LINCOLN, Neb. — 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.
ABOUT THAT CAT: Pelini has had an off-and-on give-and-take with the anonymous person who tweets @FauxPelini. The avatar on the account is an altered picture of Pelini wearing a sweater and holding a cat. Pelini joked in January that he wanted his cat back.
Players and assistant coaches prodded Pelini to have a cat with him as the team entered the stadium. He agreed and, football operations director Jeff Jamrog said, an athletic marketing staff member loaned the cat to Pelini.
"The cat was probably a little freaked out," Pelini said. "That's more people than the cat was used to. Just trying to have a little bit of fun."