Patrick O'Brien thought he performed well Saturday.

"Thought I got the job done," he told reporters.

Now comes the wait.

O'Brien and Tanner Lee competed for Nebraska's starting quarterback job throughout the program's spring season. Both made strong closing arguments in the Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium, although I think Lee's was a bit stronger.

Husker coach Mike Riley hasn't tipped his hand about which quarterback has impressed him the most. But we'll likely hear a verdict soon enough. Riley has said he probably would name the starter "shortly after" the end of spring practice.

O'Brien, a redshirt freshman from San Juan Capistrano, California, said he's gotten no indication where he stands relative to Lee, a junior transfer from Tulane.

If O'Brien is nervous about the impending announcement, he disguises it well.

"I just had to go out there and perform the best I could every single day," he said. "If that means I'm going to be the starting quarterback, that's the situation. If it doesn't, I'm obviously going to be disappointed. But I just have to control what I can control."

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound O'Brien was efficient and effective in the spring game, completing 11 of 17 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. However, he nearly threw a pick deep in the red zone while running the two-minute offense late in the first half.

Meanwhile, the 6-4, 220-pound Lee completed 13 of 19 attempts for 190 yards and three touchdowns, and never came close to throwing an interception.

Both O'Brien and Lee benefited from a consistent ground attack. And let's face it, all four quarterbacks operated against a defense that was extremely vanilla. In fact, first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco went exclusively with a 4-3 scheme, as opposed to his base 3-4.

No sense in giving opponents something to study, Riley said.

What's more, the quarterbacks enjoyed the luxury of knowing they wouldn't be sacked to the ground.

One longtime Nebraska fan described the proceedings as "a well-rehearsed exhibition."

Of course, that could be interpreted as commentary on the offense's consistently smooth execution.

Did O'Brien have a favorite moment?

He paused before answering.

"I don't know. I feel like we executed everything," he said. "I had a couple tipped passes at the line of scrimmage. I've got to get rid of those. Besides that, I felt like we executed on all levels."

Before the scrimmage, Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf flipped a coin to determine which of the top quarterbacks would start the scrimmage. O'Brien called heads — the correct call.

Facing a defense of entirely reserves, O'Brien's first possession stalled at the White's 18-yard line, leading to a field goal. But he responded with three straight touchdown drives. His second-drive work was bolstered by Devine Ozigbo's tough running, not to mention Ozigbo's admirable determination to stretch for a first down after catching a pass on third-and-7.

Throughout the day, O'Brien had an especially strong connection in the passing game with senior tight end Tyler Hoppes and junior slot receiver Keyan Williams.

He made only a couple noticeably poor throws, and appeared to operate with poise.

He felt good about his chemistry with receivers.

"Obviously, that's going to grow," O'Brien said. "Last year, I really didn't play with the ones. So, to be with them all spring and really develop … You could see today, I thought I threw it pretty well. I think all the quarterbacks did a good job."

Lee, though, produced a highlight-reel moment with his 30-yard touchdown strike to JD Spielman, a pass deftly placed between a safety and corner. Fans will be talking about that throw for some time. 

O'Brien was happy for Lee. They seem to have a genuine bond.

"We're going to both be supportive of each other in everything we do," O'Brien said. "Every single time either one of us threw a touchdown, we were the first people to give each other a high-five. Tanner's a great guy. He's a great quarterback. We're both competitors and we're good people. We have a really good relationship."

O'Brien seemed at peace with his situation, saying he could wait until August, if it came to that, to learn his fate in the quarterback race.

"Whatever the coaches feel is necessary, it's up to them," he said. "It's not my decision. Either way, I'm just going to keep working hard."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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