Huskers scrapping Red-White format for spring game

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - There will be no Red vs. White at Nebraska’s spring football game Saturday. It’ll simply be Offense vs. Defense.

Coach Bo Pelini said injuries and a lack of depth at some positions led to his decision to skip the tradition of splitting the players into two squads for a scrimmage under game conditions.

“It’s the only way we’re going to be able to function and really be able to protect certain guys we want to protect,” Pelini said. “It’s really a student-welfare type thing. We want to make sure these guys are able to go out and compete and put on a good show for the fans and have fun. But at the same time we don’t want anyone playing an inordinate amount of reps where somebody gets hurt.”

The fans should still enjoy the afternoon at Memorial Stadium because it promises to match the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense a significant amount of the time. Pelini said the scrimmage would last 90 to 120 plays.

For folks keeping score, there will be a points system that rewards the defense for certain accomplishments.

Pelini said there would be no blocking in the knees, or cut blocking, along the line of scrimmage, and there will be a prohibition on tackling quarterbacks in the pocket. Quarterbacks can be tackled if they take off running.

The game will be carried live on statewide television, and a replay will be shown on the Big Ten Network. Pelini said the play-calling will be basic, so as to not show opponents what the Cornhuskers have added to their repertoire.

“We’re not going to put that on display for everybody to see,” he said.

Five things to know about the Huskers:

SCRIMMAGE SURPRISES? There might be a surprise or two in store for fans. Nothing will top last year. One of the most poignant sports moments of 2013 occurred when 7-year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman of Atkinson bounded in from the sideline, took a handoff and ran for a 69-yard touchdown. Players mobbed him in the end zone and lifted him on their shoulders. The run drew national attention to the “Team Jack” campaign to raise awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer research. Jack also was invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.

STRONG FINISH: Pelini said the practices this spring bode well for the season. “We went into this thing wanting to lay a foundation for the fall. I think we’ve done that,” he said. The Huskers are in the new Big Ten West Division and will be going for their first conference title since 1999. “Everything is out there, as far as I’m concerned, for this football team to achieve,” he said.

INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Aaron Curry will be held out Saturday after spraining his neck last week. Linebacker Marcus Newby (back) and defensive end Ross Dzuris (illness) should play.

EYE ON THE SKY: With a nod to the reverence Nebraskans show for retired coach-athletic director Tom Osborne, Pelini said he’s wary about a forecast that calls for temperatures around 80 and a chance of thunderstorms. Strong storms forced cancellation of the 2012 spring game. “I’ll just get coach Osborne here,” Pelini said, “and he’ll part the skies and we should be good to go.”

TICKETS AVAILABLE: About 48,000 reserved tickets have been sold, and officials expect a large walk-up crowd. Reserved tickets are $10 each. Fans in eighth grade and younger will be admitted free if they take the Drug Free Pledge at halftime.

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