A rough run-through of the Huskers’ roster reads about 35 names who have spent a year with the Nebraska program but haven’t yet seen the Sea of Red in Memorial Stadium since joining the team. Add to that group the first-year players participating this spring who weren’t able to take in a normal gameday visit during recruiting and the list is approaching nearly a third of the roster.
Husker Nation is one of Nebraska’s most marketable attributes on the recruiting trail. Where else in the country does a fanbase sell out a spring scrimmage? Where else in the country do 4-8 seasons still preserve sell-out streaks?
Nebraska hasn’t played a game in front of a real Memorial Stadium crowd since Nov. 29, 2019.
On Saturday, close to 40,000 are expected to be on hand, a capacity crowd given local health and safety guidelines. It’ll feel like normal again, after 519 days.
“It’s gonna be a surreal feeling really,” said defensive lineman Damion Daniels. “I just can’t wait to see the looks on our young guys faces who really haven’t actually experienced it yet. It’s gonna be real fun.”
Austin Allen, a fifth-year junior tight end for Nebraska, won’t get nervous. He doesn’t even remember how many years he’s been with the program it’s been so long. “It’s just a spring game, it’s another practice,” he says.
But for the younger guys on the team, the 2019 additions who got a taste of home atmosphere but maybe weren’t playing big roles, or the 2020 guys who arrived when things went to hell, Allen knows it’ll feel a little different.
“I know for some of these young guys who played in front of no fans last year, it almost felt like it was no different from a high school game for them,” he said. “It’s gonna be a little bit different experience for them having thousands and thousands of fans out there.
“I think it’s good for them to experience a spring game atmosphere first.”
On Tuesday night, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos held his monthly radio show on the Sports Nightly program and said the expectation is that Nebraska will be able to conduct business as usual in the fall. A full, 100% capacity crowd is the hope.
Nebraska will have a dry first month, pending any changes to the schedule, but the overall home slate of games isn’t lacking. A good Buffalo team comes to town for the home-opener before Nebraska will host Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa.
The Huskers play a tough schedule this season, Moos went so far as to call it the toughest in the country, but he felt the fan element returning would provide a boost.
“We’re going to have to—and this is important—protect our home field,” Moos said. “This has got to be the toughest place to play in the Big Ten. We have to have people fear it.”
First, though, you have to have people in it.
This weekend will be a step toward that.
“It’s gonna feel great,” Allen said. “It’s been too long since we’ve had fans in there. The fans are our 12th man out there. They make the experience of Nebraska football everything it is.
“I hope Husker Nation fills it out. We need it. We need that experience back, especially for these young guys to see what the fans are really about, that aspect of it. And I think we have some recruits coming to so that’s going to be huge for them to see what Nebraska football should be.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.