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.
Last year’s San Diego State coach is this year’s Michigan coach. Finding each other on the schedule made for a potentially awkward situation. It’s like bumping into your recent ex-significant other with a new one on your arm. Aztec players would not have any time to have hard feelings with chasing Michigan QB Denard Robinson all over the place.
On a night hot enough to make a jalapeno sweat, Badger fans didn’t have to sweat through a nailbiter. Camp Randall Stadium was the scene for a rare Thursday night contest to open the 2011 season. Although fans were anxious to see the defending Big Ten co champion Badgers, all eyes were on senior transfer quarterback, Russell Wilson. A legend had hit Madison and he hadn’t even taken a snap yet.
Finish. That was the theme of the matchup between San Jose State and Wisconsin. There were signs of this all over Madison. The band finished its tribute to the fallen and heroes of 9/11 with power and pageantry. The cloudy skies and rainy weather finished around halftime of the game. Even the fans seemed to finish every gameday brat served on this football Saturday. The Badger football team, however, failed to get the message.
Fresno State should have no concerns entering this big matchup. The Bulldogs have been to enough high-intensity college football stadiums to start their own college football tour. Camp Randall Stadium? They are not anxious about this stadium that is considered to be one of the most daunting in the country.
Security in Athens, Ohio today seemed to be as penetrable as prosciutto. In anticipation of the contest between Wyoming and Ohio, we executed our usual pregame walk around the stadium. Upon realizing that we had arrived on the side opposite of our seat assignment, I asked an usher if we could reach the other side of the stadium by going around the back way. With a blank look on her face, she pointed toward a rather desolate fenced in alleyway and replied, “I’m not sure, give it a try!” Confused, we followed her instruction, and as we passed the back doors to a concession stand, we realized that we had been led into the security/service entrance. Shortly after, we stumbled upon the entrance to the Wyoming locker room. Additionally, we were already inside the stadium and no one had taken our ticket! To make matters even more unexpected, Wyoming head coach, Joe Glenn, appeared from around the corner, came up to me, and asked, “Do you know which way is east?” Poor guy didn’t realize that he just asked directions from the most directionally challenged person on the planet. Mildly stunned from these events, I stuttered, “I’m not sure, but can I get a picture with you?”…
Camp Randall Stadium has been the epicenter of my tour schedule for seventy-four games. However, with all my visits, this past Saturday would be my first time taking in the action from the upper deck.
To my pleasant surprise, my one-hundredth game turned out to be a blast. Never would I have imagined this milestone to take place on a Friday night in Fort Collins, Colorado. However, I learned a bit more about the intensity of small town rivalries. The trail blazed from Laramie down I-80 and I-25 is just close enough to spawn a deep loathing between these two opponents. They play for the coveted Bronze Boot and whether you are wearing a cowboy hat or ram horns, the trophy means intense bragging rights and often a bowl placement.
In a place where the dorms are the most densely populated area of the entire state, Wyoming football would hardly seem like much of an attraction. However, the Cowboys are all that the state has in the way of sports. The most interesting fact about War Memorial Stadium is that it has the highest altitude of any Division I-A football field at 7,220 feet. Driving from Denver to Laramie is a bit of an adventure. Civilization begins to get diluted in the wide-open ranges and mountain peaks. Soon, the mountains are gone and all that remains are rock formations and open spaces. You have reached Wyoming. With the mountains gone, it is natural to think that you have descended. However, the roads rise to meet the mountains and it is evidenced by the ear popping that occurs along I-25. It is wide-open, sparse land that suddenly opens up to a cute college community. The stadium is a beautiful venue lined with pine trees and horizon lines meeting the blue sky. Gameday in Laramie can be a pretty big deal since choices on what to do in Wyoming are quite limited. Football season is counted down on many Cowboy calendars across the state.
Now nearing my one-hundredth game, I begin to reflect on all the places I have been. Many would assume that the Rose Bowl or Notre Dame Stadium would be my proudest accomplishment. However, after attending War Memorial Stadium, this venue surged to the top of the list. Clearly, Laramie, Wyoming can only dream of being in the same league as Pasadena or South Bend, but there exists a valid reasoning for my choice. As I sat inside War Memorial on a perfect October afternoon, I realized that my fervor for college football had reached a higher ground – and I mean that figuratively and literally as Wyoming’s home rests at the highest elevation of any football stadium in America (7,220 ft.).