Into the Tunnel: The Pelini Years (2008 to Present)

What effect did Osborne's return have on the Tunnel Walk? And what do we have to look forward to this fall?

Editor's Note: This is part FOUR of a four part mini-series put together by one of your fellow community members, kungfusquirrel (@kungfusquirrel). Please enjoy!

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2008

2008 Nebraska Football Tunnel Walk -Virginia Tech Game (via Dan Bretta)

  • Debut: Aug 30th, 2008 (Western Michigan)
  • Home Record: 6-2

In 2008, Nebraska was looking to heal from its worst season in the modern era. Fans were hopeful as Tom Osborne was back at the helm and Bo Pelini led the team from the sideline. The 2008 Tunnel Walk reflects this hope by bringing back some familiar themes, opening with the traditional white flash before revealing a spotlight shining down on a CG Memorial Stadium. Clips of Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne, and former players and coaches are superimposed over the Osborne Athletic Complex (including a cameo of the trophy featuring Coach Osborne and the late Brook Berringer).

As the camera pushes over the north stadium scoreboard, we see the center of the field illuminated by the spotlight as faint red ghosts of Nebraska players dart over the field. The camera zooms in to isolate the ghostly figures which turn into full-color highlights of classic Nebraska plays as well as a crowd-favorite shot of Bo Pelini celebrating from his tenure as defensive coordinator for Nebraska in 2003. The camera pans up to show the best highlight from the preceding game on the CG version of the big screen, then crushes the opponent's logo in front of the tunnel exit with... a 3D chomping Blackshirts logo. It's a little weird, but doesn't stay on screen long. We then push into the tunnel and blow open the "2008 HUSKERS" door to reveal the team.

The 2008 edition feels like many of the Tunnel Walks of old, but does lose marks for some poor quality work cutting out the highlights. It's interesting to note a shift in focus – where many earlier Tunnel Walks relied heavily on the CG graphics, here they serve as a backdrop to other content. The 2007 edition will be the last to so heavily rely on full CG scenes.

Notes:

  • This is the first and only appearance of the giant 3D Blackshirts helmet. Probably for the best.

Grade: B

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2009

Husker Tunnel Walk 2009 (via CornhuskersFootball)

  • Debut: Sept 5, 2009 (Florida Atlantic)
  • Home Record: 5-2

In 2009, Nebraska debuted the "Countdown to Kickoff" Tunnel Walk. After the opening flash, the camera circles in from the southeast corner of an empty stadium as a bright wave of red fills the seats and the current sellout streak is displayed in 3D text on the field. The camera flies toward the scoreboard, which displays the "Countdown to Kickoff" clock ticking away, then pushes into the screen. Years start flying by alongside archived clips of Nebraska football, and then the real countdown begins:

120 Years of Football. 92 All Americans. 45 Bowl Games. 11 Undefeated Seasons. 10 Coaches. 09 Huskers. 8 Outland Trophy Winners. 7 Greatest Hits [insert classic defensive highlight here]. 6 Points [insert classic TD highlight here]. Five National Titles. 4 Lombardi Winners. 3 Heisman Trophies. 2 Legendary Coaches. One... Nebraska.

10 and 9 are kind of awkwardly jammed in, sure, but we'll let that slide. This is Nebraska football. This is what brings us by the tens of thousands to Lincoln every Saturday. This is what my generation and those before it grew up watching.

Following the rather impressive "One Nebraska" text – which is the single finest piece of video work in Tunnel Walk history – we return to CG, flying into the stadium where the Iron N crushes the opposing team's logo, and the camera zips through the tunnel (through more composited live-action fans... nobody's perfect) and blows the door open to reveal the 2009 team.

The only knock on this video is its length – the video clocks in at around the 2 minute mark, and many of the individual clips could have been shortened. However, unlike some earlier long editions the "countdown" motif is interesting enough to hold up for the duration. 2009 easily joins 2006 in the discussion for Nebraska's best Tunnel Walk.

2009 Alternate

In The Deed The Glory - Nebraska Tunnel Walk Vs. OU 2009 (via Matt Turner)

  • Debut: Nov. 7, 2009 (Oklahoma)

On November 7, 2009, Oklahoma came to town. The Husker Vision screens were dark, the Husker Power chant was roaring from west to east... and something different happened. A sudden chime, a flash of the screen. "NOT THE VICTORY BUT THE ACTION," etched over stone. Another chime. "NOT THE GOAL BUT THE GAME."

Holy moly. A murmur rolls across the stadium.

D.J. Jones recites the team prayer over a montage of the team preparing in the locker room. Cody Green nods badassly. "DAY BY DAY" the callout begins as we cut to a slow-mo shot of the locker room huddle. This isn't the "hey guys, do this on camera for us" version from 2005. This is the real deal, with Jones bouncing wildly and slapping helmets. This is real – I dare say big time - production value, where the vocal mix's booming bass rocks the stadium.

Man, woman, and child. The crowd starts to stir.

"WON'T. BE. BEAT."

This Tunnel Walk just tore them loose from their shoes.

Roll highlights to epic music. The video closes with a rapid-fire clip perfectly synced with the music, a black screen... and a final chime. "IN THE DEED THE GLORY." And THEN the Tunnel Walk starts, the final tone blending perfectly with the crescendo of Sirius. The crowd only got louder, and didn't let up the entire game. I was lucky enough to attend – by the time the clock hit 00:00, my ears physically hurt. The crowd was already jacked up for Oklahoma, no doubt – but this intro was the spark to the powder keg. If a Tunnel Walk ever tops this edition, Memorial Stadium may physically collapse.

Big time production. Big time football. This is the benchmark by which all future Tunnel Walks will be judged.

Notes:

  • This is the second appearance of a red flash at the Tunnel Walk's opening instead of the traditional white.
  • For the first two games, the first stop in the countdown was "116 Years of Football." The number was corrected to 120 for the 300th sellout vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.
  • The 300th sellout Tunnel Walk added new intro text of "November 3 1962" and "THE RECORD BEGINS," but was otherwise unchanged.

Grade: A+

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2010

Husker Tunnel Walk 2010 (via CornhuskersFootball)

  • Debut: Sept 4, 2010 (Western Kentucky)
  • Home Record: 6-1

The 2010 Tunnel Walk is an interesting beast, blending elements from multiple previous Tunnel Walks. We open with the same red lens-flare flash as 2009, then see a spotlight on the red N at the 50 yard line a la 2008. The rest of the field dimly fades in as three red-tinted videos play on the dark stadium in the background, then the field fades into footage of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne as a red wipe once again fills the stands, and we see throngs of live-action fans waving their hands in the air like they just don't care that there's live action fans in the Tunnel Walk again. Large 3D "NEBRASKA" text materializes over the field as the footage projected on the field shifts to Bo.

Next, we jump across multiple scenes at the stadium exterior with additional highlights floating near or projected onto the stadium. First, the lower west stadium and "IN THE DEED" text, followed by the towering press box and "THE GLORY," likely a nod to the success of the 2009 alternate intro. Next, "HONOR" with the statue of Tom Osborne and the late Brook Berringer. "POWER" projected on the columns outside the east stadium. The Nebraska locker room and "TRADITION." In an impressive bout of clairvoyance, "LEGENDS" as we pan up the northwest corner of the stadium. Then, five national championship trophies and various cutout highlights scrambling across a black screen as the camera pulls back through "THIS. IS. NEBRASKA." We pan up to the selected highlight of choice, then the current sellout streak is displayed in large 3D text over more live-action fans.

Finally, we're in the tunnel, with a "red carpet" of video footage, and more fans – but wait, are they actually in the tunnel? To their credit, it's hard to tell; clever FX and camera work quickly blends through before settling on the opposing team logo in front of the door. The logo explodes, and we see the team.

All in all, it's a mixed bag. Elements of the production are very good – much of the work resembles the quality of the 2009 intro and this is the best trip through the tunnel yet – but some things are just off. The superimposed wacky waving inflatable arm flailing football fans still don't really work, especially not when they're shown outside of the stadium. Projecting images onto the pillars shows the same quality issues seen in 2002, and while the sentiment of a trip around the stadium is nice, some of the angles leave a bit to be desired.

2010 Alternate

Link

  • Debut: Oct 16, 2010 (Texas)

On October 16th, Nebraska unveiled a new intro leading into the "Red Out Around The World" game (which, let's be honest, was the "Let's try to actually beat Texas before we go to the Big Ten" game). Taking cues from the 2009 "In the Deed the Glory" video, the video opens with the lights turning on in the locker room. D.J. Jones' pregame prayer features again, with more shots of players preparing for the game. As the prayer closes, we watch the team flood onto the field from the inside of the tunnel, then kick off another round of highlights starting once again with the massive GO BIG RED banner.

Say it with me again, now. Big time production. Big time football. These intros do more with raw footage than any contrived 3D scene can. This is what you should expect out of a school like Nebraska.

This alternate intro, like the 2009 version is absolutely fantastic, and the 2010 version even better showcases the amazing quality of footage produced by the Nebraska video team with some of the best shots ever to grace the big screen in Lincoln. The lights flickering on in the locker room is a killer intro. The headless shot of Taylor Martinez, recognizable only by the number 3 on his chest and sleeve tattoo on his left arm, is brilliant. If it were possible for me to loop the shot of the Huskers exiting the tunnel under the lights all day, every day, I would. And, at the end, it pays tribute to Bo Pelini's addition to the Tunnel Walk tradition – jumping up and down with the team before sprinting onto the field.

The 2010 prologue may even be stronger than the 2009 edition, but overall is held back by a slightly weaker base Tunnel Walk. Even so, thanks to these intros 2009-2010 are the best 1-2 punch in Tunnel Walk history.

Notes:

  • The 2010 Tunnel Walk is the third to debut vs. a team with "Western" in its title after Western Illinois in 2004 and Western Michigan in 2008.
  • When unveiled vs. Texas, the new intro ended on "FINISH," a reference to the team motto following the 2009 Big XII Championship loss to Texas.
  • For the remainder of the season, the "FINISH" text was replaced with an excellent shot of Marcus Mendoza atop the Husker huddle.

Grade: B+

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2011

Nebraska Tunnel Walk 2011 (via CornhuskersFootball)

Debut: Sept. 3, 2011 (Chattanooga)

Home Record: 6-1

Nebraska's new era in the Big Ten kicked off with a new style of Tunnel Walk. 2011 starts similarly to previous installments, fading in the opening tone of Sirius and upgrading the red flash with some 3D flair, but then cuts to a selection of former Huskers saying "There is no place like Nebraska." New music cuts in, the first-ever interruption of Sirius, and we see rapid-fire clips lined up with the song's intro. As the music settles in, we get a run-down of Nebraska highlights mixed with clips of shirtless players working out with cute "B1G" references laid over top (these would change week to week). B1G Plays. B1G Titles. B1G Hits. B1G Strength. B1G Crush (what?). B1G Pride. B1G Heart. Then, a rapid-fire rundown of the various B1G Buzzwords before displaying "B1G RED." Sirius kicks back in, and "B1G RED" splits, revealing the opposing team's logo. "B1G RED" smashes back in, destroying the logo, and reveals the "Big Red in the Big Ten" logo for Nebraska's first season as members of the Big Ten. Terrible smoke particles flood forward (we're talking 1998 video game particle effects here), and we cut to the team in the tunnel.

For Ohio State, the "Big Red in the Big Ten" logo was replaced with a "Big Ten Home Opener" graphic, but no other significant alterations were made. In later games, they added sound effects to the weight room/training scenes, including an impressive scream by a shirtless Brandon Kinnie.

The departures from Tunnel Walk tradition are interesting, but unfortunately the rest of the intro doesn't quite hold up. The ragged red letterboxing looks terrible on the 4:3 screens and even worse when it's barely visible on the big screen. There's terrible lens flares everywhere. Some of the B1G Buzzwords also make no sense and bring back memories of some of the weaker Pederson-era videos. On the bright side, the 2011 Tunnel Walk is among the shortest in years, clocking in at just under one minute.

2011 Alternate

Nebraska Tunnel Walk - Michigan State (via BCVision08)

  • Debut: Oct. 29, 2011 (Michigan State)

After the thrilling comeback against Ohio State, the Tunnel Walk for Michigan State featured a new intro, highlighting some of Nebraska's greatest plays. "The Return, 11.25.71," Johnny Rodgers vs. Oklahoma. "The Run, 1.2.96," Tommie Frazier vs. Florida. "The Catch, 11.7.97," Matt Davison vs. Missouri. "The Flash, 10.27.01," Mike Stuntz to Eric Crouch vs. Oklahoma. Then, an impressive aerial shot of Memorial Stadium flanked by Ohio State and Nebraska logos. We watch each touchdown of Nebraska's rally + Stanley Jean-Baptiste's impressive interception, as portraits of the players involved are splashed over the screen. We cut to Bo Pelini in the locker room, "How about the BIGGEST COMEBACK IN SCHOOL HISTORY?!" before displaying "THE COMEBACK, 10.8.11" and starting the normal Tunnel Walk.

It's fun, but diminished in quality by the poor quality of the player portraits, nor is it nearly as powerful as the 09 and 10 prologues. It may have helped slightly energize the crowd for what would be a dominating performance against Michigan State, but doesn't elevate an average effort.

Notes:

-Nebraska's opening victory against Chattanooga marks the Tunnel Walk's 100th victory.

-2011 joins 1994 and 2006 as the only Tunnel Walks that don't feature a CG Memorial Stadium.

Grade: C

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2012

Nebraska Tunnel Walk 2012 (via CornhuskersFootball)

  • Original Debut: Sept. 1, 2012 (Southern Miss)
  • Home Record: 7-0

We finally arrive at the 2012 season. We're so close. To honor your commitment to reading this, I want to end things on a high note, especially since it's now that much closer to kickoff than when you started.

Note the emphasis on want. Sadly, I'm afraid I can't.

We open with a battery indicator charging in the lower right corner of the screen. When it finishes charging, a large white flare bursts from the corner, revealing the single shoddiest piece of CG stadium in Tunnel Walk history. On the CG big screen – and hey, why do we keep putting the screen in the video playing another video? – we see a clip of the 1962 Huskers flanked by the cheapest "I added this six minutes before the game" text you've ever seen displaying the grammatically awkward "1962 it Started" and "50 Years."

The camera pans back, revealing that the stadium is filled with awful live-action stand-ins, and now here's Rex... Burk... oh no. No, no, no. Rex stands there awkwardly for a bit until the camera stops moving, cups his hands over his mouth, and shouts "GOOOOOOOO BIIIIIIIIG REEEEE-EEEEDD" and the screen flashes back the "GO" "BIG "RED" response. A terrible CG "card trick" emerges from the stands, commemorating the 50th year of Nebraska's sellout streak. Then, we're... on a giant pillar of turf in the sky? And rotating around some metal gear-shaped thing? I don't even know what's happening. Various highlights are shown in front of the worst CG backgrounds the Tunnel Walk has ever seen, displaying the associated sellout number (i.e. "Sellout 37" or "Sellout 200"), and we see a lineup of Nebraska's national championship trophies where they don't even bother to make the crystal on the Sears trophy look like anything other than a grey blob.

The Tunnel Walk ends with a final highlight played on the CG version of the stadium's big screen, as a version of the team prayer plays over the opening of Sirius. More awful-looking "card trick" words flash up for "CAN'T BE BEAT" and "WON'T BE BEAT." Those lines a couple more times... only with no actual rhythm or purpose. As that happens, we go back up to the fake screen again (remember, we're still showing footage on a CG screen on an actual screen) where the camera returns to a terrible tunnel lined by terrible compositioned fans before the door explodes, revealing the team.

Remember. Big time production. Big time football. This is a small-time production for small-time schools. Through and through, this is an embarrassment.

Another recent Nebraska video/music tradition is "Can You Feel It." A couple years ago, this video started with a shot of Eric Martin, helmet off, prowling the sideline screaming "GOOOOOOO BIIIIIIG REEEEE-EEEEDD" towards the student section. It was amazing. It was real, a real player on a real field yelling at real fans in real stands. It tied into the start of the song perfectly. Players in a studio will never recreate this. Fans chanting "GO BIG RED" as the words pop up sing-along style on the big screen will never recreate this. Don't do it.

The 2009/2010 intros with the pregame prayer are brilliant, and helped bring it back into common knowledge among Nebraska fans. That's amazing. The forced attempt at trying to turn "Can't Be Beat/Won't Be Beat" into a chant at the end is embarrassing. Brown's surprisingly excellent by college football rap standards "Big Red Anthem" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg5vbyqxtPc in 2011 showed how this should be done, and if Nebraska embraces this cheer at all, it should be to replace "Husker Power" as the pre-Tunnel Walk call and response cheer. Imagine ~95k fans roaring that back and forth, and this half-assed attempt to shoehorn it into an already terrible video is even worse.

The sad fact is, this edition is so bad they had to go back and replace – and, you know, I dare say actually finish – most of the video after it had already been played. By the time the conference slate rolled around, most of the awful highlight reels had been replaced with better produced (though still below 09/10 quality) versions, but the other attempts at forced crowd participation remain. This is just a bad Tunnel Walk. I actually hid my face in my hands the first time I saw it in person. Demand better, Nebraska fans.

Thankfully, this had no ill effects on the home crowd, as Nebraska went undefeated in Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2001.

Grade: F

2012 Alternate

Nebraska Cornhuskers Tunnel Walk vs. Wisconsin Badgers, September 29, 2012 (via Kevin Ward)

  • Alternate Debut: Sept. 29, 2012 (Wisconsin)

As in the years prior, Nebraska debuted an alternate intro before the Big Ten home opener against Wisconsin. This attempts to imitate the success of the 09 and 10 intros, but misses most of the marks. The intro lacks the buildup and punch of its better siblings, but does finish nicely with a sweet sound effect before displaying the Iron N which flashes into "B1G TIME." I have to admit, that's the best use of the "B1G" reference next to "B1G Red." This intro would be used for the remainder of the conference slate; unfortunately, no further changes are made to the base Tunnel Walk.

Despite 2012 being the worst Tunnel Walk in years, the Wisconsin game holds one of the most inspiring moments in Tunnel Walk history. As the door exploded to reveal the Huskers in their alternate uniforms, we see Rex Burkhead and Quincy Enunwa lifting pediatric brain cancer patients Jack Hoffman and Isaiah Cassilas to touch the horseshoe before the young boys lead the team through the throngs of fans and onto the field.

It's easy for me to sit here and snarkily dismantle video productions while I impatiently wait for kickoff of the next season of a sport where college students hit each other really hard, but I cannot commend Nebraska's coaches, players, and administration enough for the work they do in the community, and for giving children like Isaiah and Jack such impressive support. That's the Nebraska I'm proud to be from.

Jack, of course, continues his fight with the support of Nebraska and the rest of the nation. You may have heard about some touchdown in a spring game or something. You should probably go watch it again right now:

Jack Hoffman with a 69 yard touchdown in the 2013 Nebraska Spring Game (via Nebraska Huskers)

Sadly, 6-year-old Isaiah lost his battle with cancer on Dec. 2, 2012. As someone who attended the Wisconsin game and as the father of a 7-year-old boy, this hits extra close to home and underscores the importance of the work the Team Jack Foundation and other groups are doing to save children's lives. Thanks to his inclusion in the Tunnel Walk, his memory will live on with thousands.

2012 Alternate

Nebraska Tunnel Walk vs Minnesota 2012 - Tom Osborne Tribute (via Nebraska Huskers)

  • Debut: Nov. 17th, 2012 (Minnesota)

For the final home game of the 2012 season, Nebraska unveiled a third edition of the Tunnel Walk to honor the career of retiring Athletic Director and former coach Tom Osborne. This strips

There's really no more that needs to be said. The Osborne edition takes stylistic cues from the 2009 Tunnel Walk, and highlights an incredible career of a coaching legend. Osborne leading the team out of the tunnel with Pelini, one last time, is a moment few Nebraska fans will forget.

2013

???

  • Debut: Aug. 31, 2013 (Wyoming)
  • Home Record: ???

And now, finally, we reach the coming season. What's in store for this year? Will it ignite the crowd like 2009? Will it instill a sense of dread like 2007 or 2012? Do the powers that be dare consider to change the template entirely? Or will we see something familiar that harkens back to the best intros we know and love?

Whatever it is, know this: Whether A+ or F on this scale, over 90,000 fans in red are going to go bonkers the second those screens come to life and they get their first glimpse at the team they've been waiting to see in a stadium that's never looked better.

If there is any justice in this world, that crowd will be treated to something that goes a little something... like this.

See you Saturday. Go Big Red.

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