Husker fan Gary Carrillo wanted to see a close, competitive game in his first-ever trip to Memorial Stadium.

He kept that in mind when he looked at this year’s Nebraska schedule and chose the Texas Tech game over Florida Atlantic or Arkansas State.

“I didn’t want to see a blowout,” Carrillo said before Saturday’s kickoff.

So much for that plan, huh?

At least before Nebraska’s 31-10 loss, Carrillo and his wife, Caren, were enjoying a wonderful weekend in Lincoln.

Carrillo, 34, was born and raised in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and lives in Pasadena, Calif. At age 12, he made his first of several summertime trips to Nebraska to visit family in Pilger.

“So, basically,” Carrillo said, “I got brainwashed into being a Husker fan when I was little.”

He’s remained true to Big Red, watching the Huskers play in person at Texas, at Texas Tech, at Texas A&M (he once lived in Houston), at Arizona State, at USC and in the Holiday Bowl.

But never in Lincoln. The Carrillos decided to finally change that and purchased tickets from a broker and booked a flight.

Caren, a native of Manhattan Beach, Calif., had been dating Gary for three months when their first football season together rolled around.

“I found out that every Saturday he would be watching this game,” she said, “and that if I wanted to spend any time with my boyfriend, I would have to join him down at these Husker watch sites.”

So Caren, who was “a mild Cal fan,” became a Husker fan, too. She and Gary still watch games with Husker fans at a bar in Hermosa Beach.

“The Husker fans in California are wonderful and so friendly and nice,” she said. “I actually started to enjoy the people I was watching the game with more than the game.”

This is Caren’s first visit to Lincoln. When the Carrillos attended a party of Husker fans Friday afternoon, a woman invited to give them a tour of Lincoln.

“We just hopped in the car with her,” Caren said. “We were laughing to ourselves because you would never even talk to a stranger in L.A., and we just got into a car with someone we’d met 20 minutes before.”

Caren, impressed with how friendly and clean Lincoln is, said she prefers the family-like atmosphere of Nebraska football over the hostile environment of USC-UCLA games.

“It was icky, and I didn’t want to be a part of it,” she said of that rivalry. “People here aren’t drunk and stupid.”

Gary said they’re trying to attend one Husker game each season, somewhere. Next year, it’s at Washington. A trip to Laramie, Wyo., — in an RV — is in the plans.

So, of course, is a game against UCLA in 2012. The Carrillos live five minutes from the Rose Bowl.

Going deep

* Was it just me, or did the atmosphere in the stadium before the game not reflect excitement you’d expect after a come-from-behind win at Missouri?

* Those weren’t “Suuuhs,” those were boos. And here we thought we’d moved past games like these.

Reach Brian Rosenthal at brosenthal@journalstar.com or 473-7436.