I recently took a road trip down to Alabama (from Connecticut). The reason, to watch my UCONN Huskies take on the favored SC Gamecocks in the Papajohn’s.com bowl.
First let me say that a road trip in and of itself is quite an experience. Four of my friends and I drove almost 20 hours often fighting through snow and ice in the Northeast. Being in a car that long was a new experience for me but it was really the only option considering we were financially challenged college students. Of course we survived by exploiting the value menu of various fast food joints along the way. The bottom line was the traveling was incredible with some amazing scenery and it was an experience I will never forget and one I recommend to everyone.
Enough about the travelling though, the whole point of the trip was to watch a football game after all. The game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. It was an amazing stadium to be in considering it was built in 1926. We arrived at the field about 3 hours early to enjoy the typical tailgating complete with Ladderball. Upon entering the stadium the number of fans for each side immediately jumped out. Approximately 1/8 th of the stadium was decked out in the UCONN blue and silver while the rest was dominated by the SC garnet and black. I guess that is expected considering the travel time for the SC fans was significantly smaller compared to the Connecticut fans. Even prior to kickoff the atmosphere was electric and the excitement only grew as kickoff approached.
The game started out as a defensive battle with neither side doing much of anything. UCONN failed to get the run going and quarterback Zach Frazer was often inaccurate. SC quarterback Stephen Garcia also seemed to have accuracy issues. On UCONN’s second drive, a combination of running back Andre Dixon and Marcus Easley gained some field position but UCONN still ended up in a 3 and 8 situation at the SC 37. Frazer dropped back and launched a bomb to Kashif Moore who made a spectacular one handed grad before bolting to the end zone. The catch was truly one of the best I have seen in years and it is definitely worth checking out if you have not seen it yet.
As the game progressed, it became clear that it was not going to be an offensive shootout but rather long grinding drives pitting defense against offense. Dixon was the workhorse, taking punishment and putting in second and third efforts to get extra yards. On the SC side, running backs were having no luck and the passing game showed little life. The rare successful play came from the feet of Garcia. Kicker Dave Teggart of UCONN scored the next six points of the game giving UCONN a 13-0 lead. Dixon, who had 126 yards on a whopping 33 carries, finally found pay dirt on a 10 yard run to give UCONN a 20-0 lead. Garcia managed to connect on a 38 yard pass to Moore which resulted in a 2 yard touchdown run by Maddox.
The game ended with UCONN winning 20-7 yet that score does not accurately reflect the dominance that the UCONN defense exerted over the SC offense. It was a great game to be a part of. However, what happened near the end of the game superseded what actually happened during the game. The crowd broke out in a Jasper Howard chant, honoring the murdered UCONN cornerback who passed away earlier in the season.
I cannot say enough about the class of the SC fans. They were friendly before the game but more importantly they were just as friendly after the game. I have never seen such a display of sportsmanship before and I gained a huge amount of respect for the SC fans.