Nebraska fans’ Big Red invasion of CU’s Folsom Field fizzles

BOULDER — If Nick Zoucha can grit his teeth through frostbite-inducing weather while shirtless in the spirit of a Big Red Takeover in Colorado, then how much money would he be able to stomach turning down to keep tickets out of the hands of Buffs fans?

Outside of Folsom Field on Saturday morning, Zoucha grimaced. His friend, Sean Harris, offered a floor of $2,000 for potential resale. They paid $600 tickets this summer for their tickets to the Deion Sanders-era revival of the Colorado-Nebraska rivalry.

“I don’t know,” Zoucha said. “I don’t think I would sell. I don’t care how much.”

“Ten grand?” Harris suggested.

“No. I still don’t even think I’d do it.”

Zoucha has lived in Colorado for 21 years, but he hasn’t missed a Buffs-Huskers game during that time. Even with the Big Eight reduced to nostalgia in the rearview mirror, this rivalry has meant everything to him. More particularly, embarrassing the CU fanbase with massive clumps of red in Boulder has meant everything to him. In the early 2000s, he, his brother and another friend were the only people in body paint at a game in Colorado when the weather was below freezing. Zoucha thinks it had to be 10 degrees.

His exposed torso made it to the end of the game. By that point, he didn’t even need paint to be colored red.

“Lots of alcohol,” Zoucha said. “Whiskey will warm you.”

In the final hours before the massively anticipated renewed edition of Colorado’s retro rivalry, Nebraska fans wandering the grounds of CU remained cocky and nonchalant that their Big Red Takeover would not be thwarted by Coach Prime. The hype for Buffs football was near an all-time high after a stunning win at TCU in Week 1.

“In order for Colorado to pay Deion, you gotta have this game,” Harris said, shrugging in his Cornhuskers jersey. “They should thank the Husker fanbase.”

Indeed, a sampling of eight Nebraska fans interviewed by The Post on Saturday morning all paid multiple hundreds for their seats. The typical price point was between $300 and $400. The Huskers were determined not to become an endangered species at Folsom.

“I laughed when I saw at Deion’s introductory press conference, when the athletics director said, ‘We’re not going to let any Nebraska fans in,’” said John Sigmon of Omaha. “Sorry.”

“It’ll be a bigger ratio (of Nebraska to Colorado fans),” Harris insisted. “There’s just more hype on this one, that’s all. We don’t care.”

Sigmon and his wife, Lauren, brought their two toddlers on a full-day drive to see their first Nebraska football game. They try to make it to one road Huskers game every season. This was the obvious one for 2023.

Former college defensive tackle Mike Fisher had friends who played for Nebraska in the late 1980s and early 1990s, while Fisher was in junior college. He once asked a Huskers fullback which opponent would hit the hardest. “He said the linebackers from CU,” Fisher recalled, wearing a red bucket hat outside the stadium and standing with his Buffs-fan in-laws. “They came with a bad intention. He said when you walked out of the CU-NU game, you were beat up.”

Fisher and one of those in-laws, Bernard Paz, got their tickets as soon as Colorado hired Sanders. It was $500 for Fisher. “Well worth it,” he said.

But when asked for their resale price floor to an opposing fan, Fisher and Paz buckled a bit.

“Everything has a price,” Paz said while Fisher nodded.

That turned out to be the clearest harbinger of what was to come when fans actually filed into Folsom Field by 10 a.m. The ratio, overwhelmingly in favor of Nebraska as recently as the 2019 game, had flipped completely. The Huskers were mostly confined to their corner, and one entire side of the stadium bowl featured just pockmarks of red. It was at least three-quarters Buffs, despite the confidence of Big Red nation.

Fans like Bruce and Kerry Egelston were the real winners in the end. The people of Colorado held strong this time. The Egelstons bought their tickets for $436 each as a 65th birthday present for Bruce, who “didn’t grow to hate Nebraska until I was older,” he said. But Buffs allegiance has always been intense. The couple’s television remote passcode used to be 6236.

How much would they sell their birthday tickets for if a Husker fan asked real nice?

“Nothing,” Kerry started, before Bruce interrupted with a hesitant, “Well…”

“No,” his wife reiterated. “Nothing.”

Bruce conceded after a minute. These stubs were priceless.

“I get tired of seeing all those bastards in red,” he said.

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