If someone predicted to me three weeks ago that the temperatures for Purdue weekend would be warm enough that I could drive from Sandusky to West Lafayette and back home again with the convertible top down, I would have scoffed at them insisting that would happen about the same time Stanford beat USC.
It sure was an enjoyable but actually a little-too-muggy-for-comfort weekend in Indiana. The heat may have also contributed to the rancid odor which permeated Ross-Ade Stadium throughout Saturday night. Since then and from various message board postings I've scanned, there has been quite a variety of reasons given from Purdue folks for the unwelcome stench during the game. But one thing we noticed when looking over the railing at the end of the southwest corner of the stands was a very large Dumpster full of fermenting garbage that had the lids left open with the breeze blowing in our direction. I'm not sure if the Dumpster was the source of the pungent smell, but we figured it was a good guess.
Additionally, that Dumpster was located not far from the entrance to the visitors' locker room, so it's conceivable to think that the Buckeyes locker room didn't smell like lovely, fragrant roses, either.
It was obvious to us that the accommodations for the visiting teams playing against Purdue are not equipped with air conditioning as before kickoff and at halftime, some of the Ohio State team members brought chairs outside the doors and held their meetings. The locker room door was never closed, and at one point we could see that the lights were switched off, possibly in an effort to shut down a heat source. However, it must have been too dark inside because within a matter of seconds, the lights came back on.
Shortly after getting parked in Lot O, an SUV with Ohio license plates pulled into the empty parking spot next to us. Once the passengers emerged from their vehicle, it was clear that they were family or friends of Jermale Hines judging by the jerseys on their backs which sported the No. 7 and the name Hines. They were all very eager and excited to be there and happy that their guy was finally able to suit up in his scarlet and gray.
On our walk to the stadium, we came upon Purdue's Skull Session rendition and what is known as "Thrill Hill." It takes place at an amphitheater-type pavilion, where two hours before the game kicks off, the Purdue marching band performs for the crowd. The fans fill in and watch from a grassy hill area and we were very surprised to notice that at least 50 percent of the audience was Buckeye fans. The Ohio State fans were really getting into it, too, and having a good time. The mixture of the two fan bases seemed to me to be getting along very well, too.
All of the Boiler fans we encountered were friendly, even the ones who attempted to talk a little trash. One girl wished us good luck but then apologized that our luck was going to be running out. Another group of about 15 students kept shouting their "Boiler Up!!" chant at us. I figured out that Purdue fans give each other a "Boiler Up" much like we Buckeye fans say "Go Bucks!" or "O-H!" when we pass by our brethren. After about four "Boiler Ups" were yelled in our direction from that same little crowd, I finally gave them a "Boiler Up" back, much to their delight. It was weird seeing how excited they were about getting someone dressed in the wrong colors to say it, so I'm glad I made their day because our football team sure didn't.
I love to people-watch and since we got to the stadium a bit early, we sat on a grassy hill outside for a while and checked out the crowd walking by. One thing I noticed was that a lot of Ohio State fans showed up. The amount of scarlet and gray mixed in with the gold and black colors was amazing and we were laughing at some of the get-ups people dressed themselves in.
Some Purdue students painted their entire bodies with black paint. Someone certainly took the "Black Out" seriously. Others wore black T-shirts with the words, "Only girly men wear sweater vests!" I thought those were funny but I wonder how they felt later that night after that girlie man coach beat their he-man coach?
The Buckeye fans weren't to be outdone in the football fan fashion department, though. I saw one dressed as Jesus in a red sweater vest, complete with the thorn wreath on his head. Another guy was dressed as a Jim Tressel look-alike, even wearing a headset with an attached microphone. There were several others who were covered with scarlet and gray war paint and others wearing OSU flags as capes. I didn't see the Animal clones this time, but maybe they were there somewhere.
Some of the OSU football parents started showing up at the player will call gate when I spotted Dane Sanzenbacher's mother and father. I had met them at Dane's signing day ceremony and they remembered me, so I asked them if they were surprised or had expected back in February that Dane would be seeing the field so much as a true freshman. They said that they know Dane's work ethic and drive, so they're not surprised from that aspect. However, playing so young wasn't expected due to the amount of talented upperclassmen receivers on the Ohio State football team. They said they are having the time of their lives being part of the OSU football family and that Dane is determined to maintain the role he's already started.
Once we were in our seats we found ourselves surrounded mostly by Ohio State fans, which was nice. There were a few Boilers sprinkled here and there but everyone got along great, talking football and asking questions about each other's team. Even once the Buckeyes started and continued their relentless play, there were no problems from either side. The Purdue fans even stayed pretty much until the end and several wished us well the rest of the season, insisting we go out and "win it all."
I found the Purdue faithful to be a nice, cordial and polite crowd. Saturday was my third visit to Ross-Ade for an Ohio State game and never once have I had any problems with any of their fans.
When the Buckeyes fell into formation for their beehive ritual, I noticed that strength coach Eric Lichter was going crazy, jumping up and down and being very animated in getting the guys fired up. That's the first time I've seen him being so aggressive out there. It would have been neat to be on the field, hearing what he was saying, but from the stands he looked pretty intense and was obviously screaming at the team. I say keep doing that Coach because it worked.
I thought it was neat how, after Ray Small's touchdown grab early on, that the mostly Ohio State crowd in the south bleachers all turned around to watch the replay on the big scoreboard screen behind them. And again, once Ray caught the football, they jumped up and cheered again, just as they did during the actual play. The south bleacher creatures were also responsible for getting the "O-H-I-O!" chant going around stadium several times throughout the night. By the fourth quarter, whenever it would get going good and loud, it seemed the fans didn't want to stop.
For those who weren't able to make the trip, just know that the Buckeye Nation turned out once again. As I said earlier, this was my third trip to West Lafayette and this time, by far, included the largest contingent of Ohio State backers that I've seen fill the stadium.
It was funny when I noticed that Ryan Pretorius wasn't doing the kickoffs and I started questioning the people around me as to who was. The guys in front of me said it was Aaron Pettrey. I knew that wasn't true and I was amazed at how many of those sitting near me hadn't even noticed the change. I think they were too in awe about the kicks going into the end zone or something, but (and I should have asked her first) my daughter let me know that it was Andrew Good doing the kicking.
Once A.J. Trapasso kicked off, I recognized his number immediately. One thing on those kicks, and not to take anything away from the great job both of them did out there, but all of the ones that made it into the end zone did have a pretty stiff breeze behind them.
At halftime, because we were sitting at the very edge of the southwest stands and could look down and actually see into the locker room somewhat, I commented on how fast Coach Tressel runs for a guy in his mid-50s. My daughter told me that she's not surprised at all to see that because last winter and spring, whenever she would go into the WHAC weight room at 5:30 a.m., most days Jim Tressel was just about finishing up running five miles on one of the treadmills. Our coach is sure is in great shape.
It didn't take long for word to spread of the big college football upset that was brewing. There were a few mixed messages and over a span of about 20 minutes, Stanford had beaten USC about six different times. Some people were getting text messages or phone calls and reported that the game was over. Then another person would get a message saying that USC had the ball, down by one point with about a minute left. It turned out that we cheered the loss when we thought the game was over then took it back when we found out the game wasn't really over. People were yelling out information, sometimes conflicting what someone else had just said, so there was a lot of confusion. Finally, after getting several confirmed reports that the clock in the Coliseum had indeed hit zero with the Trojans one point behind, the Buckeye fans went nuts! What a moment after watching our team totally dominate what many thought would be a tough opponent and a hard-fought victory.
The night's events brought back flashbacks of 2002 when I was at the Purdue-Ohio State game and Oklahoma was upset that night, moving the Buckeyes into the No. 2 slot in the rankings and how excited everyone was rooting for the good guys.
After the conclusion of the game, Dani wanted to talk to some of the players and coaches so we headed from our seats in a direction to where the team would be loading up on the busses. Coach Lichter upon seeing Dani, immediately came running over and was full of questions on what and how she's doing now. Coach Heacock gave her a big hug while apologizing for being all sweaty, even though he had taken a shower. It was still quite hot and humid that late in the evening. Butch Reynolds was the third coach Dani was insistent on seeing and she got her wish. Butch was his usual happy-go-lucky-smiling self and stopped to chat with us for a few minutes.
Brian Robiskie stopped to say hi as did Ryan Pretorius. After congratulating them on the fine win and their great efforts in the game, we asked them at what moment did they learn about the USC loss. Both said word was flying around the bench late in the game, but just like it was for us in the stands, at first it wasn't clear whether the game was over or not. By the time they hit the locker room, though, everyone was talking about it but they reminded themselves that the only team they have to focus on is themselves.
Unlike my previous trips to West Lafayette, the night was still very warm and muggy which was an extreme contrast from the other trips as both were quite cold with strong, bone-chilling winds. But just like my previous trips to West Lafayette, the snarled postgame traffic was moving out slower than a turtle's pace and it was well over an hour before we found ourselves back on I-65 going south. Not that we weren't expecting the traffic jams, because we were, but one thing is for sure, sitting still for 10 minutes and moving a couple of inches in between is really a drag after losing the game. But it isn't so bad after a great Buckeye victory like the one we had just witnessed.
Go Bucks!!! Beat the Golden Flashes!!!
Susan's View From The Stands: Purdue
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