Nebraska

Nebraska players celebrate a touchdown during their win over Southern Mississippi last week. UCLA would be wise not to underestimate the Cornhuskers on their home turf. (Eric Francis / Getty Images / September 7, 2013)

LINCOLN, Neb. — Savvy travelers should always check their itineraries with those who have been there.

Terry Donahue came here to face Nebraska in football four times, three as UCLA's head coach.

"None of them were good," he said.

Rick Neuheisel took the Memorial Stadium field as UCLA's starting quarterback in 1983 and left it as the backup.


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"It was not a good day at the office," he said.

Wayne Cook, another Bruins' quarterback, experienced that deafening Cornhuskers crowd in 1994.

"It is a tough, tough memory," Cook said.

Few places ooze college football like Lincoln.

UCLA won there in 1948, long before the Cornhuskers began to grind opponents into submission. The Bruins have returned four times since and brought back bupkus.

What awaits the No. 16 Bruins (1-0) when they face No. 23 Nebraska (2-0) is an environment like nothing they have ever experienced.

"They drive from every village and hamlet in Nebraska to support their team," Donahue said. "If you're a college football fan, going to a game in Lincoln should be on your bucket list."

Bringing back a souvenir victory has been rare.

Nebraska has beaten the last four ranked teams who have come to town. Memorial Stadium will have its 328th consecutive sellout Saturday, and there won't be a lot of powder blue and gold in the stands.

"There is nothing but red," said Cook, whose 13th-ranked UCLA team was beaten, 49-21. "My aunt and uncle lived in Nebraska. They'd drive 200 miles to go to the game."

It is often pointed out that the 87,000-seat stadium holds enough people to be the third-largest city in the state on game day.

"They close the state down," said ex-UCLA running back James McAlister, whose 1973 Bruins team lost, 40-13, in Lincoln. "We have hockey, baseball, basketball, the beach. We got everything. They have one thing."

UCLA Coach Jim Mora knows what awaits.

"We have to remain poised and overcome adversity," Mora said. "That is what defines mental toughness. I'm excited to see where our kids are at."

That excitement is tempered by loss. UCLA coaches and players have been through an emotional week with the death of receiver Nick Pasquale, who was struck by a car in his hometown of San Clemente last Sunday.

There will be a moment of silence before the kickoff to honor Pasquale.