Tailgating: Fresno State @ Nebraska

September 9, 2011 

Gathering spot: Bulldogs fans will be lost in a sea of Nebraska red Saturday, but there's a place in downtown Lincoln where they can feel right at home. Just three blocks from Memorial Stadium sits The N Zone, a sports bar owned by Clovis native (and Clovis West High) alum Mike Figueroa. More than a dozen Fresno State fans already were getting warmed up Friday afternoon, including one who boldly predicted a Bulldogs victory and breakout game for quarterback Derek Carr. Figueroa, the brother-in-law of former Bulldogs basketball player Bobby Davis (1978-82), plans to wear a Fresno State shirt and Nebraska hat Saturday so as to not upset his loyal customers. "It's a great, friendly fan base," Figueroa said. "Everyone here is very respectful of the opposing teams."

Money matters: Unlike last week, when Fresno State made $915,000 for playing Cal at Candlestick Park thanks to a ticket-sales bonus, Saturday's game isn't a big payday. Athletic director Thomas Boeh said the Bulldogs are getting $300,000 – more than enough to cover travel expenses – but they'll be giving the same amount to Nebraska in 2014 when the Cornhuskers visit Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State will get $750,000 when it returns to Nebraska in 2016, Boeh said.

Family connections: Fresno State redshirt freshman receiver Josh Harper, who caught a touchdown pass last week against Cal, has some local lineage. Harper's dad, Willie Harper, played defensive end for Nebraska's back-to-back national championship teams in the early '70s before going on to a 10-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers.

Getting healthy: Junior middle linebacker Will Compton is expected to return to Nebraska's starting lineup after injuring his ankle in the first series against Chattanooga. But senior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (pulled leg muscle) likely will be held out.

WAC job: This is the first meeting between Fresno State and Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are riding a 21-game winning streak against Western Athletic Conference opponents dating to a 6-0 loss to Hawaii in 1955.

In common: Pat Hill's detractors like to point out that the Bulldogs haven't won the WAC since 1999. Well, Nebraska is in the same boat. Hard to believe, but the Cornhuskers haven't won a conference title since 1999 either.

The reporter can be reached at marekw@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6218.

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