A precipitous forecast became a much drier reality for the Badger Boiler battle in Madison. Ponchos were still the fashion, however, as the clouds released wetness on our walk to and from the stadium (nothing a beer and brat couldn’t distract from). From kickoff to final gun, we were spared rainfall. So much attention was given to the weather channel, that many fans forgot about Purdue’s resurgence, but were reminded during this gray day in Camp Randall.
A cup of coffee and an el train ride separate Chicago’s northside from Evanston, Illinois where the venerable Ryan Field awaits its fans in purple. Fitting that the el train that takes passengers up to Northwestern University is the purple line. Filled with Wildcat fans and a few despondent Purdue fans, the el carried patrons ready for an early kickoff on a unseasonably warm November day.
Mix together typical American homes with welcoming folks, well-appointed lawns, tree lined streets, a dash of cornfield and a sprinkle of charm and you have West Lafayette, Indiana. Ross-Ade Stadium lies in this town as a landmark at Purdue. It falls in line beautifully with the red-bricked architecture that is contagious throughout campus. Visitors get a sense of West Lafayette’s midwestern appeal as soon as they begin their search for parking because many of the locals happily open their lawns to cars from out-of-town areas.
Supporting Purdue football has been a frustrating endeavor. Fan interest is waning, optimism is fleeting, and the stadium is becoming bereft of spirit – there just isn’t enough coal in the boiler.
Which team can bounce back from their let downs suffered the week prior? The Boilermakers left it all on the field in a close loss to in state rival, Notre Dame. The Badgers were stripped of a chance to kick a game winning field goal at Arizona State due to an aggredious clock management error by the referees. Two teams, needing to move on, charged out into Camp Randall Stadium.
Purdue or Purdont? Well, it’s quite simple. The Boilers Pur”did” in the first half and Pur”didn’t” in the second. The Badgers came into West Lafayette carrying all the pressure. With Wisconsin ranked 9th nationally and still holding a great hand to collect the Rose Bowl bid, the nerves may have caused this team to come out flat in the first half.
It has been ten years since I last visited Iowa City and despite the frozen temperatures, I was reminded of how fantastic the atmosphere is at Kinnick Stadium. One week after the Hawkeyes’ enormous victory over #3 Penn State, the aftershock still shook the area. It certainly was the hot topic of conversation. At Purdue, the hot topic is coach Joe Tiller’s departure. The Boilermakers aren’t going to a bowl this year, but they sure played like a bowl team…
The t-shirts worn by the Notre Dame student section this year read, “Notre Dame will rise again.” That’s a bold statement considering the tumultuous season the Irish experienced last year. However, a couple of early season wins this year, including one over rival Michigan, has allowed hope to trickle back into South Bend. Will the Boilermakers hammer a dent in the railroad that leads to Notre Dame’s anticipated ascension to greatness? The classic college football setting in South Bend coupled with a perfect autumn Saturday afternoon served as the backdrop for this exciting battle…
The Boilers were out in full force this weekend. Duck fans from Oregon made a nice percentage of the day’s attendance. They came blowing their duck kazoo noisemakers and wearing shirts like, “Hooked on Quack.” The sounds of “Boiler Up” hovered in the air drowning out the kazoos. This was setting up to be an outstanding collision between the Big 10 and Pac 10.
“Play 13” has been the motto of Indiana football all year. It came from their head coach, Terry Hoeppner, who died of complication from a brain tumor this past summer. The idea behind “Play 13” revolves around winning enough games to qualify for a bowl game, thus playing one more game than their regular 12 game schedule. In his two seasons at Indiana, Hoeppner had reinvigorated the football program demanding championship quality football and bringing a brand of excitement that usually is found only in college students. His enthusiasm had been infectious and after his passing, his players have been charging toward keeping his goals alive.