LINCOLN — You could call it the battle of the bibbies.
Dressed in black-and-gold striped bib overalls and standing outside a downtown Lincoln tailgate event, buddies Barry Croft and Kurt Ossmann of Davenport, Iowa, dispensed hugs and zingers to red-clad fans passing by.
"Hug a Hawkeye," Ossmann shouted, throwing his arms around a female Husker fan, who rewarded him with a smile. "Hello, Nebraska! Welcome to black-and-gold Friday!"
Along came Husker Gregg Eckardt of Shawnee, Kan., dressed in red-and-white striped bib overalls.
He's no stranger to this game. He bought his first pair of striped bibbies in 1974 and has been wearing them to games ever since. His daughter now is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln freshman who plays in the marching band.
Eckardt started trading a little good-natured trash-talk with the Iowa guys.
"Hey, I hear Hawkeye tastes like turkey," he said, before posing for a photo with Ossmann and Croft.
Though it was the Huskers who secured a year's worth of bragging rights with Friday's win, Hawkeye fans said they were excited to establish a new Thanksgiving tradition of football between neighbors.
Rick Klatt, associate athletic director at the University of Iowa, said the Iowa ticket office had only 3,000 tickets to distribute. He didn't know how many fans could get tickets elsewhere but estimated a total of about 7,000 would attend.
Iowa fans' first impressions?
Husker fans are nice. Memorial Stadium is impressive, though more open and not as loud as Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Lincoln is friendlier — and definitely closer — than other Big Ten venues in Madison, Wis., and Ann Arbor, Mich. But Iowa City definitely has better tailgate parties.
For many, it was their first visit to Memorial Stadium. The Hawkeyes and the Huskers have played each other only six times since 1979, most recently in 2000. The last time Iowa beat Nebraska was in 1981.
Buddies Caleb Lynott of Kansas City, Mo., and Leo Kelly of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ate Valentino's pizza while they watched "Der Wienerschlinger" shoot hot dogs to Iowa fans.
"The Runzas are awesome, Valentino's pizza is awesome, Memorial Stadium is really cool," Kelly said. "I love this place."
"Iowa City is a little more lively," said Scarlett Fleshner, an Iowa alum from Carroll, Iowa. Granted, it was only 8:30 a.m. but, he said, "Iowa City is psychotic by 8:30 in the morning — some people stay up all night."
Her husband, Brian, said the new rivalry is great.
"We should have been playing every year," he said. "We're tired of hearing about the Huskers in Iowa."
Eight-year-old Noah Walls wasn't born the last time his first- and second-favorite teams played each other.
Noah's mom, Leslie Knecht of Omaha is an Iowa alum and a Hawkeye fan. His dad is a die-hard Husker fan. Noah's been to both Memorial Stadium and Kinnick Stadium. Which is more fun? "Mom says Iowa City."
Over and over, the fans told a similar story. They like the Hawkeyes, but they have a friend or a relative who is loyal to the Huskers.
"It makes it more fun, to have someone to tease," said Hawkeye fan Melissa Conaway of Council Bluffs, hurrying with her husband to meet up with Husker friends.
Four friends from Omaha were sharing coffee outside Starbucks before the start of the game. Two of them — Laura Larson and Darcy Burns — were rooting for Iowa. The other two — Theresa Blue and Pam Kauvar — wore Husker red.
They drove from Omaha with a Husker flag waving on one side of Blue's red Trailblazer and a gold Hawkeyes' flag waving on the other. One flag was doomed to be removed after the game.
"If Iowa doesn't win, it will be a long drive home," Larson said.
Amy Grotewold, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wore her red Husker jacket to the Hawkeye Huddle, a pre-game party for Iowa fans at Lincoln's Pershing Auditorium.
Someone slapped a black-and-gold Hawkeyes sticker over the Husker logo on the coat. She grew up in Wayne, Neb., and remains a Husker fan despite attending college and now working in Iowa.
Her boyfriend, Rob Prokop, and his parents are long-time Hawkeyes fans.
The couple had a little bet on the game's outcome.
Let's just say next time the teams meet, Prokop will be wearing a Husker shirt.
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