LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Coach Bo Pelini cradled a cat in his arms as he walked out of the tunnel and raised it over his head like that scene from the "Lion King."
No, spring games at Nebraska aren't like those strictly business affairs of yesteryear where Tom Osborne would run play after play to give even the players on the lowest unit a chance to shine in front of a big crowd.
The cat — a nod to the avatar on a popular Pelini parody Twitter account — was just a start to the diversions in front of 61,772 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Pelini challenged receiver Kenny Bell to a throwing contest. Cheerleaders helped call offensive and defensive plays for a series. A former player proposed to his girlfriend during a punt, pass and kick competition.
Oh, there was some football, too. Instead of splitting the players into two teams, the offense and defense were pitted against each other for 115 plays. The offense won 55-46 in a scoring system that awarded points to the defense for certain accomplishments.
The star of the afternoon, besides the cat, was junior Imani Cross, who ran six times for 100 yards and two touchdowns against the No. 1 defense.
"MVP right here," quarterback Tommy Armstrong announced as he walked up behind Cross at the postgame news conference. "He's running hard and takes his reps the right way. Every time he got the ball today — he averaged 17 yards a carry. He rushes like that, it's going to be a hard time stopping me, Ameer and him."
Ameer Abdullah, the nation's top returning rusher, sat out as a precaution against injury.
Cross is looking to expand his role from short-yardage back. His 39-yard touchdown run helped his cause. He made a sharp turn left after breaking through the line.
"I think I would have made the cut last year and the year before, but the question is how fast I would have made the cut," Cross said. "Hopefully this May I can make the cut faster than I did today."