Video from battle of the bands.
SAN DIEGO — Jared Anderson, cheeks flush, forehead damp with sweat, summoned all the strength in his 16-year-old lungs and blew the first notes of “Hail Varsity” out of his shiny gold baritone. And right at Tom Osborne.
At that moment, the Lincoln Southeast High School marching band sounded indistinguishable from the Husker outfit that was supposed to be playing at the Holiday Bowl Kickoff Luncheon, in front of hundreds of distinguished guests in a massive convention center that hugs San Diego Bay.
“I'd call us more of a Band-Aid than a replacement band,” said baritone player Matt Eschliman, a Lincoln Southeast sophomore.
This bowl game subplot starts not in the Southern California sun, but in cold, windy Nebraska, where a Christmas storm ruined travel plans for the Nebraska marching band. No bowl trip this year.
That was the latest until Harvey Perlman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor, attended an event Monday at a naval base across the bay. He heard the Arizona band. He started getting the itch for “March of the Cornhuskers.”
So Perlman talked to Gary Rectenwald of the Holiday Bowl committee, who called the Lincoln Southeast band director. R.J. Metteer's group, like several bands from around the country, was in town for the Holiday Bowl halftime show.
Do you think you could learn a few new tunes? Rectenwald asked. By tomorrow?
So the Knights skipped some sightseeing and worked past dusk, trying to master “Hail Varsity,” “Dear Old Nebraska U” (“There is no place like Nebraska ... ”) and “March of the Cornhuskers.”
The Holiday Bowl needs those tunes and this band for alumni parties, this morning's parade and, of course, three minutes of pregame entertainment on the field — before a stadium crowd one-third the size of Lincoln.
“They've been bouncing off the walls,” Metteer said.
The 100 Knights arrived Tuesday morning for the first of their responsibilities wearing uniforms devoid of red thread. They met their adversary: the 250-member Arizona band.
Maybe, Anderson said, we're louder.
Loud enough, according to the Arizona band members who stopped by after the luncheon to congratulate them.
And loud enough, according to Husker safety Austin Cassidy, who stood during “Hail Varsity” and clapped as the Knights gave the Husker anthem its final touch.
Jared Anderson, chin strap keeping his hat tight, pumped his right fist and shouted four times:
“Go Big Red!”
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