After falling behind 14-3, the Nebraska Whites scored 13 unanswered points, but Kody Spano's one-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Hill with 7:28 left gave the Reds a 21-16 win in front of 77,936 fans at 2010 Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Taylor Martinez connected on 5-of-9 passes for 79 yards in the first half and rushed nine times for 60 yards to help the Reds jump to the 14-3 lead eary in the second quarter. Martinez was effective from the start, engineering a 10-play, 52-yard scoring drive on the opening possession. The Corona, California native found fullback Tyler Legate for a six-yard touchdown pass that gave the Reds an early 7-0 lead.
Two of Martinez's completions went for touchdowns, including a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Kinnie that put the Reds up 11 points with 9:52 left in the first half. Kinnie drew contact from the Whites near the 10-yard line, but drove the pile into the end zone to cap an eight-play, 72-yard drive in just under five minutes.
I-back Rex Burkhead also helped the Reds on their successful early drives, carrying six times for 36 yards.
Cody Green sparked a comeback for the Whites on the next drive by hitting Will Henry on a 79-yard scoring strike down the middle of the field to pull to within 14-10 with 6:13 left in the half. Green finished the day 8-of-15 through the air for 155 yards. He also rushed five times for 12 yards.
"I thought they did fine," coach Bo Pelini said of Martinez and Green. "They did some good things, they did some things they need to work on. It was a lot of the same as what we saw. It was pretty basic what we did. I thought they managed the game pretty well. Overall, we saw some good things, but just like in practice we saw some things we need to get fixed.”
Niles Paul led all receivers with five catches for 103 yards on the day for the Whites, including a spectacular 31-yard reception on a pass from Mike McNeill after a bounced lateral from Green late in the second quarter. However, that play did not lead to points for the Whites as the drive stalled and Adi Kunalic missed a 52-yard field goal wide right.
“Niles is a good football player," said Pelini. "He continues to get better. The only thing he had to work on was consistency. I think he has done a really good job. He has had a really good spring. I expect good things out of him. I think Brandon Kinnie came a long way. I think really the wide out position as a whole is better. I like that position on the football team.”
The Reds carried the 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime before the Whites capitalized on a Red team fumble that set them up at the Reds 11-yard line. Four plays later, Kunalic knocked in a 21-yard field goal to trim the Reds' edge to 14-13 with 9:29 left.
After Whites got a quick stop on the next drive, LaTravis Washington engineered an 11-play, 47-yard drive that was capped by Kunalic's 32-yard field goal to give the Whites their first lead of the day at 16-14 with :53 left in the third quarter. Washington finished an efficient day by completing 6-of-8 passes for 65 yards while leading all rushers for the Whites with six carries for 38 yards.
Spano then led the Reds to victory by guiding the team on a 13-play, 69-yard march that consumed 8:18 with a continuous clock in the fourth quarter. Spano went 6-for-6 on the drive, including four connections for 47 yards to Kyler Reed, a 14-yard pass to Austin Jones and a one-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Hill to seal the win.
Spano finished the day 7-of-8 threw the air for 66 yards and the winning touchdown. Spano's favorite target, Reed, closed with four receptions for 47 yards, all coming on the game's decisive drive.
“I thought it went fine," said Pelini. "Everybody got in the game, we got a good amount of plays and reps. It was a good finish to the spring. I’m happy with how it all came out. Nobody got hurt, no major injuries, which is always a positive. I thought it went well.”