Going on the road is always an interesting experience for a sports fan. This game would make the 6th different stadium that I have seen an Illinois football team play away from Champaign. The others being Soldier Field, Ross-Ade Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Camp Randall and, Memorial Stadium (Indiana). Each different stadium offers its oddities, quirks, and traditions that really make the difference between watching a college football game and say the National Football League. Rutgers was no exception from the others that I have gotten the opportunity to visit.
As a side note, I had extended my Rutgers trip into a stay in NYC that weekend. Regardless of what Jim Delayney would like the rest of the B1G to think, Rutgers is not exactly close to New York City. It took us around an hour on the New Jersey transit train to get from midtown Manhattan to New Brunswick. If that makes Rutgers a New York based football team, then it is not a stretch to call Illinois Chicago’s Big Ten Team.
Back to the game day at Rutgers, the first thing we learned upon arriving at the stadium is that Rutgers’ students get into the games for free, but these tickets cannot be transferred to other people. After we scalped some decent tickets for rock bottom prices, we headed into the stadium. High Point Solutions stadium, as it is currently called, is build right into the side of the hill across the river that is about a mile from the edge of Rutgers’ campus. Being built into the side of the hill meant that we had to walk straight up an include to what would be the 2nd level of most stadiums to get to the entry gate. As an Illinois native, I am not used to any sort of change in elevation. I made this well know to the laughs of the Rutgers fans who shared a laugh and their hatred of this terrible hill. Inside the stadium, we ended up in section 111, which is in the Northwest part of the end zone. It also happened to be directly above the cannon. Rutgers may be the Scarlet Knights, but they also seem to play off their history of being older than America with a cannon that looks like it is from the revolution. We observed the following times the cannon was set off during the game.
- When the team ran out on the field
- End of the Half
- When Rutgers scored a touchdown
In the past several weeks, Rutgers has not had many opportunities to fire off their cannon. This is mostly due to them going 11 straight quarters of B1G football without scoring. Unfortunately we allowed them to break that streak when they scored on an underhand jump pass in the 4th quarter. (Is that play even legal? I will call it a forward fumble at best) I really did feel bad for that cannon crew that seemed to spend most of the game waiting around instead of getting to blow of the freaking cannon.
Besides the ancient piece of artillery, Rutgers employed a few other pieces of gameday feel. The first, that I would think would be more at home at Purdue, was a very loud train horn in the South Endzone, that was again set off at similar times to the cannon. It really ended up feeling like an assault on the senses when Rutgers did finally score. The second was the seemly endless use of club/dance music played over their stadium sound system. I will have to attend more East Coast football games to figure out if it was an vain attempt to make a hype atmosphere, or if that is just common thing to do at games in the Northeast. As my friend said during the game, “I didn’t know we were going to the club today”.
The game itself is a mostly forgettable affair. Lovie Smith won his first B1G game of the season (first of many?) after the Illinois defense and special teams recovered 5 Rutgers turnovers while Chayce Crouch lead the Illinois offense to just enough points. Kendrick Foster has another strong running game. Illinois did not have a dominant game, but it was able to avoid becoming the doormat of the B1G Conference this season. I feel sorry for the Rutgers fans. They showed a lot of passion for a team that is having a completely dreadful season. As a subscriber to terrible football, I have mad respect for their fans. As the Birthplace of College Football, I would expect more, just like I expect more out of Illinois. All in all, I think I am coming around to them being a member of the B1G conference. At least they are not Purdue….