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Nebraskans Go Flat-Out Huskers Don’t Think Hospitality Is Corny

(From For the Record, Monday, October 2, 1995): A Nebraska fan in a Sunday photograph was Jeff Kuhnel, not Bob Parker as the caption implied.

‘Round midnight Friday in the Sidetrack, Lincoln’s legendary off-campus beer hall, the 50-ish woman at the organ of the corn belt’s raunchiest house band played a suitably peppy version of the Washington State fight song.

Cougar fans - a couple dozen in a welter of Nebraska red - clapped and sang and roared afterward. Many of the locals offered high fives. Nobody booed.

“That,” the singer, Joyce Durant, announced dryly, “is the most fun you’re going to have all weekend.”

The Cougars in the crowd laughed. Nobody dared to disagree.

The Cornhuskers are regarded as perhaps the most gracious hosts in college football, but they can afford to be. Saturday’s 35-21 victory over Washington State was Nebraska’s 27th consecutive at home.

Indeed, WSU’s emotional peak was Frank Madu’s startling 87-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter that staked WSU to a 7-0 lead. The planeful of Cougar fans squirreled into a corner of Memorial Stadium - part of a crowd of 75,777, the stadium’s 205th straight sellout - seemed to draw the greatest satisfaction from not being just another victim of the second-ranked Huskers.

Perhaps fearing a more lopsided game, they got their fun in beforehand.

For Tim Foust of Coeur d’Alene and three pals from Idaho, that meant hopping from Husker tailgate to Husker tailgate to gauge the hospitality.

“We started down there,” Foust said. “We got to here and now we’re trying to get to that one over there.”

The reaction: They were outnumbered, but not unwelcome.

“Heck, they’re even feeding us, too,” said Bill Hayden of Bonners Ferry.

Actually, they had an “in” at one Husker party - Bob Parker of Spokane, who was decked out in Cougar gray. Parker’s “in” was his wife, Sharry. She grew up in Shelby, Neb., 60 miles away, and her relatives were doing the cooking in a prime spot they’ve claimed as their own on the north end of the stadium.

“They do this every game,” reported Sharry Parker. “Forever. I’m not kidding. Somebody has to die in there for someone else to get a season ticket.”

For her husband, it was his first Nebraska game - and the plane ride down with the team offered an unexpected bonus in the form of the radio voice of the Cougars.

“It was a real treat for us,” he said brightly. “I got to meet Bob Robertson.”

Not all the Cougars in the crowd flew down. Al and Jerri Moeser are transplanted Cougs who now live in Sun City West, Ariz. Last week, they drove north to watch WSU whip UCLA then took off for Nebraska.

“It’s a pretty long haul but this is a pretty big game,” said Al. “I just hope we can prove some of the pundits and the oddsmakers wrong.”

The oddsmakers certainly took a beating. The Cougars beat the 29-point betting spread with ease.

“What’s impressed us is how friendly everybody’s been,” said Jerri. “This isn’t a hostile environment at all. They’re happy to have you here and treat you so well. Of course, when you win as much as their team does …”

That seemed to be a fairly unanimous impression, but certainly not the most obvious one.

“I’ve never been farther east than Winnett, Mont.,” said Foust. “I can’t believe how flat it is.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

Tags: football