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October 8, 2008

SCS.comOh, the joy of the long road trip! For most of the season we had been spoiled, playing 3 of our first 4 games at the friendly confines of Faurot Field. Our one road trip was a simple 90-minute jaunt to St. Louis; however, last weekend the staff experienced their first big road trip of the year.

As we boarded the charter bus outside the athletic facility with heavy eyes, it was just after 6 AM Friday. For most of us, we had been at the facility just nine hours earlier; however, our sleepless eyes could not hide the excitement we all felt; we were headed for Lincoln, Nebraska, home of one of the most hallowed football stadiums in the Big 12.

After making the six-hour trip we stopped for lunch at Valentino’s, an Italian food buffet. As we wolfed down our pasta, pizza and cinnamon sticks we all wondered how we would manage to unload our 53-foot trailer and push the heavy crates into the locker room. Although we realized that eating such a heavy load was not the brightest of ideas, we were undeterred.

As we arrived at the stadium we could not help but be captivated by the aura and passion that is Nebraska football. Our locker room was the old Cornhusker locker room, the same room where they had won three of their five national titles. Walking onto the field and looking up at the over 80,000-seat stadium we could not help but be amazed and excited knowing that tomorrow those 80,000 seats would become what is known as, “The Sea of Red.”

After unloading bags and changing out decals we headed back to our hotel in downtown Lincoln, aptly named “The Cornhusker.” After taking showers and naps we headed out to find a place to eat. We walked around downtown for over 30 minutes before we finally decided on a local restaurant where we waited for another hour just to be seated. Due to the long wait not only for our table but also for our food the restaurant was nice enough to comp our bill. They joked that since they showed such hospitality we should take it easy on their team come game day; however, we made no promises.

The next day we woke up and spent most of the day watching College GameDay. Some people went and worked out while others took advantage of the late start and slept in. We left for the stadium, which was only 10 minutes away from our hotel, at around 2 PM. Most of our pre-game set up was completed by about four that afternoon giving us time to walk around the stadium and enjoy the atmosphere.

For Mizzou this game meant a lot. For the two weeks prior to the game players and coaches had been hearing about how Mizzou’s defense was suspect against the pass and that Nebraska was better than most people realized. The reminders that it had been 30 years since the Tigers’ last victory in Lincoln were everywhere. To top it off, this was Nebraska’s Homecoming, a fact that upset some of the players.

Feelings around the equipment room were mixed about what the outcome would be. Some thought our team would win easily while others thought it would be a much closer game. With just under an hour left before kickoff I was standing in the locker room talking with the other equipment managers when I heard a rumble down the hallway. As the small group of players who had just been stretching on the field came back into the locker it became a mad house.

It was easily the most excited and pumped up I had ever seen a locker room before a game. It was then I knew this would be the year we would win in Lincoln and that this team would be the team to end the streak and do so in memorable fashion.

The team did not disappoint beating the Cornhuskers by 35 points, Nebraska’s worst home loss in over 50 years. To make it even sweeter the feared “Sea of Red” crowd had dispersed long before the end of the 4th quarter.

Around the locker room and on the bus ride home smiles and high fives were exchanged by anyone within range. As the staff stared down another 6-hour bus ride that would put us back in Columbia at just after 5:30 on Sunday morning, it suddenly did not seem so miserable; after all, we had just been a part of history.

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