College spring football games are curious things, revered in some places and shunned in others.
Nebraska’s spring game is Saturday in Lincoln. Tickets went on sale Feb. 6. At the price of $10 apiece, they were sold out the next day.
That’s 90,000 or so tickets, folks. On StubHub last Thursday, the cheapest ticket to the game was $20, and that was for an end zone seat. Six club level tickets were offered at $304.56 apiece.
The Huskers’ previous spring game record crowd is 80,149, for Bo Pelini’s first spring game as head coach of the team. This year’s is Scott Frost’s first spring game as head coach of the team. There’s nothing like something fresh in April, eh?
Ohio State sold all of its approximately 79,000 seats at $5 apiece for last Saturday's spring game at Ohio Stadium. The venue didn’t have all of its 105,000 or so seats available because of construction and restoration work in the stadium.
The announced attendance, though, was just 47,803. That was weather-caused. The start time was moved up two hours to 11:45 a.m. to beat an expected rainstorm.
Look elsewhere — mainly outside the SEC and the Big Ten’s superpowers — and you see the public shrugging at spring games though admission is free almost everywhere. (Here are the spring game attendance leaders so far this year.)
Last week, forecast bad weather led Iowa State, Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin to cancel their Saturday spring games. West Virginia did the same a week earlier. Because of expected snow on Friday and Saturday that certainly did show up, Minnesota moved its game up from Saturday afternoon to Thursday night. That apparently fit into few of its fans’ schedules. The estimated crowd was 2,500.
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Spring has been little but a concept in the Midwest this year. But you can’t convince me most of the coaches of the teams that canceled the spring games weren’t happy to move those practices indoors to focus on teaching instead of putting on a show.
Iowa’s spring game should go on as planned Friday night in Kinnick Stadium. Footballs and football weather will be in the air that night, it appears, with temperatures forecast in the high-40s.
It’s often said you don’t learn much at spring games, but that depends on who’s doing the watching.
At the Hawkeyes’ spring game last year, witnessed by an announced 16,500 fans, safety Jake Gervase caused a stir with three interceptions.
Gervase didn’t get any hat tricks in real games, but did become a valued player. He started nine games and was second on the Hawkeyes in interceptions with three, including one in Iowa’s Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College. He also led all Hawkeye defensive backs in tackles.
I can’t remember any specific thing cornerback Josh Jackson did in last year’s spring game, but that’s a me thing, not a Jackson thing. It’s easy to recall Jackson’s interception in the Pinstripe Bowl. And his two for touchdowns against Wisconsin. And his pick-pick-pick star-making performance against Ohio State.
Jackson’s most-memorable (and forgettable) spring game moment was when he was a redshirt freshman in 2015. He had been moved from cornerback to wide receiver late in spring practice that year. He dropped what would have been an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wiegers. He was a cornerback again that fall. Good choice.
As for another Hawkeye who did good things last fall, quarterback Nate Stanley completed 6 of 17 passes for 13 yards, a 2-yard touchdown pass, and an interception in the spring game.
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We were told Stanley and Tyler Wiegers were vying for the No. 1 quarterback job, Wiegers hit on 14 of 19 passes that evening for 94 yards, and was intercepted twice.
The starting job was sophomore Stanley’s to lose, though, and he didn’t lose it that night. Or that spring, or that summer. He threw 26 TD passes when it mattered, and set himself up to be a three-year starter.
Stanley may not be called upon to do much Friday. Nothing he does or doesn’t do that night will mean much unless he slips on a banana peel. Since bananas typically aren’t found on football sidelines, no worries.
Meanwhile, some wide receiver or linebacker or running back will step out of the shadows and identify himself as a player to watch this fall.
More importantly: Once the spring game is over, can we have a little actual spring around here?
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