Every football Saturday at Navy is like the greatest 4th of July parade you have ever attended…at least during pregame anyway. Led by bagpipes and followed by the cheer squad, the Navy football team receives a warm welcome as they arrive to the stadium two hours prior to kickoff. Donning their all white uniforms, you are automatically struck with the reminder that Navy, like Air Force and Army, are unlike any other teams in sports. Their devotion to team and school goes well beyond the football field and community. The battles these players face on the gridiron are symbolic of the service and dedication they give to our country.
The stifling heat and humidity followed us from Wisconsin as we arrived in Annapolis for Navy’s sold out home opener against Delaware. At quick glance, the uniforms would suggest that you were watching Michigan at Notre Dame. But, alas, it was the Midshipmen and the Blue Hens…perhaps not a marquis matchup, but certainly not short in action.
Houston did have a problem. But, they fixed it. Not long ago, the Astrodome housed Cougar games. Moving college football games from campus and into downtown professional stadiums puts an antiseptic on the energy and culture that drives the spirit of the game. With some renovations and updates, the University of Houston resuscitated old Robertson Stadium and brought the Cougars and their fans back to campus. It seats around 35,000, which is considerably smaller than most FBS stadiums. But, that does not equate to lack of noise and excitement.
UPDATE: In 2014, Houston opened TDECU Stadium – CFT WILL RETURN!
The stands did not reflect the near sell-out crowd recorded in the box score after the Cougars’ victory over the Green Wave. Perhaps it was the lack of QB Case Keenum that kept fans away. Houston’s electrifying quarterback was set to break the all-time passing yard record this season when UCLA took out his ACL last week. The lower fan numbers could also be due to the loss of Houston’s backup QB due to a broken collarbone. Although both these factors can drain the energy out of a fan base, so can mid 90 degree temperatures and a sun that just could not find a cloud to hide behind. Usually, Cougar games take place at night, but this time, the television schedule would not allow for a sun strokeless event. Rather, Houston fans were forced to fry as they watched the third string quarterback, Terrance Broadway, take charge of the offense.
Temple is worse than a doormat. They are the dirt kicked off onto it. Need a confidence builder? Invite Temple to your stadium. Guaranteed to make your offense sharper and your defense tighter. Wisconsin’s offense already lathered up the week before with a shootout victory over Bowling Green. It wouldn’t be long before the 80,000 plus compacted into Camp Randall knew to relax and kick back. Quarterback John Stocco and tailback Brian Calhoun were relieved of their duties in the first half. Wisconsin hunted the Owls all afternoon and knocked out a 51-0 halftime lead causing everyone to wonder if this was Temple University or Temple High School.
Last year, the Bearcats pulled the rug out from underneath the Badgers leaving them dizzy and confused on the Cincinnati astroturf. Wisconsin fell victim to the largest upset of the year and even though they recovered to win their second consecutive Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship, the aftertaste of the defeat lingered.
Wisconsin had some deep wounds in their playing style. An inept offense was being covered by a band-aid of special teams, defense, and a heavy reliance on their Heisman trophy candidate, Ron Dayne. For Wisconsin’s last two opponents, the band-aid was strong enough to hold. However, the Cincinnati Bearcats not only located the protective covering, they clawed it off and dug deeper into the wound.
Two games into the season and the Badgers were in desperate need of a win. The punishing loss to Colorado to open the season was nothing short of a shock. Following that infamous evening was a trip to the Bay Area to play Stanford, which resulted in a 24-24 tie. So, Madison is the site for a game that the Badgers were expected to win. The Mustangs came in at 1-2.
Many factors contributed to the dreariness of this game. Being a mid-November game was the first contributor. The day was dark, cold, and almost eerie. It was the quietest group of 77,000 that I have ever heard. Cheering was at a minimum. The game started early to mid afternoon and finished in the darkness.