After more than 18 years as a season-ticket holder for Wisconsin Badgers football games, I can say that I've never seen anything quite like the surge of Nebraska pride as Cornhuskers fans invaded Madison to watch their beloved team's debut Big 10 game.
Huskers fans were everywhere in sight downtown, and at times overwhelmed the Badger fans at the Dane County Farmers' Market, up and down State Street, at the ESPN College GameDay broadcast on Bascom Hill, roving through the tailgate city on Regent Street, in the bars during the game and, most noticeably, inside Camp Randall Stadium.
Black shirts -- as ordered by Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne to distinguish them from the hometown boosters wearing red -- made it easy to see how well Nebraska fans "traveled." While their team may have lost and they were disappointed in their showing, they made a huge impact here and you couldn't help but be awed by their enthusiasm, particularly because so few would make it into the stadium to see the game first hand.
My interactions with Huskers fans were all very cordial. They were happy to be greeted and seemed to enjoy Madison.
"I've never seen a beer hall on a campus before," said one mom while surveying the Memorial Union Rathskeller. "I'm not sure how I feel about that!"
The University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln is dry, which might cause visiting Wisconsinites to express a similar opinion in reverse.
"Everyone's been great, except for the students," said a Nebraska student. "I'm definitely not going to exit the stadium out by the frats" on Breese Terrace.
Given the alcohol consumed over the extended tailgating period afforded by an evening game, I wasn't surprised to hear that some students were razzing Husker fans. From Camp Randall's student section, a chant of "Big 10 Football!" aimed at the visiting Nebraskans filled the air late in the game when Bucky was well ahead. But all in all, no students swarmed the field after the game, a huge crowd stayed for the Fifth Quarter and from our vantage point at the Field House end of the stadium, the crowd seemed as polite as one could hope.