We landed late night on Thursday at Omaha airport, and the managers went straight to work unloading the team's equipment onto the tarmac and into trucks for that night at the hotel. Nebraskan workers were helpful that night in unloading as well - moreover, they transported the managers to their vans in the back of a very speedy go-kart.
The weekend included a few walkthroughs before the game; one took place at a local high school, and the other at Memorial Stadium. Managers split up to ensure both ran smoothly. Other pre-game duties included setting up the locker room and giving helmets a once-over to restore their shine.
After working all day, we all had a few hours to relax, have dinner, work out, and spend some leisure time in Omaha. Everywhere we looked, whether it was to the signs and banners across the town, conversations, commercials or newscasts on TV, the following day's game engulfed the state.
Walking through the campus in our travel gear produced some ugly looks from Husker fans.
Murmurs came from crowds, "go back to California!"
Driving through the town, a local gas station had a score prediction for the game: "Nebraska 19 - USC 16". (A bit off in the end, we soon discovered).
They called the Nebraska fans "the greatest fans in the world" - and to a certain extent, they were right.
However, once the game began and started to pick up, they lost their luster. The most unforgettable part of the trip for me was looking around at thousands of red shirts, screaming "Go Big Red" at the top of their lungs.
Will Ferrell and Keanu Reeves were spotted on our sidelines. Crazed fans crowded behind our benches, and balloons flew into the sky when Nebraska scored.
All of this was happening all at once when our team pulled together and dominated - they quieted down to gasps and intermittent shouts, and our band's "Conquest" conquered the air. Priceless.
Post-game, we convened in the locker room and packed up all our belongings,
and were soon back at the same airport. On the plane, everyone wished coach
Carroll a happy birthday, and we arrived back at USC around 3:30. Almost there,
we thought - but by the time we finished our duties unloading everything,
managers went home at 6 am.
It was a long one, but again - one of the most memorable weekends of the year. We await more of the same to come.