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Husker fans kick off season with tailgating

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Posted at 7:19 PM, Sep 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 20:22:10-04

The Huskers began their 2016-2017 season Saturday with a game against Fresno State. Of course, the start of a new season wouldn't be complete without the traditional tailgating.

Throughout the parking lots surrounding Memorial Stadium, fans prepared to cheer on their team with friends and family.

Husker tents were set up with big screen TVs, games of corn hole, grills, and snacks.

Fans proudly displayed Husker logos on their clothes, tables, and chairs.

Long-time Husker fan Al Poppe began his 72nd year as a spectator of Nebraska football.

He attended his first game in 1944, and started tailgating in the 60’s with the Birchwood Club of Omaha.

“We started having tents up, and people would join us and have some refreshments with us, and it got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Poppe said supporting the Huskers is in the blood. “It becomes a part of your life. It’s just a Nebraska thing!” said Poppe.

Freshmen Dulian Herr and Michael Zarley were excited about their first game as UNL students. “Oh, we’re pumped; we’re just ready for the game,” said Herr.

For many fans, like Rachelle Borer, tailgating before the game is like planning a family reunion every week.

“Middle of the week, we’re texting each other – what are you taking, what are you bringing, when are we leaving?” said Borer.

Borer is a friend to sisters Denise Becker and Donna Funk.

She has come with their families for the past six or seven years, and they plan to come and tailgate for every home game this year. Greg, Jeff, and Jaden Kuhnel celebrated having four generations of Husker fans attending games. Jaden, the youngest, just started his freshman year at UNL.

His grandfather Greg remembered his father carrying him to games. “At that time, if you could be carried into games, you didn’t need a ticket,” recalled Greg.

The Kuhnels and their fellow fans have a lot of faith in their team this year, despite the challenges going into the season. Punter Sam Foltz died in a car crash in Wisconsin in July.

“Anytime you go through a tough thing like that, the death of Sam. I think they’ll use it as a springboard,” said Jeff Kuhnel. Tailgater and fellow fan Phil Lowe agreed,

“I think they’ll dig down, I think they’ll dedicate the season to Sam, and play for his memory.”

Tailgating will start very early next weekend when the Huskers play Wyoming. That game will begin next Saturday at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.