In the wake of a win

Husker punches fan; dozens get citations
Tuesday, October 14, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:32 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

For the MU football team, the aftermath of its first win over Nebraska in 25 years was unsurprisingly good. The Tigers moved back into the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 24.

Tiger fans did not fare as well.

Police cited 73 people in game-related incidents on Saturday, including 49 who were issued tickets on suspicion of trespassing, according to MU Police Chief Jack Watring. After the 41-24 win, hundreds of fans rushed Faurot Field and tore down the goal posts.

Also, in the on-field melee after the game, a Nebraska player punched an MU fan mid-stride to the locker room — a move that was captured on film. Travis Justice, a reporter from Omaha, Neb., television station KMTV, saw the incident. The station’s footage showed Nebraska field-goal holder Kellen Huston swing and hit a fan in the face as he ran off the field after the Huskers’ first loss of the season, he said.

Justice and his photographer were running toward MU quarterback Brad Smith at the time of the punch.

“It happened within 20 seconds of the game being over,” Justice said. “Kellen Huston basically decked a guy. It was a punch a boxer couldn’t win.”

Hometown hero

Smith, who had just tied a school record with four touchdowns, called to paramedics for help and pointed police toward Huston. Smith sat with the fan for one or two minutes, Justice said.

In post-game interviews, Smith was upset.

“You could see (the fan’s) nose way over here and everything,” Smith said. “It was a pretty sad situation. There’s no room for punching people in the face like that.”

MU coach Gary Pinkel said Smith’s concern for the fan after the biggest win of his career showed his stellar character.

“It’s amazing, we just won a pretty big game and he played fairly well,” Pinkel said. “He comes right up to me and I thought he was going to hug me and he starts telling me about this guy that just got knocked down. That’s the kind of player he is, that’s the kind of kid he is. I told him, we’ll take care of it … enjoy yourself a few moments here.”

Actions being taken

Nebraska coach Frank Solich said he would review the tape and then make a disciplinary decision. The pandemonium prompted Solich to tell some of his players to cut a prayer ring short and leave the field.

“It was a situation where there were a lot of people on the field and there were a lot of people moving a lot of different directions,” Solich said. “Any time people charge the field you do, as a coach, get concerned for the safety of your coaches, the safety of your players.”

Several other fans were also injured in the post-game frenzy, according to Bob Stanley, MU’s director of athletic facilities. Stanley said officials had hinged the goal posts and planned to lower them to the ground before fans climbed atop.

“Unfortunately, the crowd assaulted them before we had a chance to turn the switch and drop them down,” Stanley said. “With people hanging onto the posts, we didn’t want to risk somebody getting injured.”

Two people were injured seriously enough to be taken to the hospital, said MU spokesman Christian Basi. One fan broke his ankle and an MU police officer injured his ribs, Basi said.

Stanley said he had hoped to prevent the injuries with the hinged goal posts.

“If anybody thinks it’s about money, it’s not,” Stanley said. “It’s about safety.”

Missourian reporter Christina Caron contributed to this report.

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