7-year-old’s touchdown highlights Huskers spring game

By Zach Tegler, NewsNetNebraska

With starting running back Ameer Abdullah sitting out the Nebraska football team’s Spring Game, backups Imani Cross, King Frazier and Graham Nabity all stepped up with big plays.

But none of them could match the performance of Jack Hoffman, whose 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter helped the Red team to a 32-25 victory against the White team in the scrimmage.

Hoffman, a 7-year-old from Atkinson who was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer in 2011, wore the No. 22 jersey of former Husker Rex Burkhead – who met Jack in 2011 and wore a bracelet with his name on it during games – and a plastic toy football helmet. He came into the game for one play, on which he took a handoff from senior quarterback Taylor Martinez and the White defense let him run for the touchdown.

Both teams ran off their benches to swarm Hoffman in the end zone.

“That was awesome for the team and for Jack,” Martinez said. “He’s going to remember that for the rest of his life, and so will I. It was awesome for him to score that touchdown.”

The run made Hoffman the game’s leading rusher on a day when the offenses took center stage.

The offenses traded scores in the game’s first six possessions. Frazier, a redshirt freshman, punched the ball into the end zone for the White team to end the first drive of the contest.

After sophomore kicker Mauro Bondi made a 50-yard field goal for the Reds, the teams scored touchdowns on the next four possessions. Nabity scored on another short run for the Whites to run their lead to 14-3.

During a break in the action, each team earned points in a drill demonstration. Then, Martinez hooked up with senior fullback C.J. Zimmerer on a 45-yard touchdown pass to cut the White lead to 17-11.

“It was a dream come true for me, even if it was just a spring game,” Zimmerer said. “I just happened to run a decent route, he gave me a good ball and I just ran it in.”

The Whites rebounded to take a 24-11 advantage on a 17-yard pass from senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III to sophomore tight end David Sutton. Cross answered with a 12-yard touchdown run for the Red team, which made the first defensive stop of the game on the next possession, with less than a minute left in the first half.

“I thought there were some good things offensively. I’m not going to sit here and dissect everything that happened to us on defense, but there were a lot of recurring themes that happened to us in the first half,” said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. “There were some guys, it took a quarter or a quarter and a half where their eyes were big, too big for a situation like this. I think they settled down after a while, on both sides.”

In the first half, the two offenses combined for 435 yards, and quarterbacks Martinez, Kellogg and redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong threw a combined 284 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 24 passing.

The second half turned more in the defenses’ favor. Neither offense scored in the third quarter, and redshirt freshman Red linebacker Thomas Brown and senior White linebacker Colby Starkebaum combined for three sacks. Junior linebacker Trevor Roach had a game-high 10 tackles.

Armstrong fired a 37-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman receiver Alonzo Moore on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Reds their first lead, 26-25, before Hoffman’s run made the score 32-25 with 6:41 remaining.

Zimmerer, Hoffman’s lead blocker on that play, said Pelini told the team before the game that Hoffman would take the field. After the game, Pelini discussed Hoffman’s spot on the Huskers’ depth chart.

“Jack’s pretty hard to beat,” he said. “He was the leading rusher today, wasn’t he? There you go.”

Here are the highlights of the game via Twitter:

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