Sunday, November 4

Life and Games of a Mid-Major

Good news on my end – I finally got to see a football game in person yesterday. However, the game I saw … wasn’t that good. I don’t blame UCF or Marshall for that; my in-person football upbringing was on SEC football, so I was likely going to be disappointed. I knew that going in; when you’re used to 103,000 of your closest friends in a stadium at once, going to a 45,000 seat stadium is a bit of a culture shock. UCF did well in the attendance department, though, clocking in at just over 46,000 – their largest turnout in Brighthouse Networks Stadium so far.

The fans made noise throughout most of the game, although they did have a bit of Los Angeles Dodgers in them (arrive late, leave early). I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being, though; they’re a relatively young fanbase, since they’ve only had a 1-A team for about 10 years now. It takes time to develop a solid and committed base – I’d say as of now about half the fans are there, which isn’t bad at all. The stadium will help them a lot; when you go from a stadium that was way off-campus and massively oversized for the average turnout to an on-campus, smaller stadium, it can’t do anything but help. They get bonus points for the relatively short concession lines, too. (I never checked out the bathrooms, but they’re probably decent – another plus. I also can’t answer the “do you pee in a trough?” question that’s prevalent in SEC stadiums. This concludes the TMI section of the post.)

The acoustics were mostly solid. I had two major issues with the sound, both of which were purist problems:

1 – The band was muffled most of the game. I don’t know if that was because of their location in the stadium (in the corner, lower section – there was only one level, so no need to distinguish there) or their makeup (hello drums and bass section, goodbye melody), but it put me in the awkward position of having to respond off of the other fans hearing the band. I’m sure they have trumpets, but I didn’t hear them.

2 – I mean this in the nicest possible way … but it’s a college game. Don’t play Zombie Nation – and for the love of g-d, do NOT play Soulja Boy. Have a sense of decency; give the band those damn charts if you really want to hear it. I know for a fact there’s a chart for Zombie Nation; I made fun of the UT Pep Band for playing it last year at basketball games (if you’re ripping off techno, don’t accentuate each note, guys; oh oh oh oh oh / oh oh oh oh oh / oh oh / oh oh doesn’t work nearly as well when you can clearly delineate between the notes. We’re drunk, you don’t need to make the notes obvious to us). Play that instead – you get bonus points from the crowd for pulling that off, too. I shouldn’t hear canned music over the PA system, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

As for the gameplay … well, it’s C-USA. I wasn’t expecting a ton. Kevin Smith had one hell of a game, including a killer 87-yard TD run fueled by one cutback and just straight outrunning the entire Marshall D. Bonus points: the Marshall punter (Myagi, based on how badly everyone in my section was mocking him; I will say UCF’s heckling was above-average) killed the punt at the 1-foot line before Smith’s run. Kyle Israel isn’t going to be confused for Tim Tebow anytime soon, but he was effective enough. He was solid on the 8-10 yard routes, but his accuracy died over 15 yards; both of the long TD passes were catch-and-run events. On Marshall’s side, Cody Slate is a matchup nightmare. Still, the players by and large weren’t as fast as what I’m used to – especially on D – with Smith being about the only exception. Then again, they’re both non-BCS and – in Marshall’s case, at least – bad.

That being said, it was a good time; the tailgating was solid and the fans were fairly knowledgeable. They get bonus points for their relatively creative heckling, including numerous takeoffs on the “We Are” “Marshall” callbacks. Of course, the callbacks were the only time anyone even heard them during the game; Marshall fans spent most of the time wishing they were anyone else. More on yesterday coming up – but before I get there, thanks to Tina for mass-texting me score updates. I was the only person in the section who knew what was going on in other games, as the score updates in the stadium were really “score updates”.

That being said, there's a good setup at UCF. I like where they're going, although they're not there yet. They'll be there pretty soon, though.