September 13th – at Columbus         USC 18, Ohio State 15

Ohio State v. USC. A classic match-up between two top ten teams. Neither team had more than a touchdown lead at any time, and the game came down to an 85-yard touchdown drive culminated in a last minute USC  touchdown to pull out an 18-15 win. The home team didn’t win, but there was no lack of energy or enthusiasm as the game clock counted down. It was loud from the opening kickoff to the final gun.

In case you are wondering – I love being part of large college football crowds, and Ohio Stadium has always been on my bucket list. This was my largest crowd to date. I have been to the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl (for a regular season game), Fiesta Bowl, and numerous road games with the Buffs in large venues, including Lincoln, Seattle, College Station and Athens, but this was my first six figure crowd (106,033 – a new Ohio stadium record!).

Some observations from the Upper Deck of Ohio Stadium:

While I did enjoy watching a closely played, hotly contested, emotional game, one in which I really did not have a rooting interest, I was still a little saddened in noting that the atmosphere in Columbus is one which will never be duplicated in Boulder. Yes, Ohio stadium is almost double the size of Folsom Field, but it is more to it than that:

– The fans at the schools Colorado seeks to emulate are hard core, and life-long. Colorado does not have that kind of tradition, and – realistically – it ‘s fair to say that we never really will. Schools which dominate a state, like an Ohio State, Alabama, or Nebraska, have an inherent advantage of having the entire population of the state behind the program (yes, Alabama does have to contest with Auburn, and Ohio has a number of MAC schools within its borders, but you know what I’m talking about). We went to a tailgate party at a home in Columbus before the Ohio State/USC game (hosted, interestingly enough, by a couple with graduates from both schools), and all of the local children who visited were decked out in OSU gear. Every … single … child … no exceptions! … was either wearing a OSU jersey (boys) or cheerleader outfit (girls). These kids are just born and raised to be Buckeye fans. Do you see that in Boulder neighborhoods before games? In Denver? Ever really expect to?

– School size and make up. An extension of the above: Ohio State has 60,000 students. Let’s try that again – 60,000 students! Over 10,000 graduate each year, and the vast majority of the students are from Ohio. Large student body translates into large alumni base – an alumni base which largely stays close to home after graduation. Unless you are Oregon (Nike) or Oklahoma State (Pickens), the Colorado athletic department will not be competing with these schools year in and year out in dollars raised. Dollars equates to facilities; facilities helps with recruiting; recruiting helps win games, which in turn helps raise more dollars – and the cycle begins anew.

The band. You have got to love the Ohio State band (Texas A&M still has the No. 1 band, but the OSU band was good). You’re familiar with the dotting of the “I” in script Ohio, but there is much pomp and circumstance before and after. Twenty minutes before kickoff, the band enters the stadium – to a full house and a standing ovation. Take a look around Folsom at your next game when the band comes onto the field. Half capacity? Maybe? Another plus worth trying to copy – at all the Big Ten schools, the band plays the opposing team’s fight song during the opening (this apparently works for the MAC as well – the Toledo band played the CU fight song). Nice touch! (Quick quiz – 1) name the non-players or band members who have dotted the “I” in script Ohio; 2) where did the script “Ohio” begin? – answers below)

– Third down. This tradition is one the Colorado administration should adopt immediately. When there is a third down for the opponents, the “dong” from Big Ben resonates over the public address system. This sound creates a Pavlovian reaction amongst the Ohio State fans. To a man, they rise up and being yelling and cheering as loud as possible. Not just for “key play” third downs, mind you – but every third down. How would you like to be the quarterback knowing that on every third down, over 100,000 voices are trying to thwart your efforts? Very intimidating – and easy to replicate. Yes, it will take some time for the locals to catch on that the Buffs’ defense would like a little assistance when the opposition faces third down – but it would be worth the extra effort on the part of the public address announcer, wouldn’t it?

– Finally – If you go to Ohio State for a game, I have a few tips. First, check out the Jack Nicklaus museum on campus. A wealth of information and videos all about the greatest golfer of all time. Second, try the “Buckeye Pie” at Eddie George’s Grille on High Street – it’s fantastic! Finally, if you have upper deck tickets – get in a work out before you go. It’s a hike up to the top!

Trivia answers: 1) Bob Hope, Jack Nicklaus, Woody Hayes, and, as of last Saturday’s game against Navy – John Glenn; 2) The scripting of the “Ohio” actually started at … wait for it … Michigan. As noted above, team bands in the Big Ten honor the other schools by playing their school songs. One year, Michigan took the idea a step further, and wrote out “Ohio” with the band’s members. The OSU band liked the idea so much, they adopted it as their own!

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