A warm late November day graced the town of Troy, Alabama as fans gathered for the Trojans’ final game of the season. The open space outside Veterans Memorial Stadium swelled with folks anxiously awaiting their team’s arrival to the stadium. Troy’s marching band, The Sound of the South, formed a lane for the team to be welcomed in style. T-ROY, the Trojan mascot, along with a host of cheerleaders greeted legendary coach, Larry Blankney, off the bus and led the team through the band and the fans stretching on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse. The band stayed and entertained a while longer after the team entered their locker room and game day had officially kicked off.
1962. Gas was 31 cents a gallon. Kennedy was president. The Beatles released their first single. And Northwestern went 4-0. Unfortunately for the Wildcat program, that was the last time they had experienced that record…until today. A nice crowd (for Northwestern standards) showed up on a perfectly beautiful day to witness their Wildcats sweep their non-conference slate and reach 4-0 for the first time in 46 years.
Here we have two programs who have experienced recent success, yet are suffering from seasons packed with disappointment. Ohio comes into Toledo having not left the Glass Bowl with a victory since 1967. However, coming off a conference championship game appearance last year, the Bobcats feel that this would be the moment to end the 40 year streak. Toledo has experienced many conference crowns lately, but both the Bobcats and Rockets are facing losing seasons as the halfway mark of the 2007 college football season passes. Tonight would be an opportunity for both teams to regain confidence and possibly avoid a losing campaign. The game would prove to be much more exciting than most may have anticipated.
Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio is another hidden gem of college football that few people know about. Only an hour south of Columbus, Athens appears as a cute brick laden college community, but only after the highway dwindles from three lanes, to two, and down to one. The campus is visible from the highway and as soon as the exit for Ohio U is reached, the stadium appears in the near distance. Tents lined up across the street and adjacent to the Hocking River host tailgaters that sprinkle the lawns with enthusiasm. Just a short drive from the stadium is Court Street – an all brick road brimming with fans weaving in and out of shops and filling up on novelties and gear for gameday. Ohio is known for its party-school status and traces of this were evident along Court Street.
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?”…
Home openers in Madison are a blast…especially when your team is already 1-0 and well oiled. The Badgers had just defeated San Diego State a week earlier out in California. It was a typical 80-degree and humid September day in Wisconsin and the stadium was crammed with many shirtless cheeseheads.