Nebraska Football: Students Plan 'Blackout,' Will It Be a Slump-Buster?
Ask any team that has ever played Nebraska in football and they'll tell you that Huskers fans are known as the "Sea of Red."
In fact, fans, players and coaches of opposing teams often look forward to experiencing Memorial Stadium for that tradition alone. Michigan senior safety Thomas Gordon wasn't shy to express his excitement about seeing the Nebraska crowd in person for the first time in 2012.
"I've never been to Nebraska before, but you hear a lot of stories about the 'Sea of Red' at Nebraska and things like that. You look forward to environments like that," Gordon told MLive.com.
Yet, in spite of the tradition, Nebraska students are calling for a "blackout" for Saturday's game against UCLA. With so much respect for the Sea of Red, why bother messing with it?
The Iron N, the official student section of Nebraska Athletics, believes it has a good reason.
"We are traditionally known as the Sea of Red," said Scott Mulholland, The Iron N's Director of Football Operations. "It's what teams are accustomed to, so changing that would create a shock and awe-type effect."
Mulholland, who is also a senior criminal justice major at Nebraska, has worked with a group of students to promote the blackout on campus. In fact, students have volunteered their time to spread the word about the blackout.
From The Iron N and the Nebraska Boneyard—the official student section of Nebraska football—support is growing. That support has even reached the football players.
Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez has openly expressed his support of the student-led blackout. Tweeting from his personal account, Martinez has asked fans to match the players on the field.
Unfortunately, with every attempt to change tradition comes aversion and criticism.
Many fans outside of the student section have questioned the purpose of a blackout. However, that isn't what The Iron N is focused on.
"We're really targeting students," Mulholland said. "Those not in the student section are welcome to wear black, but we're really focused on the southeast end of the stadium."
Abbie Lamb, president of The Iron N, agrees.
"We are constantly looking for ways to better the student experience and unite our sections," the junior secondary education and social sciences major said. "By marketing the blackout to the students, we hope it comes across as something that bonds The Boneyard."
So will the student-led blackout be successful?
Blackouts have been called for a few times over the years, all with little result. In 2008, students called for a blackout against Virginia Tech. While students did show up in black, the rest of the stadium showed up in the traditional red.
The most recent blackout came in 2011 when Nebraska faced Wisconsin at Camp Randall. Quite a few fans did abide by the request to wear black, mostly because former athletic director Tom Osborne was the one calling for it. It was intended to separate Huskers fans from their Badgers counterparts.
With those two dates in mind, students are once again out to use one of Nebraska's secondary colors to intimidate the opponent. The different this time is that they're focused on themselves, instead of the whole stadium.
With players and students on board, Mulholland said he believes having 80 percent of the student section in black will be a success. Lamb's expectations are just a little higher. "If the entire Boneyard is black, [it] will be a success."
One thing both agree on is that the student section, as well as the whole stadium, needs to bring their spirit with them on Saturday.
"We just want everyone to be loud, rowdy and supportive of our team in the most respectful way possible," Mulholland said.
The bar has been set. While past blackouts have resulted in less than desirable outcomes, the student-led movement is confident this time will be different.
After all, new traditions have to start somewhere.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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