Just before Nebraska began its walk from the locker room under North Stadium toward the field early Saturday afternoon, a minute-long montage of NU players and coaches extolling the strength of the state’s response in the wake of historic flooding over recent weeks played.
When the team poured onto the field in front of a sell-out crowd, Ashland native and junior defensive lineman Ben Stille led the way past a long line of first responders, holding a Nebraska state flag high above his head.
For a state where so many have been affected by the damage that now reaches well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, what better time and place than a sunny, dry Saturday at Memorial Stadium to get away for a while?
“It was awesome,” Aurora native and sophomore tight end Austin Allen said. “The last couple weeks, seeing the state come together, it’s awesome. Seeing the first responders and all the work they do for this state, there’s no feeling like it running out.”
The sophomore tight end would know. His father retired in January after 30 years as a state trooper based out of Grand Island.
“The time it takes away from your family and whatnot, it takes a different kind of man, different kind of woman to do that job,” Allen said.
During the scrimmage, NU announced that it had raised more than $162,000 for the Red Cross in a joint effort that included collections at the spring game, selling T-shirts with a “One State, One Heartbeat” tagline — Frost wore one on the sideline Saturday — and proceeds raised at the Huskers’ home NIT game last month.
Bradley, Jones have nice days: Running back Jaylin Bradley and running back/wide receiver Miles Jones entered spring looking to take advantage of a lot of snaps.
That carried over into Saturday's spring game.
Bradley, a sophomore, had a game-high 57 yards on 12 carries, including an 18-yarder, for the White Team. Jones, also playing for the White, caught three passes for 44 yards. He was targeted eight times.
Bradley, a Bellevue West graduate, was low on the depth chart last fall. But NU lost Devine Ozigbo to graduation, sophomore Maurice Washington was limited this spring and trio of recruits are not arriving until the summer.
Jones, a redshirt freshman, is looking to add some depth for a team needing some playmakers to step up.
"That's tough sledding when you're playing on a team where the other team has more of the guys that are going to be playing on Saturdays," NU coach Scott Frost said. "I thought those two guys did a good job. I thought several guys on the White (team) really stepped their game up and competed."
Pickering in spring mood: Last year at this time, Barret Pickering was battling Cole Frohm for the starting place-kicking job.
Just a sophomore, Pickering looked like a veteran Saturday, drilling three field goals in the first half, including a 45-yarder into the wind before halftime.
"I just feel comfortable going out there," said Pickering, who also connected from 33 and 27 yards. "I believe in the rest of the team to get their jobs done, and whenever I need to go out there, I'll go out there and do my thing."
Nebraska did not have kickoffs Saturday, but it's been a focal point of Pickering's spring, the sophomore said.
Springing into action: Nebraska sophomore defensive back Cam Taylor, who is expected to be a big factor on the defensive side, believes there are a couple of Husker veterans ready to help the team.
"Avery Anderson, he's (an) older guy and this spring, he was doing his thing," Taylor said, when asked of anyone who has surprised him this spring. "Marquel Dismuke. He stepped up big time."
That carried over into the spring game for Dismuke, who had a first-half interception for the Red Team. The junior is competing for one of the starting safety spots.
Anderson is trying to make the most of his final season after spending the first three seasons lower on the depth chart. He had three tackles for the White Team on Saturday.
"All spring long," Taylor said of those two. "Depth chart and things, that doesn't affect anyone right now, but we do have a production chart and if you look at the production chart you can see everybody wants to eat in that group."
New experience for Daniels: Darrion Daniels is a senior graduate transfer, so he's seen a lot at the collegiate level.
But stepping onto the Memorial Stadium turf in front of 85,000-plus exceeded his expectation.
"It was probably the most fans I've seen in a stadium my whole time in college," the defensive tackle transfer from Oklahoma State said. "And it's just a spring game. I can only imagine what it'd be like for a real game."
Nebraska drew 85,946 fans Saturday, not far off last year's spring game record of 86,818.
Alabama drew 62,219 fans to its free spring game on Saturday. Ohio State drew 61,102.
Davis counts it: Senior linebacker Alex Davis can catch a pass, but he can't catch a break.
The senior outside linebacker intercepted an Andrew Bunch pass in the second quarter Saturday, except he didn't. The pick didn't count because Bunch was ruled to have been "sacked" after a defender touched him.
That didn't matter much to Davis.
"I'm counting it," he said. "The ball was in the air and I caught it."
The play was part of a good day for the senior, who also had a pair of "sacks" of his own as he works to solidify a role on the second level of Nebraska's defense.
"Anything you do in this stadium is fun. All eyes on you," Davis said. "It's fun just to be out there playing."
Pass the test: Senior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry feels good about the ways his defense performed all season. There's one way in particular: He liked how the Blackshirts responded when the offense took to the air.
"I just love how good we did against the pass this spring," Barry said. "I know that for myself, I think I added that part to my game. I think I'm better against zone coverage, better in man coverage. We've still got things to clean up in man coverage, as seen today, but zone coverage and how we're handling our issues and understanding the particulars of our defense, we're just a smarter football team and a smarter defense.
"That's going to pay dividends this season."
Family reunion: Throughout the weekend, Frost and NU had dozens of former players around.
That's just the way he likes it.
"I’ve seen some guys that I haven’t seen in two decades," Frost said. "Michael Booker just grabbed me on the way off the field, and obviously he was a big part of a lot of really good teams around here. I haven’t seen him in years. I saw Erick Strickland yesterday. I haven’t seen him in years. ... I love having those guys back. One, I care about them, and they care about me.
"I also like to see those guys back and see what it means to be a Husker football player and see how it goes with you your whole life and see how the fans still know who you are."
Just this week, Frost talked to a group at the JET Award banquet in Omaha, named for former Nebraska great Johnny Rodgers. Mike Rozier was on hand for the scrimmage on Saturday. On and on the list goes.
"If you’re a great player here, people are going to remember you the rest of your life, and those guys are still pulling for those guys playing today," Frost said. "It’s awesome to kind of continue that fraternity and have the guys come back and teach this group what it’s supposed to look like.”