||Thursday, January 3
Roses are Red -- Big Red
By Wayne Drehs
PASADENA, Calif. -- The rumors, reports and whispers are all true. Judging by the pregame scene in and around the Rose Bowl, it will indeed be a sea of red when the 88th Rose Bowl presented by AT&T kicks off Thursday night.
Preliminary reports this week suggested as many as 70,000 Nebraska fans were making the trip West, some even going so far as to join the Miami booster club for $150 a pop for just a chance to buy tickets. As early as five hours before kickoff, 70,000 did not seem as far-fetched as it once did.
To find a large group of Miami fans in the pregame parking lot, it took a keen observer playing ultra-close attention. Finding a group of Husker backers, on the other hand, was as easy as closing one's eyes, sticking out an arm, and walking in any direction.
Red, red and more red. From the golf course outside the Rose Bowl to nearby Jackie Robinson Field to the GameDay Experience and the parking lots connecting them all, Nebraska fans were everywhere.
The Big Red Invasion was enough to make one Husker fan, Brian Smith of Papillion, Neb., feel bad. So out of courtesy to Miami, he and a couple friends decided to switch sides.
"I dunno," Smith said with a sarcastic look across his face and a Husker T-shirt across his chest. "It's just not fair. Or fun. And it's pretty obvious that we have enough. So we've decided to change our allegiances for this one night and cross over to the other side. Go Hurricanes."
As Smith and his crew walked through the pregame tailgates, their mocking "Go Miami" routine drew laughter from just about everyone. Especially in RV land, where as many as 150 RVs, all but two draped in Nebraska garb, were joining in a monster tailgate.
Two of the RVs had a blow up Lil' Red Mascot, with his sideways hat, red overalls and yellow hair, all tied down to the RVs rooftop. It was reminiscent of the giant blow up ape often seen at used car dealerships. Another RV had a giant draped across its grill with the poem, "Roses are Red, Buffs are Blue, we're in the Rose Bowl, thanks LSU."
Other sights in included one Husker, who wore a Nebraska flag as a cape and a pair of boxer shorts. Nothing else. Another had red-colored hair. Yet a third wore a stack of two giant red foam hats, both adorned with a massive "N."
The most prevalent case of Miami's orange and green? The Rose Bowl parking lot security attendants, which were dressed in green jackets and orange vests. Even at the hotel designated for Hurricane fans and alumni, the Century Plaza in Century City, the Huskers dealt a jab, with some ornery Nebraska backer draping a red and black flag over a hotel balcony.
"I knew there would be a lot of Nebraska fans, but this is ridiculous," said Mark Jones, a Miami fan from Sherman Oaks, Calif. "It doesn't matter, though. It just means there are going to be more people heading home crushed because their team blew it. I just tell them all watch the scoreboard."
There were areas where the Husker support was obvious, like at the Husker huddle and pregame alumni tailgate outside the stadium. But at The Experience, essentially a land of corporate sponsored interactive events, including all sorts of punt, pass, kick, tackle and blocking challenges, was also filled with Red.
At one point, ESPN's Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit addressed the sea of red.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Nebraska has the best fans in all of college football," Corso said. "And you guys are proving it again today."
The high life
In a parking lot designated for just limos, those with a taste for the finer things readied themselves for game time. Included in the group was everything from an '89 stretched Lincoln Town Car to a brand-new fully extended Lincoln Navigator, ala Ray Lewis.
While Husker nuts across the street chugged Bud Light and grilled hamburgers fresh out of the package, some of those in the land of the limo drank champagne, sipped wine and carefully protected their food in picnic baskets.
Two different worlds, indeed.
Rain, rain go away
However, despite overcast clouds for much of Thursday morning, the skies broke around 3 p.m. local time and welcomed a near-perfect sun splashed afternoon to Pasadena. And the latest forecast is calling for clear skies and a temperature around 60 degrees.
A new way of drying
That's right, helicopters. About five hours before kickoff Thursday, a helicopter flew into the stadium in an effort to dry up a field soaked by overnight and early morning rains.
For about fifty minutes, the helicopter hovered some 10 feet above the ground, gradually making its way across the field until everything was dry.
The last minute
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.