The Nebraska Cornhuskers will take the field this Saturday in the first Red-White Spring Game in two years. And despite the number of fierce position battles taking center stage this spring, the focus of the scrimmage will once again be on what goes on outside the sidelines.
For beyond the never-ending speculation about what might transpire this weekend is the inescapable truth so astutely pointed out by Patrick Runge earlier this week: The Red-White Game is just another practice the coaches will use to gauge talent and form ideas about their eventual starting 11 come September.
While the pageantry, the game-day atmosphere and the increased media attention are undeniable, when push comes to shove it is just another scrimmage.
It is for that reason that the real value of this hallowed tradition lies in the fans.
Nebraska fans rarely get extensive look-ins on Husker practices. Most of their information is reliant upon post-practice interviews and rough interpretations of players’ progress by media outlets.
The spring game provides a unique chance for fans to get a firsthand look at the players that will lead their team into the 2013 season. Even though stars like Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah may not see as many snaps as they would in a regular-season game, fans are able to get to know the lesser-known players rising through the depth chart.
While players’ performances will mean little more to the coaches than any other spring scrimmage, the fans are the real winners. They receive the most thorough look at the Big Red they can get before they open the season next fall.
Beyond that, the Red-White Spring Game is a celebration of Nebraska’s extremely passionate fanbase, plain and simple.
Just as much as the Huskers’ resume of Academic All-Americans, bowl appearances, Heisman trophies and national championships, Nebraska fans are equally proud of their own devotion to the team. And while the record-setting consecutive sellout streak is the focal point of that pride, the spring game ranks highly in that trophy case too.
The Lincoln Journal-Star is reporting that over 40,000 reserved seats for Saturday’s scrimmage have been sold, and one can assume that many more Big Red faithful will buy tickets at the door.
Whether fan support can rival the 66,000 attendance posted at the last Red-White Spring Game in 2011 remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: The most impressive part of Saturday’s game may not be what occurs on the field.
Because no matter who plays well or poorly, much of Nebraska’s fall starting lineup will remain undetermined after Saturday. The real value of the game will lie in the fans’ experience and their show of support for the Big Red.