Finally, the first game of this tour since launching collegefootballtour.com and I end up traveling 400 miles to view a game between two teams I have already seen in a venue that doesn’t even count toward my stadium goal. Why? Bret Bielema. Since Barry Alvarez’s departure from the sidelines, many Wisconsin fans have questioned the changes that loomed ahead. Seeing that I have more Badger games on my record than Tommy Lee has tattoos, my interest in the new coaching change was significant.
Jets screeched over the skyline as we drove toward the city. The Cleveland National Air Show brought fans to this part of the Midwest just as well as this contest between the Falcons and the Badgers. Loyal followers of both teams wore their bright red or bright orange proudly around the downtown streets and as gametime approached, the swarms moved toward Lake Erie where Cleveland Browns Stadium shadowed the ground. Passing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame amongst leaping skyscrapers certainly has its place, but the atmosphere fell extremely short of a traditional college campus. That feeling continued upon entering the stadium and seeing the sprawled out and rather lackadaisical mood of the fans. A large number of exposed orangebacked chairs offered a telling visual aid relating to frail attendance numbers.
The purpose of moving the game from Bowling Green to Cleveland was to inspire a larger number of Falcon fans to move the turnstiles in the hope that their average attendance numbers would increase. This past year, the university received a warning letter because their average attendance dipped below 15,000, which is the magic number for maintaining Division I-A status. The “Clash in Cleveland” was intended to buoy the rest of the season in case their home attendance dwindles. However, a mere 30,000 passed through the gates and half were wearing red. If I had it my way, I would rather have played this game at Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, which would have still accommodated the numbers that trekked to Cleveland.
Opening game weather generally provides muggy or wickedly hot temperatures. However, an overcast, cool, and drizzly evening pushed the fast forward button giving the air an October feel. Although the weather was unusual, the game started much like last year’s contest between the Falcons and Badgers in Camp Randall Stadium (which experiences no attendance problems seating over 80,000 every gameday). Tailback Freddie Barnes bowled 21 yards through the Badgers to take a 7-0 Falcon lead causing the Falcon’s Nest (BGSU student section) to erupt with glee.
Last year, Bowling Green opened with a quick score en route to a shootout that Wisconsin survived. Tonight, Wisconsin would answer Bowling Green and keep it coming. The back breaker occurred when Jonathan Casillas blocked and recovered a Falcon punt that gave Wisconsin a 14-7 advantage. Veteran quarterback John Stocco and freshman tailback P.J. Hill gave a tremendous show and calmed any concerns Badger fans may have had about their rushing game. Wisconsin finished convincingly with a 35-14 victory in what seems like their most challenging non-conference tussle of the season. Wisconsin should enter league play unscarred, yet an always fierce Michigan team welcomes them in the opener. Bowling Green hopes to open their conference season successfully next week against Buffalo in their REAL home stadium. Hopefully, the loss to Wisconsin won’t keep Falcon fans on their couches giving Bowling Green another slap on the wrist from the NCAA.