Game 11: Pittsburgh Panthers @ Connecticut Huskies
|GAME # 11
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Pittsburgh Panthers: 5-3
The mid-week, short drive, just get it in game has arrived. I do not mean to offend but this is not a primary destination so we fit it in during the week because it is close to home base. We are off to Hartford and Storrs for the Pittsburgh vs. Connecticut Thursday night ESPN game.
We finally got to enjoy a late wake up. This will be much envied when we have to wake up at 3am to go to Iowa in a week and a half. Plus, the trip was delayed due to some electrical issues at the Botta household. Damn homeownership and its myriad of issues.
We set off on the two and a half hour drive to Storrs and the University of Connecticut. The first good news of the trip is that Al finally got an EZ-Pass. Welcome to the 19th century Al. The drive was quick and painless. After stopping for lunch at Burger King (this will come up later), we arrived in Storrs, found a parking garage and embarked on a walking tour of the University of Connecticut.
University of Connecticut
UConn is a very typical nondescript campus. The buildings did not seem to match but not in a hideous way, just in a not standing out kind of way. The basketball arena was nice. We were able to walk right in (see the pictures of me standing in the middle of the basketball court) and it very much reminded me of the ODome in Gainesville. One positive, the campus has very good sleigh riding hills if death is not a concern. We continued to wander aimlessly around campus and stumbled upon Memorial Stadium, which must have been the old on campus football stadium. We got to watch an exciting (lots of sarcasm here) Frisbee football practice taking place on the field. In an interesting development, the press box was too old and rickety for Al to attempt to climb up to. This is strange because Al usually has no problem risking life and limb to go into such places. Caffeine addicts and Al take note; there are no Starbucks on campus. This may be the only place in world they have not gotten too yet. We also saw the women’s soccer team getting ready to depart for the NCAA tournament.
Storrs, CT or Lack Thereof
After completing the walking tour of UConn, we drove around looking for the off campus town, main street, or something similar. We did not find any. This didn’t seem quite right so we Googled (royalty payment please, Alex) the popular bars and discovered, according to collegeprowler.com, that “If a nightclub scene is a requirement, then UConn is not your school” and the student favorite bars are Ted’s and Huskies. We drove past both bars as they are right next to each other and they did not appear to be what one would expect in the top bars of a college campus. I am being nice here. I guess collegeprowler.com had it right when stating “Students with a car can venture 30 minutes to Hartford, an hour to Providence, or farther to New York or Boston for real clubs”.
We left and headed to East Hartford for Rentschler Field and the game. This was a 30 minute drive. It feels strange that a college football game would be 30 minutes from campus, but I reserve judgment until seeing the facility. As an aside, does Lexus program their GPS system to take scenic routes at random intervals?
We decided that getting food before the game would be a wise idea. Still feeling severely weighed down and not in a good way, by the Burger King from earlier, we decide that Burger King is now banned from the quest until further notice. We headed into Hartford for a quality restaurant. After taking some time to find a bridge across the river, we found a place called Dish Bar & Grill. If in Hartford, you should have dinner there. The food was quite good and the side dishes that we got (creamed spinach and loaded mashed potatoes) were fantastic. Is this the first nice thing we have had to say in a few trips or does it just feel that way? I have to make a better effort to not be so negative about everything and be more positive. And not make fun of Al so much.
We drove back to East Hartford and Rentschler Field. The first observation will have to be negative in direct contrast to the statement I just made. And I am going to be negative for awhile. Note to our future selves, when you have the chance to park on someone’s lawn right outside the stadium for $10, do it! The parking situation at Rentschler Field reminds me of the footage you see of those traffic jams in India or China where no one moves in two days. After being sent completely around the stadium and about two miles away, we parked for $12. The whole thing seemed like we were taxing down a runway and we had to park at the end of Runway 22L. Later research confirms this was in fact an airport until 1999. You would have thought in the past 11 years they would have gotten rid of the runway and paved the rest of it, but no.
Now I would like to discuss the sheer number of people in the parking lot. I was amazed and impressed by the number of people tailgating and in the parking lot. I never would have expected it and we did not plan on spending any time in the tailgates because we just assumed there would not be any. Shame on us. We really do need to do better research on our destinations to avoid mistakes like this on future trips. There appeared to be 100,000 people just hanging around. Never mind that they all drove in their own car so there were 100,000 cars there. I knew capacity was 40,000 so the place should be rocking. Since we did not plan on there being any tailgates, we can not offer any opinion on the quality of the tailgating compared to some other places.
We got into the stadium and we made our picks. I picked Pittsburgh and Al used a random generator to pick Connecticut, where I uttered “Are you seriously going with Connecticut? I will easily pick up a game on you here”. Nice call Jarrett, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I’m also unsure how much this should count since Al really did not make a pick but let a machine do it for him, but it will stand. Pittsburgh had a two game lead in the Big East so we were watching a team that could very likely be in a BCS game. Never mind they were 5-3.
In pregame notes; the Connecticut band played the Pittsburgh fight song. Someone will have to explain to me how the band plays the visiting team’s fight song. I am all for good hospitality, but that is going too far. The announcer spoke America the Beautiful. Yes, I said spoke and not sung. They could not get anyone to sing it? It is a proven fact that metal benches make you feel 15 degrees colder, which made Al’s statement that “This is a place where 30 feels like 20” oddly accurate. See, I can be nice.
A rousing cheer goes out to the food and beverage vendor at Rentschler Field. Although we did not partake, Rentschler Field has had by far the best beer selection. We are talking a lot of majors, microbrews, and some I have never heard of. Variety. Kudos!
In game action, it started off well for me as Connecticut threw an INT on the first play and Pittsburgh took it in for a TD a few plays later to go up 7-0. It was as this point that we realized we had a Randy Quaid level crazy in front of us. Al has always said that there is always an a** in front of us and this was the first time it was a different kind of a**. “He’s the right fan for the wrong team”. Connecticut came back and made it 10-7 at the half. So much for the offensive shootouts we typically see. So far.
I should mention here that not all of the 100,000 people in the parking lot made it in for the game. Announced attendance was 35,391 and it seemed close. The corners and top rows were empty. This leads to many observations. First, is the parking so poorly designed that it only seemed like there were 100k in the parking lots and it was really a lot less or is almost everyone just hanging out and not going to the game? Secondly, how do you drive 30 minutes off campus to not go to the game? You should just stay at school and party. Oh wait, no bar scene. Third, that’s just weak that a BCS conference school cannot sell out 40,000. UConn has a chance to win the conference if they win the game. Embarrassing!
Another aside, the Connecticut Band, when the team is approaching the opponent’s goal line, bangs the drums, after which they chant, with what has to be the intention of producing a double entendre, “Stick it in! Stick it in! Stick it in!”
It was at halftime when the second celebrity impersonator showed up to sit right next to Al, Jennifer Tilly. She had the voice and the boobs. And she was completely bombed which is not a Jennifer Tilly trait, at least that I know of. In the second half the offense picked up. The game went back and forth in what was really an exciting game. Connecticut took a 9 point lead with 6 minutes or so left. Pittsburgh came back and scored a TD with 4:30 left to cut the lead to 30-28. Pittsburgh kicked it deep and held Connecticut on 3 plays to nine yards which brought up 4th & 1 from the Connecticut 19 yard line with 2:50 left. Connecticut called timeout. This is where I and Coach Randy Edsall made the call of the game. I told everyone in my section that the play here was to go for it. It is easier to make 1 yard on offense, than it would be to keep Pittsburgh from getting into field goal range after punting from the 19. After being told I was crazy by multiple people, Coach Edsall decided the same thing. They got the first down and ran out the clock. Coach Edsall played to win and not to lose. More coaches should subscribe to that philosophy. This is further evidence that I should be a head football coach. Also helping my cause to be a head football coach is the fact that I can state “I’ve got a good angle on that” while sitting at the 10 yard line looking into the far end zone. I am definitely coaching material. You can read more about unusual coaching moves that are the right thing to do, such as why all punts should be kicked out of bounds in my upcoming book. With Connecticut winning this game, I look forward to the Big East rep in the BCS having 5 or 6 loses. That will be good.
Surprisingly, we got out of the parking lot in a reasonable amount of time given the amount of cars. It was then off to Mohegan Sun and more gambling losses for Jarrett.
After making a deposit with the Mohegan Tribe we went off to seek out a place to spend the night. We found a Motel 6 off of I-95. Scary! Woke up the next day and headed home. Can someone in Milford, CT please explain why there is a 30 minute wait at an IHOP at 11am on a Friday?
Pittsburgh would go on and lose to West Virginia which opened the door for UConn to win the conference as they won their remaining 3 games by an aggregate score of 80-39. This created a three way tie atop the Big East. UConn having beat both Pittsburgh and West Virginia would be the Big East representative in the BCS. UConn entered the BCS with an 8-4 record. What a wonderful system! They were matched up against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and proceeded to get trounced 48-20. Coach Randy Edsall would parlay an 8-5 season at UConn into the head coaching job at Maryland. By virtue of not winning a very weak Big East, Dave Wannstedt “resigned” at Pittsburgh.
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