Nebraska's Big Ten roller-coaster home opener
Story and Photos by Katie Walter
If Saturday night was any indicator of what we can expect for Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference; you’d better buckle up. It could be quite a ride.
Saturday was Nebraska’s first Big Ten home opener against Coach Bo Pelini’s alma mater, Ohio State University. Coming off a devastating 17-48 loss against Wisconsin last week, and a frustrating performance by quarterback Taylor Martinez, the Cornhuskers needed to prove their worth. Saturday, Husker fans supported Martinez early on with massive cheers as his name was announced.
The Buckeyes had just as much to prove. The Buckeye program hasn’t been the same since five OSU starters were suspended, and coach Jim Tressel’s resignation this past year.
Ohio State held the lead up until mid-way through the third quarter.
Even so, Buckeye fans were spread throughout Memorial Stadium, mingling with Husker fans, and reveling in Ohio State’s complete domination of the game’s first half. What did Ohio State fans think about the game, atmosphere, and Nebraska joining the Big Ten?
“We are elated to be here. We’ve been lifelong Ohio State fans and we’ve never been to Lincoln before,” Jan Rupert of Dublin, Ohio said. “We’re ‘travelers,” and we’ve never experienced the kind of hospitality as we have here. It’s been absolutely wonderful.”
“We’re proud to have Nebraska in the Big Ten, there’s a lot of history and tradition the Huskers bring to the table. We hope to personally see the two teams play each other in the future, so we can extend the hospitality we have found here – with the score in our favor of course.” Bill Rupert, Jan’s husband added.
Memorial Stadium was crawling with high school recruits and famous football alum Saturday. Nebraska was definitely trying to make a statement and it didn’t go unnoticed by the fans, which only added to the hype. That hype soon fizzled out.
By halftime, the NU crowd grew restless as the Huskers trailed the Buckeyes 20-6. Some Husker fans began leaving as the rain poured down.
Other fans yelled from the student section, “Take out Martinez!”
“I can’t see us get killed like this, and it’s cold and raining. I love the Huskers, but I have to leave.” Senior Grant Muessel said. That turned out to be a mistake, as the remaining Husker fans soon discovered.
Ohio State scored again in the third quarter, putting Nebraska down 21 points, and boos resonated throughout the stadium.
At one point, with the Huskers down 27-6, former Husker great Ndamukong Suh faced the crowd from the sidelines and started “throwing the bones,” which prompted the crowd to get back on board and bring their energy level to 11.
Kicker Brett Maher scored Nebraska’s only points in the first half.
The Huskers seemed to feed off the crowd’s energy. The Buckeyes wouldn’t score again.
The Husker crowd went crazy as quarterback Martinez threw for two touchdowns and rushed for one more. He and Rex Burkhead, stole the second half of the game, forcing a fan attitude adjustment and filling the stadium with new energy. Much to Ohio State fans’ dismay, the Huskers scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half.
While the game didn’t go as expected considering the many set-backs of both teams; the Huskers ended the Big Ten home opener 34-27, the largest comeback in Nebraska’s history.
“I knew we could pull off the win,” Senior UNL student Jenae Latimer said, “We’re in the Big Ten now, It’s a complete different setting. If our team can show up, we got this. As a Nebraska fan, you just ‘gotta keep the faith.”