A 2020 Nebraska Red-White Game
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

A 2020 Nebraska Red-White Game, Simulated

April 18, 2020

There’s no spring game this year. Nebraska will be holding a consolation game, but it’s not going to provide a peek into what we should expect from the 2020 iteration of the team. For obvious reasons, Nebraska can’t give fans a virtual simulation of the spring scrimmage via EA Sports’ NCAA Football 14 video game using rosters comprised of current players. Player likenesses in the game are the entire reason it stopped after 2014. Instead, Nebraska is using all-time rosters for the Red-White (sim) game

But we at Hail Varsity are not bound by such rules. 

So, dusting off the old Xbox 360—which, by the way, is so old it doesn’t actually recognize the 5G wireless network in my apartment—and popping in my scratched-beyond-recognition copy of NCAA 14, whose original case was lost so long ago the replacement case has been lost, is exactly what we’re going to do. 

I simulated a Nebraska-Nebraska game on my console 20 times. One Nebraska side had what would have been the Red team, the other what would have been the White team. Red won 17 of the 20 simulations. 

Some disclaimers:

  • I took liberties with roster construction for the two sides. Instead of the Red team getting the ones and twos for both sides of the ball, Red got the first-team offense while White got the first-team defense. 
  • The rosters went as follows:
    • Red Offense: Adrian Martinez and Noah Vedral (QBs), Dedrick Mills and Brody Belt (RBs), Brenden Jaimes (LT), Matt Farniok (LG), Cam Jurgens (C), Boe Wilson (RG), Bryce Benhart (RT), Travis Vokolek and Jack Stoll (TEs), Wan’Dale Robinson and Chris Hickman and Alante Brown and Kade Warner (WRs)
    • Red Defense: Jordon Riley and Damion Daniels and Casey Rogers (DL), Garrett Nelson and Luke Reimer and Va Mauga-Clements and Blaise Gunnerson (LBs), Braxton Clark and Quinton Newsome (CBs), Myles Farmer and Noa Pola-Gates (S)
    • White Offense: Luke McCaffrey and Logan Smothers (QBs), Rahmir Johnson and Ronald Thompkins (RBs), Brant Banks (LT), Turner Corcoran (LG), Will Farniok (C), Ethan Piper (RG), Christian Gaylord (RT), Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal (TEs), Jamie Nance and Demariyon Houston and Bennett Folkers and Christian Banker and Wyatt Liewer (WRs)
    • White Defense: Ben Stille and Keem Green and Ty Robinson (DL), JoJo Domann and Collin Miller and Will Honas and Caleb Tannor (LBs), Dicaprio Bootle and Cam Taylor-Britt (CBs), Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams (S)
  • Because this is a simulation that doesn’t feature complete control over who goes in the game, when, or for how long, the starting quarterback is naturally going to play the entirety of the game. To try and account for that, Martinez and McCaffrey got 15 of the 20 starts, Vedral and Smothers got the other five.

Now to the stuff you really care about: the stats.

Passing C/A Yds TDs INTs QB Rtg
Martinez (RED) 17.5/29.2 232.6 1.6 1.1 137.0
Vedral (RED) 19.3/25.6 197.4 1.2 0.6 141.6
McCaffrey (WHITE) 14.3/22.7 210.7 2.3 0.8 126.2
Smothers (WHITE) 17.2/26.4 213.2 1.7 1.4 104.2

  

Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Mills (RED) 18.7 107.3 5.7 2.4
Belt (RED) 4.4 34.5 7.8 0.2
Robinson (RED) 7.3 27.8 3.8 0.2
Martinez (RED) 13.5 70.0 5.2 0.4
Vedral (RED) 9.4 37.8 4.0 0.2
Johnson (WHITE) 13.7 80.0 5.8 0.3
Thompkins (WHITE) 11.4 43.4 3.8 0.4
McCaffrey (WHITE) 12.1 46.9 3.9 1.2
Smothers (WHITE) 13.4 60.1 4.5 1.0

 

Receiving Rec Yds Avg TDs
Robinson (RED) 5.3 98.1 18.4 0.6
Hickman (RED) 3.6 40.2 11.0 0.3
Brown (RED) 2.1 19.2 14.0 0.2
Vokolek (RED) 1.7 19.0 11.1 0.1
Mills (RED) 1.6 13.5 8.2 0.1
Stoll (RED) 1.3 14.1 10.6 0.1
Nance (WHITE) 4.4 85.2 19.4 0.9
Houston (WHITE) 3.7 42.0 11.3 0.3
Folkers (WHITE) 2.7 29.5 10.8 0.1
Allen (WHITE) 2.1 31.2 15.1 0.4
Liewer (WHITE) 1.4 27.7 19.8 0.2
Johnson (WHITE) 1.6 16.4 10.0 0.4

There was a 37-13 Red win, a 76-13 Red win, and a 50-10 Red win. Most of the time, the score was what we’ve come to expect from a Red-White scrimmage, that’s to say the first-team offense ran away with things. That even remained true with first-teamers going against each other on either side of the ball. 

There was one simulation, though, that ended 24-23 in favor of the Red team.

Martinez led a game-winning drive in the waning moments. Taking over down 23-17 with 2:14 to play, Red called a draw for Dedrick Mills on the opening play of the possession. I laughed from the couch before Mills rumbled up the gut for 13 yards. 

Martinez rushed the troops to the line and hit Robinson on an out route for eight yards. A corner route to Hickman on second down picked up not only the first but 17 more yards. From just inside White’s 40-yard-line, Martinez found Vokolek up the seam in the face of a disguised blitz to gain 14 yards. 

Back-to-back incompletions from the 25 made it third-and-long with 42 seconds left. Which meant it was time for the greatest play in the history of EA Sports’ NCAA franchise: four verts. With the pocket collapsing and an abundance of green turf in front of him, virtual Martinez scrambled out to his left.

He picked up 16. 

With 30 seconds left, Nebraska was just inside the 10. In one of those “brilliant if it works, Uncle John is pissed if it fails” play-calls, Nebraska went option on first-and-goal from the 9-yard-line. I got flashbacks of the Purdue game. Martinez kept it and scampered into the end zone. 

Ball game. ESPN Instant Classic No. 2.

(I came back from down 27 in a Big 12 Championship game to win in overtime once. It’s not relevant how that 27-point deficit was created.)

Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit would like to say thank you for following along with this spring game simulation. Why were the GameDay folks in Lincoln for a spring game? The same reason they’re the crew calling your East Carolina-Southern Miss game next weekend. EA’s budget wasn’t big enough to have multiple broadcast crews. 

2K > EA

Nebraska’s 2020 virtual spring game begins at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday. You can follow along with the game on the Huskers’ Twitter and Facebook pages as well as Twitch. The White team is going to win. 

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