Decked out in bright red hats, jerseys and plastic beads bearing the Nebraska Cornhuskers logo, fans of the college football team packed Twin Cities area hotels, bars and other venues for Saturday's matchup against the Gophers.
A similar scene is set to play out for Sunday's Vikings game -- only this time, fans will swarm downtown Minneapolis wearing Green Bay Packers green and gold. And perhaps a few foam cheesehead hats.
"We love the Huskers," said Bobbie Moran, who along with her husband, Kevin, and another couple drove six hours from Omaha to make the game Saturday. "We don't have a pro team in Nebraska, so [the Huskers are] totally supported there."
Both Wisconsin and Nebraska are within a day's drive of Minneapolis, making the trip attractive for the out-of-town fans who clogged hotels and bars over the weekend.
"I can't tell you how much red I've seen," said Stephanie Hartmann, a supervisor at the Marquette Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, which was booked solid Saturday. "It's been a sea of red. Maybe two to every 10 Gopher fans. Most are in a rush to get out because they want to get to tailgating."
For Gophers home games, the hotel usually doesn't see a slew of out-of-town fans, Hartmann said. But Nebraska, a program with a huge following, was playing in Minnesota for the first time since 1989.
Huskers fans are "just that diehard sort of fan," Hartmann said. "The Nebraska fans are a lot goofier dressed. They'll have nylon red on, from head to toe. This beanpole of a kid walked through [the lobby] just covered in red spandex. Even his head -- you couldn't see his eyes, his face, anything. So they're a lot more festive with their game attire versus, you know, you're just seeing Gopher T-shirts here and there."
Chuck McGuire, rooms manager at University Hotel Minneapolis two blocks from TCF Bank Stadium, said that hotel also was booked solid for Saturday night. He said there was a mix of Minnesota fans and "lots of red. It's really energetic and a little chaotic."
McGuire said some Nebraska fans are staying over to attend the Vikings game as well: "They make a full weekend out of it."
Packers fans Janet and Mark Bembenek arrived at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Minneapolis Saturday. The Milwaukee couple said that on Friday they won game tickets, hotel and airfare from a radio station.
Both were excited for the unexpected trip.
"It's something different," Janet said, adding that it's difficult to find tickets to Green Bay's home games. "At least we'll be warm in the Dome and not cold in Green Bay."
The Morans and friends drank and ate at the Crooked Pint Ale House in Minneapolis before driving over to the game. The Depot Renaissance Hotel, where they were staying, was also packed with Nebraska fans, they said.
Moran and her husband are especially excited now that Nebraska is part of the Big Ten Conference and look forward to attending more games: "It's all new to us. All these teams, they're all good teams, and it's fun. We love the Big Ten."
Rose French • 612-673-4352