| Mania Central |

| This Week |

| The Team |

| Join Husker Express |

| Husker Chat |

| Video Highlights |

| The Schedule |

| The Mall |

| The Tradition |

| The Big 12 |

Huskers build on tradition


Lincoln Journal Star


MIAMI -- What if Nebraska
played in a bowl game and nobody
came?


It felt like that in Pro Player
Stadium New Year's Eve. Empty
seats loomed in the far reaches of
the posh new structure. Empty seats
loomed in the lower reaches, and
even at the 50-yard line.


There are 75,000 seats in the
stadium. Only 51,212 of them were
filled. The 7,500 fans who bought
tickets in Nebraska were probably
the only ones in Miami cheering the
Huskers.


It was a striking contrast to last
year's Big Red horde for the Fiesta
Bowl at Tempe, Ariz., that came up
with tickets far beyond the official
allotment. It was a big comedown
from the huge caravan that followed
the football team to St. Louis.


The empty seats roared with the
message: there was no glory in this
game for the Huskers -- only pride
and tradition.
Many chose virtual reality


"At times it almost seemed like
this was a non-game in terms of
intensity and interest," NU Coach
Tom Osborne said in assessing the
pregame atmosphere to the Orange
Bowl.


Husker fans decided to watch this
one on television, either in the big
easy chair at home or in the Big
Easy in New Orleans, spending the
non-refundable travel dollars they
committed on the belief that
Nebraska would be playing in the
Sugar Bowl.


Not that watching the game live
was all that different from watching
it in your living room. Reality and
virtual reality are moving closer.


The seats had handy cup holders
for your beverage. And during
breaks in the game, the big screens
had advertisements. It is the first
time I've ever watched a
commercial for what undoubtedly
will be a bad movie.


"Men in Black," the stadium
speakers roared, "protecting against
the scum of the universe," as
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith
drew down on an alien spacecraft.


The masters of the universe are
going to have to do something about
rain, though.
Hokie fans excited


After a brief downpour at the start
of the fourth quarter drove most of
the casual fans from their seats
except for the Husker faithful and
the Hokie fans who stubbornly sat in
their seats, the Virginia Tech fans
bonded in what for them was a peak
experience.


For Hokie fans, there was a
chance this would be the biggest
night in the school's football history.


Most of the electricity generated
in the stadium came from them. The
Husker fans diagonally across the
stadium were outnumbered, and
coping, like the players, with the
letdown that was inevitable with not
having a national championship on
the line.


Before the game, the Husker
locker room was alarmingly quiet,
said co-captain Damon Benning.


"We focused a lot on Coach
Osborne and Nebraska," he said. "In
a tough game, you have to focus on
something outside yourself. We
wanted to go out as winners for
Coach Osborne and the university.


Co-captain Jared Tomich didn't
fault the fans for the low turnout.


"The Husker crowd is the best in
the world.


"It was pride in ourselves to come
out and win the game," Tomich said.
"It was a great way to end a career.
As a senior group we're really proud
of what we did," he said, citing the
group's record of 47 wins and three
losses.


"When you come from the kind of
program we have and have the kind
of coach we have, you come
prepared," Benning said. "We
wanted to make amends for what
happened in St. Louis."


But the Huskers were playing for
something more than just this
season. They were also playing for
the future.


"There was a lot more riding on
this game than people thought,"
Benning said. "This will help in the
way the team will be perceived next
year."


That thought was already in the
mind of defensive tackle Jason
Peter. "The plan is definitely to
come back here next year for the
championship game. We will be
ready."


That's the way a team keeps its
tradition alive.

Originally published on or about: 01-02-1997

| This Week | | The Team | | Join Husker Express | | Husker Chat | | Video Highlights |
| The Schedule | | The Mall | | The Tradition | | The Big 12 | | Mania Central |



Please feel free to leave a comment
Copyright 1996 , Lincoln Journal Star. All rights reserved.
The Lincoln Journal Star is a Lee Enterprises newspaper.