October
31
2015

Game 240: Rutgers @ Wisconsin

RutgersWisconsin

For Wisconsin fans on Halloween, no amount of candy could possibly match the treat of runningback Corey Clement’s return to the field. He brings an entirely different element to the Badger offense – one that would serve more as a trick than a treat for Rutgers.

More than 74,000 visited Camp Randall Stadium today, but it was patchy amongst the bleachers. Halloween is an over-the-top event in Madison, and those festivities coupled with an annoyingly chilly rainfall colored the crowd with a more dispirited hue.

The loudest eruptions from Damp Randall Stadium came following Clement’s three touchdowns. With the overwhelming amount of injuries that Wisconsin has had to endure, this was a most welcome sight. This was Rutgers’s first visit to Madison since joining the Big Ten, and they simply were unable to handle the inCLEMENT nature of this day. Rutgers brought along a few band members and fans from New Jersey – although there was little for them to play or cheer about in the 48-10 loss.

The entire experience was pretty forgettable for the Scarlet Knights. Even Badger fans fled to the exits after the third quarter jump around. It’s not to say that Wisconsin fans are unappreciative of their team’s sudden offensive resurgence, but getting dry and prepping for State Street’s annually wild Freakfest became priority. Fact is, November looks to be a promising month for the Badgers, one where Wisconsinites shift football back into focus.

October
31
2015

WISCONSIN – CAMP RANDALL STADIUM

Iowa @ Wisconsin 2015

Often regarded as the Big Ten’s wildest and thrilling venue, Camp Randall Stadium never disappoints. Once a Civil War training site, this massive structure is crammed in a beautiful residential area among dorms, frat houses, campus buildings and bars. The Camp is the perfect college venue with views of the state capital and Madison’s surrounding lakes (Mendota and Menona). The walk up Breese Terrace right before kickoff is one of my favorites as herds of red and white walk in the shadows of Camp Randall’s upper deck. The frat houses along this side are spilling over with college kids and extracurricular activity. As this side heats up, the band is finishing their pre-game concert at Union South on the Randall Avenue side. From here, they march proudly into the stadium under the iconic Camp Randall arch while creating a path through awestruck fans.

Once inside the stadium, the band fires up the crowd with its powerful and continuous high-stepping march.  “On Wisconsin,” greatly known as one of college football’s most recognizable fight songs, fills the air with passion and pageantry.  You might be lucky enough to get your own private rendition of the Badger fight song during the third quarter when the band splits up and plays to lucky listeners around the stadium.

The fans in Madison are extremely unique. In particular, the student section adds flavor like no other. They provide the most timely, witty, bawdy and salacious chants of any student section I have been around. They are always adding lyrics to popular songs and entertaining the crowd. “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Sweet Caroline” reverberate through every slab of concrete when sung in mass unison.  Catch the wave as it rolls around the stadium in slow motion, fast motion, reverse motion, and even the splits.  Recently voted college football’s greatest tradition, the song, “Jump!” by House of Pain, is played between the third and fourth quarters causing the entire stadium to wildly jump, causing the upper deck and random cameras to shake. However, the most unique aspect of Camp Randall Stadium is the famous fifth quarter. Win or lose, the band comes out and plays tunes such as “Swingtown,” “Tequila,” “Time Warp”, and various other polkas while the fans dance and sing in the stands. Afterwards, the band is given a police escort down University Drive to close out game day. Follow them to spend a little time on State Street – a classic college drag, this street has it all from restaurants, bars, shops, and a stunning view of the state capitol.  Enjoy a little time on the Memorial Union terrace with a beer, brat, and view of picturesque Lake Mendota.  There is a reason why USA Today voted UW-Madison “the best college town in America.”  On a football Saturday, it becomes one of country’s most exciting towns that celebrates one of college football’s finest stadiums.

 

 

 

 

October
24
2015

Game 239: #3 Utah @ USC

Utah Southern California

In the past four weeks, the embattled USC program has suffered three crushing defeats and the dismissal of their head coach. So, why were they favored over #3 and undefeated Utah?

Talent.
Tradition.
The LA Coliseum.
USC always can boast these assets.

A sun-saturated October day in Los Angeles had Southern Cal fans flooding every square foot of tailgating real estate. The USC band and song girls “fought on” their way through campus, through the masses of maroon and gold, entertaining and building hype for this massive battle. Many Utah fans made the trip in hopes to witness their team’s first victory in the city of Los Angeles since 1916.

As the Coliseum filled and Tommy Trojan stabbed his sword into the field, you almost got the sense that Utah had already lost.
The Trojan swagger is often impenetrable.

But, the Utes kept their winning- streak momentum chugging in the first quarter. A 14-7 Utah lead kept USC fans hushed. But, a second quarter Trojan explosion highlighted by Cameron Smith’s 54-yard interception return for a touchdown restored the Coliseum to order. It would be one of Smith’s three interceptions on the afternoon.  The offense led by QB Cody Kessler and WR Juju Smith-Schuster kept the Trojans’ offensive weapons sharp long into the second half. USC would hand Utah its first loss of the season, while jumpstarting their own that appeared to be buried.

We started the game high up in the stands taking in both views downtown LA and the famed Hollywood sign all outlined by stunning mountainous terrain. We ended the game amongst an exuberant throng of crowd-rush-ready students.  The band blasted “Fight On!” as the USC song girls bounced to the beat, and as the clock hit zero on a huge victory for USC, a few students attempted to bolt for the field – only to be forcefully tackled by security. There was no need to flood the field –  as though these moments at USC were few and far between. Despite the recent slump, the Trojans have regularly defeated high profile teams, and it seems like it won’t be long before tonight’s headline becomes a theme.

October
24
2015

USC – THE LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM

Los Angeles Memorial ColiseumUSC really drives the tradition of west coast football. With their first squad fielded in 1888, Southern Cal is a team that sets a standard for others not only near the Pacific, but nationally. USC is one of those places that define tradition. An illustrious history includes coaching legends, Heisman Trophy winners, national championships, and classic rivalries (Notre Dame and UCLA most notably).

Their nationally recognized symbols of the sport also set the bar high with Tommy Trojan, Traveller, and the USC Song Girls. Tailgating sprawls into every nook and cranny on campus and the excitement flows into the cavernous LA Coliseum. It has been the site of many historic sporting events outside of USC – perhaps most notably, the 1984 Olympics. At the onset of the fourth quarter, the torch that was lit during the opening ceremonies is illuminated again, thus firing up an always enthusiastic crowd of 90,000.

This venue is also rich in stunning views including the iconic Hollywood sign and the Los Angeles skyline complete with mountainous backdrop. The Trojan Shrine is a famous collegiate landmark that symbolizes the pride of USC. In mascot form, one can see Tommy Trojan keeping time with the USC Marching band and uniting this devoted fan base. The crowd especially ignites when he drives his sword into the field prior to kickoff. Adding to the pageantry of it all is Traveler – a noble white horse ridden by the Trojan warrior – a tradition since 1961 and true college football treasure.

Adding to the spirit and tradition of game days at Southern Cal – the USC Song Girls. Fiercely talented and always resplendent, the USC song girls have been a tradition on the sidelines here since the 1960s. Primarily performing as a dance squad, they rehearse tirelessly and uphold a high standard of professionalism.  Outfitted in their trademark white, these girls are hard to miss and give USC football a little bit more of that California flair.  Couple this with “Fight On!” – one of the most recognizable fight songs in all of college sports. Combined with the poise and precision of the USC Marching Band, the entire experience of this fight song is hard to match.

A game day at the University of Southern California is one of those bucket list experiences largely because this place has so much to do with what makes college football so incredible. Once here, it doesn’t take long to find out what keeps the spirit of USC keeps fighting on.

October
23
2015

Game 238: Utah State @ San Diego State

Utah StateSan Diego State

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.

All eyes in Qualcomm Stadium watched SDSU running back, Donnell Pumphrey, as he stole the offensive spotlight with 181 yards. Really, though, the entire offense steamrolled Utah State with six scores on their first six drives. The Aggies just couldn’t recover and the Aztecs finished with a 48-14 victory. After a slow start to the season, San Diego State is now waking up and in the driver’s seat to win the Mountain West.

It’s evident that fans are beginning to feel the excitement coming together to create a lively atmosphere at Qualcomm Stadium. Friday night games can be a bit tricky, but throngs of red and black crowded the lots outside this concrete bohemoth to see their team make their arrival to the stadium. Near to Qualcomm Stadium, the Aztec Village was the hoppin’ spot.  An almost carnival-like setting gave patrons food, drink, music, and even rides for the kiddos.  The Aztec band made their appearance and rocked out the fight song, while the Aztec Warrior energized the crowd with a simple raise of his arms.  Passion runs high for Aztec athletics and Friday night was no exception. At this point, San Diego State is the team to beat and excitement for a fantastic finish is palpable.

October
23
2015

SAN DIEGO STATE – QUALCOMM STADIUM

Qualcomm StadiumSan Diego State plays their home games off campus in Qualcomm Stadium. The venue is shared with the San Diego Chargers 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.

The energy continues at Aztec Village, where fellow SDSU supporters meet for food, games, and music. The band makes their appearance filling the air with fight song fever and leading the way for fans toward the stadium. Night games are part of a great tradition here, which when combined with their all-black home uniforms only heighten San Diego State’s intimidation factor.

There is a lot of pride for this team in San Diego. Nothing showcases this more than their mascot. The Aztec nickname has been associated with San Diego State since the 1920s. An update to the Aztec Warrior mascot in 2004 has caused some controversy as some continue to view him as a disrespectful representation of native cultures. Many view the him as a proud symbol that unifies this community of fans together. Either way you look at it, the Aztec Warrior is a powerful symbol of the spirit and history at San Diego State.

A strong tradition and history color the passion for San Diego State. Those that follow Aztec athletics are devoted and their passion will continue to make SDSU an force in the college football landscape.

October
22
2015

Game 237: #20 California @ UCLA

CaliforniaUCLA
A Rose Bowl black out set the stage for the Bruins, who were in must-win mode. A season filled with playoff aspirations has taken a few punches to the jaw. A win over the ranked Cal Bears would bring a little more postseason attention in UCLA’s direction.

Thursday nights can be a tough draw. UCLA’s classic powder blue and gold uniforms were traded out for a slick black look – a bit of a gimmick to draw attention to a non-Saturday game. It took a little while for the crowd to arrive, but approximately 60,000 filled the Rose Bowl to cheer on their stumbling team. The parking lots surrounding this historic venue filled with tailgaters anxiously awaiting a positive response from their Bruins. The UCLA marching band marched in, proudly playing “Mighty Bruins” and fans followed in to get set for kickoff.

A thundering flyover sent waves through the San Gabriel Mountains and as the first half progressed, UCLA kept unleashing the noise on Cal. Freshman QB Josh Rosen (fondly called “the Rosen one”) completed a school-record 34 passes to dominate Cal and prevent the season from completely caving in. The largest crowd eruption came from a first half ending 60-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn – it felt like UCLA could do no wrong.  It was a night filled with “U-C-L-A Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Cal brought their band and a substantial throng of fans from Berkeley. Perhaps the Cal band didn’t get to play the fight song as often as they may have liked, but the halftime performance showcased both bands in a most-memorable history lesson. UCLA and Cal joined forces to reenact the Trojan War complete with costumes, choreography, and a giant Trojan Horse. Fans who typically bolt for restrooms and concessions stayed put to witness this incredible spectacle.

UCLA would go on to win the Berkeley-Westwood Battle of 2015. However, there’s still work to do toward winning the Pac-12 War.

October
22
2015

UCLA – THE ROSE BOWL

IMG_5839The Rose Bowl is known as the “granddaddy of them all” because of its prestige, rich history, and striking beauty. Set amongst the San Gabriel Mountains and placed in the ritzy neighborhoods of the Arroyo Seco, the setting is timeless and leaves a lasting impression. Arguably college football’s most picturesque view occurs as the sunset illuminates the mountains adjacent to the Rose Bowl, while outlining this colorfully grand arena.  It’s one of perfection’s rare visits.

You want history? The Rose Bowl rivals Notre Dame with its rich traditions and illustrious past. Built in 1922, this stadium hosts the annual Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day. Some of college football’s most memorable moments occurred on this stage – national championship battles, storied programs, Heisman trophy winners and legendary coaches have all graced the pristine green grass of the Rose Bowl.

UCLA has made the Rose Bowl its home since 1982. The campus is in Westwood, and it’s a little bit of a hike to Pasadena, but well worth it. Tailgating explodes around the Rose Bowl as cheer squads with Joe and Josie Bruin make their rounds. Players enter at the iconic Rose Bowl sign through Bruin fanatics, while the band spiritedly jams “Mighty Bruins” and “Sons of Westwood.” The battle cry “U-C-L-A Fight! Fight! Fight!” unites the crowd and is repeated often throughout the course of the game.

The tradition of UCLA football runs deep making The Rose Bowl an appropriate home. Some of my fondest memories lie in southern California at this magnificent venue. As a Wisconsin alum, I have cheered on the Badgers in the 1994, 2000, and 2011 Rose Bowl games. The memories made here simply don’t fade. UCLA’s home games only add to The Rose Bowl’s majestic nature.

October
17
2015

Game 236: #3 TCU @ Iowa State

TCUIowa State
No matter how much a team is struggling, it’s tremendous to see how much a visit from a top 5 team can ignite fan support. Jack Trice Stadium’s surroundings filled with anticipation for what Cyclone fans would hope could be an upset. Of course, history wasn’t exactly on its side as Iowa State’s record against top 5 teams rests at 1-54-2. Nevertheless, the chance is enough to generate optimism.

Typically, match ups that garner such interest are ideal for visits from potential recruits. We spotted a tour in session for potential future Cyclones that was shuffling toward an entrance that led to the tunnel where Iowa State players pour out onto the field. With feeble security on hand, we hooked onto the end of the line and played like we were sought-after high school players, which was a tough stunt to pull in my human-windsock of a frame. But, no one seemed to mind as we walked through the tunnel onto the field and into the athletic complex, snapping pictures like wide eyed tourists. It’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to playing college football.

We returned to our rightful place among the fans and caught the team walk, pregame band performance, and a photo opportunity with Cy the Cyclone.  Excitement built as kickoff loomed and piercing sirens signaled a “cyclone warning” throughout the stadium prepping fans for the biggest home game of the season.

A defensive-optional first quarter kept concession and restroom lines to a minimum as all eyes zoomed in on an offensive frenzy. Five seconds into the second quarter, and the score read 21-21.  Unlike recent Horned Frog efforts, TCU would be able to clamp down early on this power surge from the Cyclones. QB Trevone Boykin lit up the second half while Iowa State fizzled out. In fact, the Cyclones wouldn’t score again losing 45-21.

Despite another notch in the loss column against top five foes, Iowa State played valiantly and their fans supported loyally, which is part of what makes a football game in Ames so special. There’s a lot of devotion here, and it’s bound to translate into more memorable finishes in the near future.

October
17
2015

IOWA STATE – JACK TRICE STADIUM

Jack Trice Stadium

Central Iowa is home to the beautiful state capitol, fields of corn, and Iowa State University. The surroundings along the twenty mile drive north of Des Moines offer little suggestion that college campus life lies just ahead. When cutting off toward Iowa State, it isn’t long before a stadium jumps into view. The campus is a few football tosses away. Lincoln Way is the main drag with the Campus Bookstore and several quaint hangouts. On gameday, parking lots are full and tailgating is in full force right from the highway exit. The party starts early as a flurry of activity permeates the perimeter of Jack Trice Stadium from first class tailgating to the team walk that attracts fans, the band, and Cy the Cyclone mascot.  The band scurries over to the Alumni Center to perform their Step Show – the fight song, chants, and cheerleaders continue the festivities as fans anticipate kickoff.

Jack Trice Stadium features an impressive double-deck structure with two corners open for fans to lay out blankets and soak in the action. The Cyclone band spells out “ISU” and “CYCLONES” as the fans scream “Cyclone – Power!” sending waves of intimidation to the opposing sideline.  Sirens signal a “cyclone warning” that pierces the air after each touchdown, and red and gold blaze boldly from the stands.

The name of the stadium holds a deep history.  Jack Trice was an African-American football player at a time when it was not universally accepted.  Iowa State welcomed him, but in 1923, on a road trip to Minnesota, he was forced to stay in a separate hotel due to his color.  In that Minneapolis hotel, he wrote a letter to himself vowing to play his best for the honor of his race, family, and himself.  He gave his all on the field, and he would sustain injuries during the game that would eventually cost him his life.  Years later, this story resurfaced, and in the 1970s, there was a push to have the stadium named after him.  Finally, in 1997, Iowa State officially named their football stadium after Jack Trice.  It’s a tremendous story of sacrifice and courage, and for this, he is a hero and honored here at Iowa State.

Similar to Jack Trice, the fans here are loyal, proud, and love their Cyclones.  Although not a national power, Iowa State holds an atmosphere that adds color, passion, and pageantry to the college football landscape.