ultimately - and I think Pelini would agree - the story of the game was the fan presence, the support, the atmosphere. Hey, you had Tom Osborne working the sidelines, 250 formers players present, 100 recruits and nearly 81,000 fans for an exhibition. You couldn't have asked for much more if Ohio State had come to town (beyond a recordable win).

The scene Saturday sure looked like that of a program in excellent shape. It's early in the Pelini era, and fans have already invested in Nebraska's future a mountain of hope - and money.

After all, they'll pay 100 dollars just to look at Pelini. He must be the biggest hit in Nebraska since Osborne.

Jonathan Crowl is a senior English major. Reach him at jonathancrowl@dailynebraskan.com