The scene that unfolded at Lincoln Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon reminded all of us that there can be a lot of good in college football. The Johnny Manziels and the scandals may get most of the attention, but it’s not all about the money. Sometimes, it’s about something that money can’t buy.
Nebraska and their fans didn’t have to go to the lengths that they did to support their grieving opponents. A simple moment of silence to honor the late Nick Pasquale probably would have sufficed, but the Cornhuskers and all of ‘Husker Nation did far more, showing remarkable class.
While No. 23 Nebraska ultimately fell on the football field, the entire program won in so many other ways.
“The fact that they would put the No. 36 decal on their helmet, that they would have a moment of silence, that their student section would cheer is when we took the field, you just don’t find that many places,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “It’s just a true testament to the people here at Nebraska and how much they care about football and we are very, very appreciative of that.”
Memorial Stadium is considered one of the most hostile environments in the country. But a record crowd of 91,471 showed that it’s instead one of the best college football environments in the country. There were signs with his number, 36, in Bruin blue and gold and ‘Husker red and black. Simply put, there were signs of Pasquale everywhere throughout the stadium.
Pasquale was even included in the pregame tradition of releasing red balloons in the air. The ‘Husker fans released blue and gold balloons in his honor. The team wore a decal with his number on their helmets. And both teams joined one another at the end of the game in a prayer circle that gave even some of the most hardened sports media professionals chills.
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was understandably upset with his team’s performance on the field. A disastrous second half in which the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points sent fans to the turnstiles early in the fourth quarter.
Pelini said that it was almost as if his team wasn’t playing to win but playing not to lose. It’s a disappointing ‘Husker squad that has now fallen to its only quality non-conference opponent.
“We can’t worry about what people are saying outside. It’s going to be negative,” Pelini said. “And if we worry about what people are saying outside, then things are going to go in a bad way. Because, I know it’s not going to be favorable, it’s not going to be good.”
But what Pelini’s program is getting nothing but praise from Bruin Nation.
“I just want to start by saying a very heartfelt thanks to the A.D. Shawn Eichorst here, the head coach Bo Pelini, to the ‘Husker nation, the fans, their students and their players for the compassion that they showed this week,” Mora said. “I thought it was an incredible gesture that they made here at Nebraska and I think it just shows the kind of class that they have.”