Linebacker Del Lyles and strong safety Toby Tyler were freshman starters when Utah State, in 1988, made one of these death marches to Nebraska to start the season.

They were both scared. Lyles didn't think he was ready. Tyler recalls being fascinated just walking into Memorial Stadium with its sea of red and white and one little pocket of Aggie-blue.Lyles was on the kick receiving team, his first play of college ball coming against the Cornhuskers. "I expected to have my bell rung," he says.

On the kickoff, "I saw the guy I had to block, and it intimidated me even more," Lyles says. He was big, but, "I hit him and put him down," he says.

On his first play, Tyler's helmet was knocked off. "I felt like nothing worse could happen to me," he says, so from then on, he went about his business.

They led USU tacklers for the day, Lyles with 11 and Tyler with 10. "It turned out to be a good day individually," says Lyles of the 63-13 loss.

Today at noon MDT, Tyler and Lyles and the rest of the Aggies again enter that fascinating stadium.

"There's no place I'd rather be," says Tyler. "I have a bonding with these people," he says of his teammates. Most of them have nearly as much experience as Tyler and Lyles, now seniors.

Tyler's philosophy is that he could have played for a lot of programs, and sometimes when he goes up against these traditional powers, he sees people he played in high school and knows he was better than them. He tells himself, "He's no better than me. He's just a name-brand, like Guess or Levi."

Says Lyles, who led USU with 20 tackles last week in its 12-7 loss at Utah, "This game, I feel more confident. I know how they play and how physical they are, and I know I can play with them."

Last week, the defense played well individually in spots, with Lyles and Tyler sharing spotlights with noseguard Mark Johnson, linebacker Jermaine Younger and tackle Rob VanDePol, "but they didn't all play good all the time together," says Coach Chuck Shelton.

A couple of Aggie goal-line stands held Utah to two field goals and impressed Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne, but it wasn't a great game for USU.

"We got shocked by that 17-play (opening) drive," observes Tyler, who thinks he and his teammates were too big-headed. "We knew we were good and wanted to let Utah tell us we're good." The exact opposite happened, and this week, "We've got to be precise and fine-tuned and have a near-perfect game," Tyler says.

Offensively, the Aggies "didn't execute," says Shelton. "The biggest problem was not being able to unfold our game plan."

This week, the Aggies hope to pass better. "The passing game has to be a big part of our attack," Shelton says. "It's pretty tough to expect Utah State to go in there and play smash-mouth football. If we can get our passing game untracked, hopefully we could stay out on the field with our offense for a little bit."

Shelton says Roger Grant (17 carries, 112 yards) will return to the starting halfback position after playing behind Floyd Foreman last week. "I don't look at them (Nebraska) any different than anybody else," says Grant, who's never played the 'Huskers. "We've had some good practices; we've just got to put it together."

Younger, a sophomore, earned a start with his play at inside linebacker last week, but he missed a practice with a stinger and may not start because he must be ready to back up at both ILB positions.