Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
As soon as Ali Malik stepped off the Cornhusker Marching Band’s bus in Madison, Wis., during the 2011 season, he knew there’d be trouble.
Malik, a fifth-year in accounting at Nebraska and drum major of the band, was preparing to enter Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium for the Cornhuskers’ first-ever Big Ten Conference game on Oct. 1, 2011.
The Cornhuskers were taking their very first steps as a Big Ten member-school, having switched over from the Big 12 for the 2011 season.
Malik, along with other Nebraska fans that made the trip, received a cold welcome in Wisconsin.
“(Wisconsin) was not pleasant,” Malik said. “As soon as we got off the bus a lot of obscenities were being yelled. Even closer to the stadium people were just, you know, giving us gestures. It wasn’t pleasant at all. It reminded us of visiting Missouri in the Big 12 (Conference).”
Malik said he thought there would be more verbal abuse in Columbus, but he was wrong.
Columbus was still scary, he said, but “scary-nice.”
“(Columbus) feels like Lincoln in a lot of ways. You see the same colors. You see a lot of the same traditions,” Malik said. “The people are almost exactly like what we have in Lincoln, especially the fans.”
Malik was one of several Nebraska fans to journey to Columbus for the Cornhuskers’ first game against Ohio State at Ohio Stadium since 1956.
Like the reception many OSU fans received in Lincoln when they journeyed to Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium last season, it appears that at least a few Cornhuskers were treated to some Buckeye Nation hospitality.
Kylie Unger, 32, originally from Grand Island, Neb., graduated from Nebraska in 1998, and she came expecting the worst from Buckeye Nation after a comment spat in her direction during the plane ride into town.
“Unfortunately, on the plane, someone told me to jump off. It was an Ohio State fan,” Unger said with an uneasy laugh.
Unger was also in attendance for Nebraska’s first-ever Big Ten Conference game in Madison and remembered the vulgarities hurled in her direction.
Like Malik, Unger’s trip to Columbus was different. Everything that followed the comment on the airplane, she said, was all good.
“Everybody’s been so nice. Someone actually walked up and was like, ‘Hey, welcome to Ohio,” Unger said. “It’s been awesome (in Columbus). I expect to go to the bars and be treated fine.”
Amy Hoff, 29, a 2005 Nebraska graduate originally from Scottsbluff, Neb., agreed.
Hoff said she was apprehensive about making the trip to Columbus because of horror stories she’d heard about Buckeye Nation.
“We were a little scared at first because we’ve heard bad things, that Ohio State is probably one of the worst fan bases beside Wisconsin,” Hoff said.
On Friday, Hoff toured campus, including across the Ohio Union at Midway Bar and Grill, where Nebraska fans congregated.
The welcome she received was a pleasant surprise, she said.
“It’s been fine,” Hoff said. “It’s been great since we flew in.”
Even in the presence of fellow Nebraskans and Cornhuskers fans, you can imagine how Malik, bedecked in marching-band regalia, might be the target of abusive language.
The abusive language never arrived, Malik said.
“Everyone’s been courteous. I haven’t had one bad fan today. No one’s been badgering us or pestering us, so I like that,” he said.
The Scarlet and Gray did not extend the same courtesy to the visiting team or its fans.
With an Ohio Stadium record crowd of 106,102 in attendance, OSU trounced the Cornhuskers, 63-38. Buckeyes’ sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller powered OSU to victory, setting a new OSU single-game quarterback rushing record with 186 yards in the game. Miller also threw for 127 yards, completing 7 of 14 pass attempts.
Miller helped lead OSU’s offense to just 17 yards of total offense in the first quarter, but racked up a statistical advantage by game’s end. In arguably the most impressive showing by first-year coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense to date, the Buckeyes out-gained Nebraska, 498-437 .
Junior running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 140 yards on 28 carries and tallied four touchdowns in the game to help lead the Buckeyes to victory.
OSU might have been inhospitable to its visitors on the field, but Buckeye Nation’s welcome for the visiting fans, and the Nebraska band, was a welcome surprise, Malik said.
“We’ve been approached by a lot of (OSU) fans with nice things to say. They say, ‘Good luck,'” Malik said. “It’s much better than any Big 12 school I’ve seen.”
On Saturday the OSU football team travels to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers at 8 p.m.