LINCOLN — The gate remained closed. The black clouds in the distance drew near.

And the anticipation within Memorial Stadium grew with each passing tick of the electronic clock.

Nebraska fans knew the new Tunnel Walk would be a mix of the old and the new. But beyond that, the rest was a mystery.

Maybe they’d play “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project. Maybe they’d play a new song to mark a new era.

It didn’t seem to matter. The band played 10 minutes before the Nebraska-Akron game and the crowd of 90,000 kept its eyes on the video board and the gate, awaiting Nebraska’s favorite football tradition.

Actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, stood arm in arm on the sideline near the gate. Media and fans with field passes readied phones pointed toward the northwest corner of Memorial Stadium. Scott Frost’s wife, Ashley, stood on the other side, peering at the black gate awaiting her husband.

The gate remained closed.

The lights clicked off. One side of the stadium lights flashed above. The new lights, installed over the summer.

“Husker!” one side of the stadium screamed to the lights.

“Power!” screamed the other, the opposite side’s lights illuminating.

Finally — with 6:26 before kickoff — the video board gave the crowd what it wanted, the flashing that kicks off “Sirius.” Instead, fans were met with Tom Osborne on the screen.

“Let me tell you a story about a team that dominated college football for more than three decades,” Osborne said. “Coach (Bob) Devaney created a spark that ignited a flame in the heart of Lincoln, leading to back-to-back national championships.”

Then appeared Blackshirt Grant Wistrom, walking on Tom Osborne Field.

“Coach Osborne turned that flame into an inferno, dominating the ’90s with three more national championships in four years.”

Then Joel Mackovica.

“What fueled that fire? Innovation and hard work. Physical football. Wearing our opponents down. Dominating the fourth quarter.”

Stanley Morgan: “The time to reignite that flame is now.”

The screen went white and the words grew bigger: Red Burns Brighter.

“Sirius” began. Goosebumps followed. Clips of former Tunnel Walks showed on screen.

The gate remained closed.

Then he appeared. Frost — in a white polo with a small red N — opened the doors of the locker room with an army of red behind him. Frost did not smile. He looked straight ahead as he walked in step to the deep bass of “Jungle” by the X Ambassadors.

Smoke emanated at the feet of those standing near the opening of the tunnel. Finally, the gate opened, and Memorial Stadium exorcised its demons from years of frustration. Frost was here. Nebraska was here.

The Huskers ran out of the tunnel to a roar. After kickoff, the black clouds in the distance caught up and flashed lightning. The Huskers had to jog back into the locker room.

Didn’t seem to matter. The era was, at the very least, kicked off.

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Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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