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Friday, October 17, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week 2014 Week 8

No live game for me this week (possibly, sadly, for the rest of the season?) so I"m back to my old tricks again.

This week's matchup has a decidedly '90s feel to it, but with Notre Dame's scheduling deal with the ACC, they'll be seeing a whole lot more of Florida State. Both teams enter this matchup in the top 5, and the Band of the Fighting Irish is headed to Tallahassee for a matchup that'll also feature College Gameday's second trip to FSU this season.

The most recent time the two met was during the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. Here it is:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Orange is the new...

Some mornings, it's easy to get up; usually, it's because there's something on the other end that makes it all worth it. So when my alarm clock rang on a Saturday morning at a time typically reserved for work days, I had no problem throwing back the covers, getting ready, and hitting I-85 southbound en route to a day of tailgating, football, and marching band in the Southland. I had packed the grill, cooler, and other such sundries in the minivan (yes, that's how I'm rolling these days) and was ready to go.

To say I lack focus on gameday is an understatement. More often than not these days, I'm attending a game and visiting a campus for the first time. So as much as I love marching band, I also love tailgating, gameday traditions, and getting a look at campus while I'm there. Thankfully, my buddy Brian was able to rein me in, and we made the plan to settle for beers-and-a-bumper and local eats instead of breaking out the grill, and check out Tiger Walk, which he and his son had not yet seen, as well as the Tiger Band's pregame concert, which takes place 90 minutes before kickoff. It seemed sound to me, but the best laid plans...

Gameday traffic was a killer, and summarily squashed those plans. Even arriving in town a solid three hours before game time, it took us forever to make our way to our ultimate parking spot, Campus Beach, which still required a shuttle to get over to the stadium. We noticed immediately that the Louisville fans had traveled quite well to this game. This was no surprise; the fanbase tends to travel anyway, and this was their first trip to Clemson as ACC conferencemates. We consumed a few before heading over to the shuttle line and ultimately the stadium, figuring we'd grab a bite to eat inside and at least catch all of the in-stadium traditions. Brian, a Kentucky native, UK fan, and fellow USF alumnus, knows (and dislikes) the Cardinals quite well, but there was plenty to strike up conversation about with the Cards faithful in line for the shuttle. We even ended up chatting Pitino, in the context of trying to recall a Conference USA game where Louisville traveled to USF and their fans may have outnumbered us in the Sun Dome.

Never have I claimed to be a Clemson fan, but they are one of the major college football programs that's been on my radar the longest, having gone to school with a couple of multi-generation Clemson families. Having been a Tiger - yes, like half of the rest of America - the Tiger Rag holds a special place in my heard, so I didn't mind hearing it, or some derivative, a thousand times during the game. I also realized that this was the largest stadium I've been in rooting with the home team - most other ACC trips have been in support of Florida State, and for last year's North Carolina-South Carolina tilt in Columbia I was rooting - albeit lukewarmly - for my current home state. This past weekend, I was part of the sea of orange.

Gamewise, Clemson would prevail without scoring a single offensive touchdown. Quarterback Deshaun Watson left the game early on with an injury to his throwing hands, leaving the offense in the hands of Cole Stoudt. Still the other phases were firing just fine for the Tigers in their 23-17 victory. Each team had an end of half gaffe that lost them an opportunity at points, and in Louisville's case, possibly the game. The Tigers couldn't get lined up quickly enough for a field goal attempt at the end of the first half, and a decision to spike the ball by the Cardinals left them with one last shot from the 3 yard line instead of two as the game came to an end. Had I not heard the announcement to wait until the final cannon to gather on the field, I might have thought the Clemson faithful saw fit to rush the field after a victory over an unranked opponent. Apparently, gathering at the paw at center field is a game tradition. This isn't the first place I've heard of such; I've also attended Wake Forest games where the crowd was invited down to the playing surface. Still, such a proposition seems far more tenable at Wake Forest, where a stadium of just better than 30,000 serves a student body of fewer than 5,000 undergraduates, than at Clemson, where more than 80,000 seats serve an undergraduate population of nearly 17,000. All the same, the goalposts were lowered and the fans joined their team down on the field.

As for the Band that Shakes the Southland, it was great to see them in action, and my top deck north vantage point gave me a great view all game. I was fortunate that they performed their classic rock halftime show to the north stands for this game, giving me perfect seats as they treated us to Stairway to Heaven, Black Magic Woman, and Freebird. In the stands, they were consistent, if not repetitive, but again, Tiger Rag never hurt my feelings. I could grouse that they were miked, but some things are just concessions you have to make in a stadium that large with a fanbase that passionate. They delivered the goods all game long and helped orchestrate an electric gameday atmosphere. And, of course, their pregame leads into what's been deemed the most exciting 25 seconds in college football as the team rubs Howard's Rock and runs down the hill.

I'd agree with what I've heard said: Clemson brings an SEC-like atmosphere, though from my standpoint I base this more on hype and hearsay than an actual SEC gameday experience. The one SEC home game I attended was elsewhere in the same state, and I'd give the nod to Clemson, though admittedly, the difference in the manner I experienced both games makes the two apples (garnets?) and oranges. The folks I encountered there were great, and despite not being affiliated with the host school, I found myself hoping that the Louisville fans found Clemson a gracious host as well. The trip to Clemson from Greensboro's not a bad one, and Brian will be down there for at least a couple more years as he completes his doctorate, so I'm confident this first trip won't be my last.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Clemson Review Preview

You can expect a full update form me from spending this past Saturday at Clemson. In the meantime, get a taste with this recap story, courtesy of Google Plus:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Band (Nerd) On the Road

This week's Band on the Road Game of the Week is being pre-empted for my own travel. I'm hitting the road - in minutes, actually - and headed down to where I'm told the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness - Clemson.

Expect a full update when I return, but if you want to keep up in real(er) time, follow on Twitter, Facebook, or FanCred.

Monday, October 6, 2014

High Notes 2014 Week 6

And oh, what a week 6 it was. Eleven top 25 teams took the fall, and the state of Mississippi had the best day since Reconstruction on the backs of wins by Ole Miss and Mississippi State over top 10 division rivals.

While I caught a bit of the day's action, my high note for the week was not football related as well. Just over four years ago, my wife and I lost our friend Karen to ovarian cancer. That same year was the inaugural Athena's Run, organized in no small part by Karen's partner Beth. Athena's Run benefits the Gynecological Cancer Fund and the Forsyth Medical Center Foundation, with the intent of fighting gynecological cancers. We were at the inaugural race, but were unable to make it back until this year, the fifth.

When returning to the team formed in her memory, Karen's Krusaders, we caught back up with a few folks we hadn't seen in some time, including Beth and some friends from my wife's grad school days. And not unlike when she was with us, Karen was again bringing us together, this time a few years older, with a few more kids in tow, and with my wife actually running the race this time through. it was a great opportunity to honor her memory and raise some funds for an important cause.

If you feel compelled to donate to the cause, you still can.

Friday, October 3, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week: 2014 Week 6

Sometimes, it's hard not to get caught up in the hype.

It's well documented that the SEC West owns the college football world at present. Six of the seven teams place in the top 25 - top 15, in fact - and they'd likely be seven for seven had Arkansas pulled it out against Texas A&M last weekend.

I've called out the state of Mississippi on their also-ranness in that division before. In addition to the division's football prowess, five of the seven schools in the division hold Sudler Trophies, with only the pair from the Magnolia State being without. Still, as the southern saying goes, the sun shines on a dog's ass some days, and it would seem that if Mississippi is the aforementioned canine posterior, today is that day.

Ole Miss' past (and present) racism noted, the Grove still remains the stuff of legend, at least as far as tailgating goes. For those who would love to show it off, the Rebels get their chance - for the first time, College Gameday is headed their way. Not to be outdone, there will be a lot of maroon down in Starkville as Texas A&M heads to town to take on the Bulldogs in another SEC West showdown between ranked teams. Still, I'm setting my sights on Oxford, even breaking a cardinal Band on the Road rule to do so, as only a pep band, not the entire Million Dollar Band, will travel from Tuscaloosa.


Ole Miss:

Monday, September 29, 2014

High Notes 2014 Week 5

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd postulate that the notoriously SEC-leaning ESPN protects their investment by miking SEC bands better than others. A lot of the time, though, they're just that damn good.

Still though, this week's high notes citation comes not from a college stadium in the deep south, but from a pro stadium just outside the Big Apple. Syracuse took on Notre Dame at Met Life Stadium, and the Pride of the Orange was putting in work, even as the gray-clad orange fell to the Fighting Irish. The Band of the Fighting Irish didn't make the trip to the first game of their ACC-adjacent slate, but Syracuse more than held it down.

In other orange news: I've been waiting for the announcement of gametime, and it's here. I'm headed to Louisville at Clemson Saturday after next, and it'll be a 3:30 game. This is exactly what I was hoping for - it gives me plenty of time to get down there from Greensboro and get back up the same night. Death Valley, here I come!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

BOTR Game of the Week 2014 Week 5

It's perhaps a bit imprudent to post the game of the week after a good chunk of the week's action has already begun, but I assure you there were enough possibilities to go around. One, in fact - a dual Sudler matchup - would be quite late, as the Goin' Band from Raiderland visited Oklahoma State in a Thursday night game. Elsewhere in the former Southwestern Conference, Arkansas and Texas A&M are kicking off as I type this in the home of Arkansas alumnus Jerry Jones in Arlington, but I've given the Aggies their fair share of burn in the past week or so.

Instead, I'm going to head to the midwest, where Cincinnati will leave Kentucky travel across the state to Ohio State in what may be the best chance of late for an in-state school to get the best of the flagship. It hasn't happened in 93 years, and though I left the "we all we got" mantra in the former Big East, it would be a great win for the American.


Ohio State:

Amazing Happens Every Saturday

Sometimes, things just get by you, and that's the case with the first Amazing Happens Every Saturday entry of 2014. It turns out that cool new uniforms weren't the only star-spangled addition in College Park as the state of Maryland and the nation celebrated the bicentennial of the National Anthem. The Mighty Sound of Maryland and the Pride of West Virginia joined forces (and yes, normally I hate mass bands) to reenact the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, the battle that ultimately spawned the poem that would become the Star-Spangled Banner. Take a look:

The second has been well trumpeted throughout the past week, and while it's not actually marching/athletic music, it's a kindred sports-adjacent in the team that cares for Reveille, Texas A&M's mascot. As an SMU player came careening towards Reveille on the sideline, sophomore handler Ryan Kreider throws a block that could earn him a walk-on spot.

What it did earn him, however, was his senior boots bought by the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. Not bad for doing your job, but that block's likely to be legendary in Aggie lore.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

High Notes - 2014 Week 4

After recruitment spoke for a few consecutive weekends, this past weekend was a bit closer to normal, at least in terms of getting to see a bit more football. 

This week's high notes citation goes to Georgia Tech, whose Yellow Jacket Marching Band made the trip with the team to Blacksburg. Back when I shed some light on High Notes, I mentioned that Victory was among the Vs that could lead to recognition, and the football team gave the band plenty of reason to strike up on the road. Georgia Tech has always impressed me anyway; they're not afraid to remind you that they're rooted in the A, and I've heard them break out Jeezy and Mykko Montana on separate occasion. This time, however, it was Up With the White and Gold and Ramblin' Wreck that got them (w)rec(k)ognized.