Monday, October 24, 2011

A Minnesota Football Weekend: That is why we are STOB...

Two games in Minnesota and only one bright spot.

What a weekend!  Two of the biggest football games of the year for both the Vikings and Gophers.  The Cornhuskers of Nebraska were in town for their first visit to TCF Bank Stadium.  Probably the most anticipated home game, or game at all for Gopher football this year.  Then for the Vikings, there was the reigning champs coming to town in the Green Bay Packers.  I was lucky enough to attend both games this weekend, Gophers in the press box and Vikings as a fan.  Here is what I took in and why we in Minnesota have so many Sports Tears in our Beers.

Saturday morning, 60 degrees, sunny, a gorgeous fall day in Minnesota.  The scene couldn't be better for the first visit for the Nebraska Cornhuskers to TCF Bank Stadium and the first as a member of the Big 10.  Walking into TCF Bank Stadium you definitely could've been fooled into believing that you were in Lincoln with the sea of red.  They were everywhere, Huskers fans had taken hold of the near by bar patios, drowned out the maroon and gold in the tailgate areas.  Once inside you weren't shocked to see almost all the early fan arrivals were Husker fans as well.

It shouldn't come as a surprise I suppose, the Gophers are a struggling program, so deep in rebuilding mode that even a brand new stadium with a beatiful venue inside and out on Homecoming, along with perfect weather and a storied successful program couldn't pull reluctant Gopher fan's out of their holes or atleast keep them from taking the eager Husker fan's money for seats.  It's understandable that some Gopher fan's would give up their seat to the Nebraska fans but to shift the home game feel to an away game?  That is tougher to swallow. 

Was there hope for the Gophers?  Coming off of two horrible losses, one at the Big House in Michigan 58-0 and another to a program that was thought to be struggling as well in Purdue, 47-17.  You wouldn't think so.  But then again the Gophers did step up in their first game and give another storied program in USC a fight at USC.  So maybe, just maybe they could step their game up enough to give Big Red a scare at home.

3:27 left in the 1st...10-0 Nebraska after two huge calls keep two scoring drives alive.  Not looking good.

"It's like this building is cursed." Was a quote I overheard in the press box. 

Really?  Already?  Not even fully through it's fourth game of it's third season The Bank is already cursed?  Maybe we can't blame the stadium...maybe it's just the program.  What shall we name the curse?  The Cubs have their billygoat and Bartman.  What the heck do we have?  Curse of the Insight Bowl?  The more I watch the Gopher offense the more I think we have the curse of Marquis Gray playing QB....that was mean...sorry.

End of first quarter.....Gophs are what else but punting...down that a win for them?

Even the in game promotional crowd shots are being taken over by Husker fans.  I need something to make me less embarrassed to even be from this state...I didn't attend the U of M, heck I wouldn't even call myself a fan...but I am embarrassed.

82 yard touchdown run on a reverse by Nebraska makes it 17-0....that wasn't what a I needed.  The entire play speaks to what is wrong with Gopher football.  Reverses rarely work that well in D-1 football, oh sure they may get you a first down or some yards...but three to four Gophers have a chance to get the angle on the WR and none did.  The roar of the Nebraska crowd as the WR sprints past hapeless DB attempts to bring him down and runs straight into the end zone in front of the less and less enthusiastic homecoming student section makes me laugh.

Another Gopher punt....another 50+ yard play from the Huskers to get 1st and goal...goal line stand?  Wholly crap!  Yes...a goal line stand!  That is a glimmer, atleast the Gophers haven't yet lost their will, maybe they will in the 3rd quarter but with 10 minutes to play in the 2nd quarter they haven't.  Talk about reaching for a glimmer of hope. 

20-0 Huskers, 9:49 to play in the 2nd quarter.

Highlight of the classic stadium big screen "Kiss Cam", a Nebraska fan sitting next to a lady gets on the screen, the crowd cheers and urges him to lay a sloppy one on her.  Instead, he gives a look of disgust at the thought of it and shakes his head.  Very funny.

Derrick is scarfing down a peanut buster bar next to me in the press box.  No beer in the press box.  Heck, no beer in TCF Bank stadium period.  So you drown your sorrows in ice cream, like some type of Cathy cartoon or something.

AAAACK!!!!  Fumble by Marquis Gray leads to....another Nebraska touchdown as they picked it up for an 11 yard touchdown.

Describe 2011/2012 Gopher Football in one word, "AAAAACK!" that a word?  No, but it is a good descriptor for what I watched.

Gophers have crossed mid-field....DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

No No I don't....Gray fumbles again on a 4-1 attempt from around the 20 yard line....Nebraska ball....I am getting a Dilly Bar.

Adding to the excitement of this Dilly Bar as the Huskers drive down the field again, forcing the Gophers to use their final first half time out with 3 minutes left, was the 2011 Indoor Track and Field National Champion Gopher team coming on the feild to be ackowledged. 

Inspired by the track team, the Gophers give up another touchdown making it 34-0.

The Gophers go on to score 14 as Nebraska put in their scrubs and finish the game with a win 41-14.  Honestly Derrick and I could've left prior to the game, the best part of us being there was when we were on the field prior to the game watching warm ups and we interviewed ( 30 seconds brief) DE Jared Allen who was there chit chatting with an old teammate that is on Nebraska's coaching staff.  Jared was a great guy and we'll have the audio of that lil chit chat up on STOB later this week.
Speaking of Jared Allen, I was making my first appearance at a Minnesota Vikings game since I was 11 or so.  It was quite a game to attend.  Not only was the biggest rival Green Bay in town but rookie QB Christian Ponder was making his first career start after a horrible start of the year by Donovan McNabb.  Much like the Gopher game, not many gave the Vikings much of a chance and neither did I.

We got a late start getting to the game, so when we approached the old Metrodo...err...Mall of America Field the game had already started.  To our surprise, the Vikings were up 7-0 as we took our seats!  Ponder hit Michael Jenkins on a deep ball to start the game.  What was that wierd feeling creeping into my brain that hadn't been there at all at the Gopher game?!?!?

It was indeed. 

"Hey guy!...Look at me!.....son of a..."

Beer guy at a Vikings-Packer game is one busy dude and attempting to get him to come to my row and deliver me that beautiful Grain Belt Premium was distracting me from the game, but I got him finally and 15 bucks later (Mrs. Duke was with) I had my GBP.  Packer fans were surrounding me, not as bad as the Gopher game which was over 50% Nebraskas fans but still a lot of cheeseheads.  What a bunch they are.  Nothing makes a Packer fan make a fool of themself more than the overconfidence of having a good team that just won a Super Bowl.  Keep it classy Sconnies....naaah I know you won't.

Then there was the Viking fan in front of me.  This guy was POUNDING brews.  He and his lass had a stack of beer cups about 15-20 high (over 100 dollars in investment).  The thing that seemed to kill him was the Packer's big 3rd quarter run that put them up multiple touchdowns.  I look down to see him passed out.  Like passsssssssssssed out, passed out.  The Packers were on their way to continuing to be undefeated and he had seen enough.  His wife's slaps to his face drew no response.  A lady actually walking over him, stepping on top of his legs, drew no response.  Finally in the fourth quarter I overhear his wife say, "Baby, you need to walk out of here, I can't carry you."  Keep it classy Sota....naaah why would we?

Christian Ponder was the story of the game, everything else that happened in the eventual 6 point win by Green Bay was expected.  A-Rodg was MVP caliber, Adrian Peterson was a stud, Jared Allen got a couple sacks, Brian Robison lost control of himself, the Pack won and the Vikes lost.  So everything we thought we knew about these two teams was true, the only thing we didn't know much about was Christian Ponder the rookie taken 12th by the Vikings in April's draft who was making his first start. 

My impressions of Ponder was that I was impressed.  This was not an easy game to make your first start in.  The Packers made Ponder pay twice, with Charles Woodson interceptions.  Ponder wasn't super accurate in the end completing under 50% of his passes.  But he showed an ability to keep drives going.  He showed an ability to make big plays.  He showed he wouldn't be rattled by a big moment.  All in all he looked like a guy that, with some experience, could be a good...heck let's get it pumped up in here...GREAT QB in the NFL.  I am not saying it is a sure thing but from what I saw on Sunday live and in person I feel like I can't rule that out.

So for 8 quarters of football this weekend I glimmer of hope when the Vikings led shortly in the first quarter of their game that the Minnesota team in those two games could win.  That my friends is why we are STOB...we in Minnesota have a lot of sports to cheer, but for all of them the results we usually get from them deliver tears that we like to drown in beer.  Go Lynx!


1 comment :

  1. Great article. I like the pieces where you guys give your opinions and not worry so much about spelling, grammar, sentence flow. This was a real reaction to a crappy MN sports weekend and I could relate to your pain when I was reading it. I follow your blog and as I said prior I enjoy more free flowing/opinionated pieces. It makes you different than other sports sights. Not that my opinion matter but just though Id leave some feedback.