It looked liked the perfect setting for Big Ten football at Zuppke Field. The sausages were sizzling on the grill and a hint of autumn was in the air.
The Badgers and Illini were ready for smash mouth football on an overcast Saturday evening. As I settled into my easy chair, with my twenty-pound cat snoring on my stomach, I anticipated the Cardinal and White getting the Big Ten season off to a rousing start. Hopefully it would be a more stellar performance than the non-conference portion of the 2003 schedule.
Looking at the weather forecast I eagerly awaited the possible showers that were predicted to fall. After all, football is the mud, the chunks of sod stuck in the facemask, the numbers obliterated by grass and dirt. Much to my disappointment it was another game on the dreaded "sport turf", or "astro turf", or "Zuppke turf", or whatever name they attached to these carpet surfaces that are so popular today.
All I was going to see was the remnants of a spare tire from my '72 Gremlin stuck on some lineman's helmet!
As the Badgers returned to their true blue running attack philosophy for the opening kickoff, I became confused. Not only were vapor trails following the footsteps of Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley while ripping off over 250 yards against the sieve-like defense of the Fighting Illini. But there was a visible trail coming from the heels of Jim Sorgi as well! Well maybe not as clearly, but those rubber pellets were flying all evening as Bucky returned to its comfortable security blanket, the running game.
So maybe this Zuppke-turf isn't too bad after all. Think of the laundry and plumbing bill reductions without the mud and grass clogging up the drains in the laundry room? Maybe I'm just getting old and too melancholy about today's game, but one thing is certain. The Badgers returned to what brought them to the dance and looked mighty fine with their old two-step partner, a powerful running game.
And what a difference it makes in the passing attack. The much- maligned Sorgi, displayed an accurate touch and astute decision-making ability while riddling the Illinois defense. Maybe this performance can keep the critics quiet for another week at least!
And so it's on to College Station, Pa. to face the Nittany Lions next Saturday afternoon. If we're lucky we may see some grass stains or huddles in the mud puddles. I just hope they haven't gotten rid of their beautiful lawn and replaced it with JoPa turf! Running attacks were not meant to be antiseptic or sterile.