San Diego State plays their home games off campus in Qualcomm Stadium. The venue is shared with the San Diego Chargers (now defunct) and although off campus stadiums are typically less than desirable, Aztec fans make the best of it. Their passion and love for their team is evident on gamedays. The lots fill with cheer outside this concrete giant of a stadium as the players arrive on their traditional Warrior Walk through fans and into the arena.
A week ago, Utah State relied on a whopping 8 Boise State turnovers to upset the Broncos. This week, the Aggies were feeling generous with four turnovers gifted to San Diego State – a classic give and take relationship.
Hawaii’s visit to Madison inspired plastic luau-themed paraphernalia all over campus – palm trees, flowery leis, grass skirts – it’s as close as Wisconsin gets to that level of paradise. During the pregame band festivities, even legendary Badger band leader, Mike Leckrone got into the spirit by making his signature entrance on a surf board.
Perfect timing – Arizona State really needed New Mexico. The Sun Devils have had a sluggish start to their season, and for the past few years, finding the Lobos on your schedule usually signals an opportunity to find success and improve morale.
Some of the best college towns are those that venture off from well-traveled roads. Taking I-15 north from Salt Lake City, urban morphs to quaint. The snow capped mountains guide you along the east, while to the west, the Great Salt Lake lies still, reflecting the skies above. To reach Logan, Utah, skew west from I-15 and head 25 miles toward the mountain ranges where the campus of Utah State welcomes with mountainous vistas and beautiful architecture. Old Main Hill is the epicenter of USU – the Old Main Building stands at the summit, shining its brilliant Aggie “A” in all four directions. It glows blue on special campus events or for significant Aggie victories.
Friday nights make for an energetic college football atmosphere – especially in remote college towns like Logan, Utah, where team spirit is the life blood. Romney Stadium (now Maverik Stadium), although smaller in stature, can create noise that echoes throughout the Cache Valley, and with tonight being senior night, many Aggie partisans braved the frigid temperatures to celebrate the final home game of what has already been a successful season. San Jose State became the sacrificial lamb on a day that belonged to Big Blue. Our day began with a slow drive up I-15, taking in the snowy mountain vistas and stopping by Willard Bay State Park to catch a glimpse of The Great Salt Lake. Driving into campus offered a gluttony of mountain views and beautiful architecture. We took our time on Old Main Hill where the tall and proud Old Main Building looks down like a guardian upon the USU campus. The views atop this hill satisfied the craving for entertainment.
A drive from San Francisco to Fresno will quickly remind you of how much remoteness California has to offer – you might glance at the gas tank gauge a little more often than normal just to be sure. Upon approaching the San Joaquin Valley and Fresno area, a sigh of relief might just envelop you as campus life and gameday action are just a couple of dirt clouds away. Fresno is relatively spread out and the campus area is in the middle of it all. Once on Bulldog Lane, all the expected pregame rituals begin to take shape. Bulldog Stadium itself is a bit difficult to see from the certain directions as it rests on a sports complex between other sporting and training facilities. Its unique crane-like lighting structures are quite visible, however, and point down on a place that has seen a lot of excellent football in recent years. Tailgating commences on all corners of the sports grounds, while the band and mascot weaves its way through playing the fight song and high fiving passersby.
Despite a couple hiccups, Fresno State fans have had much to cheer for in recent years and have come to expect victory at Bulldog Stadium – especially against teams that can’t run, pass, defend the run, defend the pass, kick, block, punt, or return kicks – namely Hawai’i. The Bulldogs were a lock to win as soon as they took the field coming out of a big inflatable likeness of their mascot. Fresno State fans comfortably settled themselves in ready to witness the carnage that would force Hawaii fans to question whether or not the frequent flyer miles are worth it.
Panic is defined by Wikipedia as “a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation.” Coming off back to back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances, Wisconsin had little reason to panic. However, the Badgers started this season with a frightening near loss to FCS foe Northern Iowa, which Coach Bielema referred to as a lesson learned without the consequence of a loss. The lesson was not learned as the offense limped through a 10-7 upset loss to Oregon State the following week, dropping Wisconsin from the rankings. Last year’s offense could have scored on many NFL defenses, and this year, the endzone is as frequently visited as Mars. Perhaps reason and logical thinking were compromised as Bielema fired the offensive line coach in hopes to right the ship quickly. Utah State would be the first test.
Michigan State should get a lot of credit for scheduling Boise State, a well known giant killer, in the opening game of the year. The Broncos are without much of the talent that took them to such great heights over the past few years, but are known to still never be taken lightly. A packed Spartan Stadium filled with green and white except for a couple bright orange corners that vibrantly represented the visitors from Idaho.
Many of the Michigan State fans entering the stadium commented in awe about the new scoreboard that towered over the south end zone. “That scoreboard is ridiculous!” mentioned a loud and proud MSU follower seated next to me. Additional LED replay boards and ribbon boards were added on the north end, which flickered light in such a way that almost resembled lightning during this night game. The 10 million dollar project appeared worth the cost as the boards illuminated the action and enhanced the already phenomenal gameday experience at MSU.
As the Spartan Marching band concluded it’s pregame set, members from all major university sports formed a tunnel (including basketball’s Tom Izzo and crew) to welcome the football team. After two years of near Rose Bowl misses, this year’s fan base is anticipating a more promising finish to the season. The deafening hollers as the Spartans came out of the tunnel suggested readiness for greatness. The PA announcer followed with a report that it was “84 degrees and a…” (to which the crowd responded in unison) “…BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR FOOTBALL!” It was a hot night particularly squashed into a stadium eagerly awaiting this highly anticipated matchup.
The Spartans got off to a hot start relying on Le’Veon Bell to grind on the defense for an early TD. Boise State has made a living by knocking off highly ranked Oregon, Virginia Tech, and Georgia in 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively. It looked like MSU would be the fourth victim when in the second quarter, the Broncos returned an interception for a crowd hushing TD. In fact, after carrying a three point lead into the fourth, they looked to be poised for another opening weekend upset. Then, Michigan State answered the bell. Le’Veon Bell scored a late go ahead TD, and Boise ran out of gas as the Spartan D put a period on this contest. A collective “WHEW!” blew out of the stadium. Once everyone caught their breath, “GO GREEN! GO WHITE!” reverberated through the hot August night. Without Kirk Cousins, their QB star from year’s past, the Spartans know they have some work ahead. But, in the meantime, they know for whom the “bell” tolls. And if the high price-tag of those scoreboards were ever a question, they just got a lot prettier with a 17-13 final beaming down on the smiling fans.