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Huskers Earn Passing Grade in 2024 Spring Game

by Apr 29, 2024Nebraska Football

Nebraska Cornhuskers during their annual Red White spring game at Memorial Stadium Field April 27th, 2024 in Lincoln, NE. Photo by Eric Francis
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

And so it came to pass, as Matt Rhule said it would.

Well, sort of.

“I know we’ll be able to run the ball. I want to see if we an throw the ball. I want to see if we can catch the ball,” Rhule said Thursday, before Nebraska’s Red-White Spring Game.

“I want to see if we can throw, catch, rush the passer.”

Rushing the passer as reflected by sacks wasn’t part of the plan. The quarterbacks wore no-hit green jerseys, so the official statistics showed only one sack for a 4-yard loss.

Redshirt freshman Mason Goldman and sophomore James Williams were credited with half a sack each.

But consider the passing.

Wait, just so you know, the final score was White 25, Red 21.

Now, passing. The quarterbacks were a combined 37-of-60 for 566 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions. The top three — Heinrich Haarberg, Dylan Raiola and Daniel Kaelin — threw 51 of the passes, working with both Red and White teams.

Haarberg, a junior and returning starter, opened the game with the White team, freshman Raiola followed with the Red, drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd when he ran onto the field. He responded by directing an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, the touchdown coming on a 16-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Janiran Bonner.

Bonner was a fullback last season, but can fill various positions, according to Rhule

Anyway, Raiola was 4-for-4 for 40 yards on the drive, and finished 16-for-22 for 239 yards and another touchdown, 64 yards to sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Lloyd, also on the Red team.

Raiola threw the first interception, Kaelin the second.

Haarberg was 8-of-13 for 163 yards and touchdowns to freshman wide receiver Jacory Barney Jr. (41 yards) and junior tight end Thomas Fidone II (25 yards). Kaelin was 9-of-16 for 91 yards.

Dante Dowdell, a sophomore transfer from Oregon, scored the other touchdowns on runs of 1 and 49 yards. Sophomore Tristan Alvano kicked a 40-yard field goal to complete the scoring. He missed two field goals, but tackled Barney to prevent a touchdown on a 78-yard kickoff return.

Tackles were spread among many players, with redshirt freshman defensive back D’Andre Barnes leading the White team with six unassisted and redshirt freshman defensive back Dwight Bootle II leading the Red team with four unassisted.

OK, back out to the bigger picture. Two players suffered significant knee injuries, redshirt freshman wide receiver Demetrius Bell and sophomore defensive back Blye Hill, who was an early projection as a starter alongside Tommi Hill at corner.

“From a football perspective, obviously, those two injuries hurt,” said Rhule. “From a personal perspective, they really hurt.”

But they’re young and will bounce back, Rhule said.

Official attendance was 60,452, fewer than Rhule’s first season, but “for an early game, everything that happened yesterday, to have over 60,000 people, what a great message for recruiting, what a great message for the team, and hopefully we brought some joy today after a dark day yesterday,” he said.

Kickoff to accommodate the Big Ten Network was 11:05 a.m. Quarters were 12 minutes instead of 15, with a running clock during the fourth quarter.

As mentioned, Raiola was noticeably applauded the first time he entered the game. The highly-ranked recruit said he teared up with emotion when he came out of the tunnel.

Members of his 2024 recruiting class who didn’t enroll early were introduced on the field at halftime.

Rhule opened his post-game interview referring to Friday’s tornado destruction in the state, and the Athletic Department’s “supporting (of) tornado victims,” he said . “I just wanted to make sure that on behalf of our team and all our staff and families, everyone affected, my neighbors, your neighbors, just wanted to express our gratitude for all the people that came to help.

“And knowing that everyone in the state’s going to help moving forward.”

Kaelin is from “the Elkhorn area,” the freshman said. “That’s where my family was. I know a lot of people without power; we were without power, my family was.

“But it’s really a bad deal and prayers are definitely out to everyone affected.”

Maybe that should have been the lead to this story.

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