The entire state of Michigan focused their attention on the Michigan Wolverines and their response to the earth-shattering upset they endured a week earlier to the Appalachian State Mountaineers. If only the folks in Ypsilanti could care that much about their football team. Eastern Michigan University is only ten minutes from the University of Michigan, but they couldn’t be further apart in fan support and devotion. Attendance numbers for their home opener at Rynearson Stadium did not even surpass the 6,000 mark. The scene looked more like a spring game than a home opener. The highlight of the afternoon probably came at halftime when the 1987 California Bowl champion, Eastern Michigan Hurons, were honored on the field. Twenty years since Eastern’s last bowl game and the empty seats in the stands provided solid proof. As the game continued, it became clear that their streak of bowl absences would continue.
Although the experience at Scheumann Stadium doesn’t compare to the Big Ten, the interest of Ball State athletics still shines through the hardy visitors that come to view their Cardinal football team. Large banners reading, “Go Ball State” and “Welcome to the Red Zone” greet fans arriving into Muncie. The Ball State band named, “The Pride of Mid America,” plays the fight song as they march outside the stadium just prior to kickoff. They are arguably the most positive aspect of the Ball State experience as they play and sing their school songs proudly. Following the band is the Cardinal mascot scooting by on a golf cart and snapping photos with fans. During the game, he mingles with fans in the stands and plays a large part of the atmosphere.
Ball State University might want to replace their maintenance staff with NIU tailback Garrett Wolfe as he covered more ground and clipped more blades of grass with his shoes than John Deere could with a fleet of mowers. On an evening where nearly every type of imaginable weather came over Sheumann Stadium, nothing could stop the nation’s leading rusher.
After devouring Murray State last week, the Badgers were clearly ready for seconds as Ball State wandered into Madison. With Wisconsin’s flimsy non-conference schedule, many hoped tailback Ron Dayne would continue to accumulate yards toward the nation’s rushing record. However, the Badgers were forced to rely more on special teams and defense in the first half due to an offense that appeared to be in a haze.