As SuperFan of the Maize Rage student section at the University of Michigan, I have the opportunity to travel to all of the Michigan football away games and experience what football Saturday means in different parts of the country. This feature will run after each away game this season, detailing the gameday experience for Michigan games outside of Ann Arbor.
Michigan at Northwestern – Nov. 16, 2013
The 2013 Michigan football season has seen the end of several significant streaks. A quadruple-overtime loss to Penn State signaled the end of the five-game winning streak to start the season. The blowout loss in East Lansing ended Michigan’s 134-year streak of never having less than negative 47 yards rushing. Last weekend, Nebraska ended the 19-game home winning streak.
Needless to say, it was time for something positive.
At the beginning of the season, when Michigan and Northwestern were both 4-0, ranked in the top 20 and right in the middle of the Big Ten Championship race, I had the trip to Chicago circled as one of the most meaningful games of the season.
As it turned out, the game had almost no national importance.
Michigan at Michigan State – Nov. 2, 2013
As die-hard Michigan Football fans, my friends and I consider road trips the best part of every fall. Nothing is more exciting than packing up the car and heading out to campuses around the Midwest to cheer on the Maize and Blue.
Well, that isn’t always the case.
While trips to Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana have left us with lasting memories regardless of the team’s performance, few places are less fun to travel to than East Lansing. And this year’s trip followed the trend.
For many students, tailgating in East Lansing means reuniting with old high school friends and hanging out all morning. For a kid that went to high school just north of Toledo, there’s not a friendly face in the crowd. After spending the majority of the morning in a maize-heavy parking lot, we migrated towards Spartan Stadium and saw the real action.
Michigan State fans definitely have the verbal abuse aspect of the rivalry down, as nearly every group of white and green we passed had something clever to spit out. As well-travelled college football fans, however, the taunting was nothing new and the “Walmart Wolverine” shots went largely unnoticed.
Michigan at Penn State – Oct. 12, 2013
When Michigan fans travel to different schools to watch the Wolverines play on the road, they regularly have to get used to a much smaller stadium and quieter atmosphere. In Week 4, the Connecticut Huskies broke a Rentschler Field record by packing 42,000 people into the stadium; about 70,000 less than that of a typical Ann Arbor game day.
This weekend was a different story. As the few Wolverine fans trickled into Beaver Stadium they realized that the structure was possibly even more impressive than our very own Big House.
When I first arrived in State College, one of the first things I learned was that this was the biggest game of the season for the Nittany Lions. On Friday night before the game the students were happy to explain their hatred for both Michigan and Ohio State, but it was clear that the night game against the Maize and Blue would be Penn State’s bowl game this year.
Not having been to Penn State since the Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky scandal, I wasn’t sure how touchy of a subject it was among the students. Surprisingly, it was basically the butt of all the jokes. Though our little group in maize never brought the scandal up, we did end up discussing it multiple times throughout the weekend. Penn State students want to prove that they have moved on from the nightmare and won’t let it define them.
Instead, they just want to beat Michigan.
Michigan at UConn – Sept. 21, 2013
Football Saturday in Ann Arbor is one of the most precious traditions in all of college sports. The city shuts down to prepare for the game and campus fills with students making the pilgrimage down to the Big House where the largest audience in the country watches the Maize and Blue defend the most wins in college football.
Elsewhere, students around the country have their own ways of celebrating a home game, and this weekend my close friend Jonathan Wagenknecht and I made the trip east to see Michigan take on the Huskies in Hartford, Connecticut.
When we arrived at Rentschler Field, it was obvious how different the venue was from Michigan Stadium. A capacity crowd of around 42,000 fans broke the record for attendance at UConn’s home stadium, thanks to the 2,000 temporary bleacher seats that were added for this weekend’s game in response to Michigan fan demand for tickets.
Before even entering the stadium, I was turned away at the gate because of my cowbell. The gentleman scanning my ticket asked me if I “was part of the band, or something” and told me I would have to put Michigan’s most preferred instrument back in my car. Returning to the car would have been simple had UConn not used an airport landing strip to direct cars over half a mile away from Rentschler.