Monday, October 01, 2007

HSR Field Trip: A Day By The Lake

Tailgating on the lake

6:15 is a damn early Saturday wakeup call in any timezone, but I'd been the one pushing for a 7:00 departure from the O'Hare Holiday Inn, so it was all my fault. We made Evanston, figured out you can't park on the golf course, and found the on-campus lots by 8:00. Immediately after we parked, in came a U-Haul next to us. Three people in Michigan gear jumped out of the cab and rolled up the gate. 15 guys inside gave a cheer and jumped out the back. Awesome.

The Yostal approach to tailgating

We got ourselves set up quickly and looked around our lot. Nothing but Michigan fans as far as the eye could see. Blue sky, blue lake, yellow sun. The U-Haul people got out the grill, the boombox, and the traditional door for flipcup. Craig caught up on the sleep I'd deprived him of while the rest of us threw the football around [Craig: I want to make this very clear, that is sleep, not drunk. Sleep!].

Tailgate site/lighthouse

My brother and I are always apt to wander when tailgating. The Cardinal came with us as we tried to find a way down to the beach, but it's all fenced off. Lame. I was at least able to get this picture looking back toward our tailgate site. You can see the Grosse Point lighthouse sticking up on the right. If the spelling of "Grosse Point" looks wrong, it's because the "e" in "Pointe" had to be amputated after a particularly chilly February in 1917.

Ryan Field panorama

At 10:00 we packed up and then started walking to the stadium. The other three headed inside while I waited to give my sister her tickets. And waited. And waited. At the exact moment when I was about to snap, her cab pulled up. I pitched the tickets through the open window and ran to my gate. I took my seat as the NUMB was lining up for pregame.

NUMB Pregame

The first thing you notice is that Northwestern has a very small band. Its total undergrad enrollment is 7,826, so that makes sense, but 148 is still not a large number. They also have flutes, and a lot of them. Not just piccolos, but flutes, which are even harder to hear. The performance was pretty good, and both drum majors nailed the backbend, but then they interrupted it in the middle for five minutes of standing around doing nothing while waiting for the team to come out of the locker room, during which time the PA system – the PA system! – played "Thunderstruck" and "Welcome to the Jungle". And the team didn't exactly race down the hill either, it was more of a casual jog. Decidedly anti-climactic. The band played the anthem and then finished up their show with some other Northwesterly things before vacating the field.

The team takes the field

    Other game notes:
  • Read this immediately.
  • We had a prime view of Northwestern's first play of scrimmage and Brandon Harrison's galling failure to get Omar Conteh down. I kept waiting for the whistle after forward progress had been stopped, but it never came, just like any help. I think everyone thought he was down and nobody wanted to risk a 15-yard personal foul on the play.
  • The referees were just terrible. In the end, I think 4 plays were stopped for further review in the booth plus the one challenge from Lloyd. That's way too many, in addition to the crap late hit call (which was a direct result of the busted first play).
  • I want to see Brian's UFR for our defense. There was a point where Northwestern ran the same sweep to the left three times in a row for 10+ yards on each carry. Then there was the hideous breakdown where the Wildcats ran Omar Conte on TGDCounter-Draw for the long touchdown run. It seemed like it took forever for us to get real pressure to Bacher. He had a lot of time to hang around in the first half, and even in the second there were key plays where we gave him 6 seconds in the pocket without a guy in his face. Once we started to get to him, I think that's what forced those (oh so sugary sweet) interceptions.
  • Speaking of which, there is no joy like that of seeing a defensive lineman chugging down the sideline with a tipped ball in his hands. Godspeed, Tim Jamison, even if Mike DeBord ran his patented "zone left, zone left, throw out of bounds" offense immediately thereafter. Seriously, no man can take the air out of a stadium quite like DeBord. Zone left was the call after every turnover we recovered.
  • Do we have another right guard on scholarship available after Zirbel? I think the position might be cursed. I need an old priest and a young priest.
  • Never ever trust a kicker who went to Detroit Catholic Central. Especially a walk-on. How bad are our other kickers if they can't take that job? Every drive in the red zone is now 4-down territory.
  • The NUMB's halftime show? West Side Story. If EMU's band does it next week, Hollywood may have company, as all band directors will be officially out of ideas.
  • My brother and I were there for the '95 Northwestern game, and I was at Michigan Stadium for the '96 one. It looked pretty dark at halftime.
  • On the one hand, we played a brutal first half where we couldn't tackle a throw-pillow. On the other, it's a hell of a thing to be in a hostile environment different stadium and watch your team claw its way back to the tune of 21 unanswered points as Mike Hart passes Jamie Morris on the all-time list and Chad Henne sets the school record for career TDs. We were in Section 104, Row 20. In front of us were a dad and his two kids, behind us were a bunch of guys in their late 20's, and all of them were a ton of fun to be around. HIGH FIVES FOR EVERYONE.

I wanted to do the safety dance

We went to Indiana last year and Evanston was our road trip for this year. 2-0! Next year: Minnesota, probably. The Metrodome is a crap environment for college football, but I'd like to see a game there before that's not an option. Purdue is another possibility, especially since West Lafayette is a relatively quick drive for me.

The faces of victory.  I kind of look like a tool.

Other photos from gameday can be found here and here. And, hey, this is our 150th post and our 100th of 2007!

1 comment:

Wooderson said...

The U-Haul was officially part of the 4th Annual Rib Trunk Show, a festival of meat and UM Football.

Considering the Friday night before the game, I'm shocked most of the people in the back of the truck handled the drive from Lincoln Park.