Nebraska football game canceled for Saturday night; no plans to reschedule
LINCOLN — Nebraska’s game against Akron has been canceled with no plans announced to make it up.
That announcement was made just before 10:30 p.m. About 35 minutes before that it was announced the game would not be played Saturday night. The weather delay that began at 7:15 p.m. lasted 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Nebraska will now open its 2018 season against Colorado at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 8. Any adjustments to the 2018 football schedule will be announced at a later date, according to a press release. Ticket holders are encouraged to hold on to their tickets from tonight’s game.
Per a Nebraska official, the Akron game was canceled because a game Sunday would throw off both teams’ prep for their next game.
The crowd crackled with excitement to start the night. The Tunnel Walk didn’t disappoint. At 7:13 p.m. Saturday, Nebraska sent its kickoff return unit onto the field. Time for the Scott Frost era to begin.
And it did. For a single touchback. Then, as the Husker offense ran onto the field for true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez’s first snap, a Nebraska events official, Butch Hug, walked from the opposite corner waving his arms. Lightning in the skies to the south. It was 7:15 p.m.
Delay of game. Delay of fun. Delay of Frost.
For the first time in recorded school history, Nebraska postponed a game because of weather as persistent thunderstorms pelted the city. The longest known delay for a Husker home game, prior to Saturday night, was 19 minutes in 1991, and the last time an NU game was canceled for any reason, according to the NU yearbook, was 1943 when a game with Pittsburgh was cancelled due to World War II travel restrictions. The yearbook also lists a cancellation in 1898 for a game against Grinnell.
The field was actually cleared before warmups began — just for a few minutes — which set back the kickoff roughly eight minutes.
The storms were a letdown from a celebrity-filled, energetic night. Several Husker notables — actress Gabrielle Union and her husband Dwyane Wade, Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh — were on hand for the game and the Tunnel Walk.
It was a sudden letdown from the high of the new Tunnel Walk, which featured former Husker coach Tom Osborne and former players Grant Wistrom and Joel Makovicka in speaking parts, with a camera closing in on Frost as he said “red burns brighter.” He emerged from the locker room and led the team onto the field, dark skies to the south flashed with lightning, the result of a storm cell that popped up swiftly in the September heat.
Once lightning strikes or is seen within eight miles of the stadium, the event begins a 30-minute delay. With every strike, the clock resets.
Initially, with the storm cell passing to the east of the stadium, Husker fans stayed in their seats, enjoying the cooler temperatures and the light rains. Nine minutes after the delay began, Suh — returning to the program after a prolonged absence during the Mike Riley era — traversed the length of the field. The crowd yelled “SUH!” as he threw the bones to the student section and then to a camera.
The public-address system played rain-themed music, like Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls.” When Toto’s “Africa” played over the speakers, fans pulled out their cell phones, turned on their flashlights and started waving. The Notre Dame-Michigan game popped on HuskerVision. Four fans in corn cob-themed ponchos — green bottoms, yellow hoods — huddled together near the top of East Stadium, the highest point of the stadium. That group stayed for hours, even as harder rain pelted the stadium and spectacular lightning bolts flashed across the sky.
Across the field, in West Stadium, fans initially poured into the concourse. They sat wherever they could, mostly on the floor. Five fans found an old cart, its wheels flat, and waited, some looking at their phones. Others sat on empty wood pallets. Two seat cushions were stacked against a cement wall where they wouldn’t get wet. In a larger part of the concourse, teenage vendors gathered to sell soda, pizza and Runzas, each shouting their wares over one another.
“I’ve sold twice as many tonight,” 14-year-old Runza salesman Hudson Opp said.
Walking near the scene, in a “Make Nebraska Great Again — Frost ’18” T-shirt, was Garry Yen. He grew up in Nebraska and went to school there, but now lived in Dallas. He drove up Thursday for the game.
“This isn’t good,” Yen said. “But the trip was worth it.”
Yen said he’d stay as long as he had to.
Those concourses got more packed just after 9 p.m., when storms rushed in bringing strong winds and rain that poured sideways. NU announced it was going to evacuate the stadium and send the approximately 10,000 fans still left into the concourse or nearby buildings like the football practice facility or the Nebraska student union.
Nebraska’s decision makers, according to a NU spokesman, are Hug and UNL chief of police Owen Yardley. At a secure location, they examined the situation and communicated updates to the press box and the public address system.