Yesterday marked the meat of the Pigskinapalooza 2011 schedule. If you are reading this and aren't caught up on what I'm talking about click here here and here. We woke up in Alpharetta and headed down to my friends' and fellow UCLA alums house in Buckhead. Joe and Whit were married on October 13, 2007 in Atlanta. If that date rings a bell with Kentucky Wildcats fooball fans, it should. That was the night Kentucky beat then and later #1 ranked LSU 43-37 in 3OT in what may have been the biggest win in school history. I try to never remind them that I missed that game when my two kids and I were in their wedding party that night. Joe is literally my best friend from college and we've remained close since. I'm happy I missed that game to be one of his horsemen. Whitney is an alum of UCLA's business school and is from Atlanta. They met in LA and she brought Joe back down south, which I appreciate.
The four of us took the MARTA down to mid-town to meet other former Bruin (Joe is the UCLA alumni coordinator for the Atlanta area) friends of theirs for the game. Our watering hole was a typical wings sports bar with 1000 different beers known curiously as "Taco Mac". Technically, there was mexican food on the menu, but I never saw anyone order any. It was at the MARTA station that we met the first of two incredibly drunk groups of mostly male Georgia students (It was six hours before game time, mind you) I'll describe later.
The UCLA Bruins-Houston Cougars game was one of those games that stays close but you know your team isn't going to win. Taco Mac was loud, and eventually my son, who can have his senses overload on occasion, looked at me and said, "I have to get this piece of paper out of my ear". Sure enough, in an effort to drown out the noise, he had stuck a small piece of straw wrapper all the way down in it. A tiny piece was visible. Unsure of what to do, I asked if anyone at the table had tweezers. A former Bruin who I'd never met before offered up the ones from those tiny swiss army knives you see. I said, "Let me ask a different question, do you have a pair of tweezers that you don't mind a stranger sticking into his son's ear?"
He nodded in agreement.
Having consumed three beers roughly the color and consistency of mud, and not being the steadiest of hand under ideal circumstances, I was a little freaked about going all "Operation" style into the side of my kid's melon. Nonetheless, I plucked out a piece of paper three times the size of what I could see without scratching him or puncturing his eardrum. E then got a lecture on not sticking anything smaller than his elbow into his ear.
Houston knocked UCLA starting QB Kevin Prince out of the game early, and had its way with the Bruin defense all afternoon long. Backup QB Richard Brehaut acquitted himself very well, matching Case Keenum play for play, but the lack of defense and kicking game doomed the Bruins, who lost 42-38.
The game ended just in time for us to get to the Georgia Dome via MARTA. I attended this game under what I now realize was a a naive misconception. I assumed that, like the Final Four, this would be a celebration of college sports. I wore UCLA gear because I was going to watch them that day. Ethan wore a Kentucky jersey. At this point at the train platform, I realized I'd made a mistake. Our second group of drunken college guys were rude and cussing in front of my kid out of obvious spite giving us crap under the assumption we were Boise fans. Once they realized what we were wearing it got worse, albeit not very clever.
Look, I've been those guys, and I know exactly how it is when you've drank a lot and the pack mentality takes over. But the first group of guys we saw were just as wasted and just as loud, but their cheers were funny, must less profane and a couple of them actually stopped what they were saying when they saw I was there with my child. They were having fun, and though I'm not sure how many of them actually made the game, I kind of enjoyed being around them having fun. The second group were just acting like jerks, taunting other people and screaming made-up on the spot chants that weren't remotely funny. To others, they were all drunk college guys. To me, they looked a lot different. I'd like to think that my 20 year old friends and I would have fit in better with the first group.
The game itself was money, especially since I'd been turned off to Georgia by then. I am not sure I've ever seen a more accurate thrower than Kellen Moore. Left shoulder, right shoulder, in stride, over the defender, he seems to throw the ball with inches of where he wants to almost every time. It didn't help that Georgia couldn't lay a glove on him and got no pressure. Boise's offense always get credit, but in truth, its defense has been as big a part of it's success. The Broncos got a ton of big hits and were just so quick to the ball. Georgia ripped off some big plays and, I thought, managed to stay in the game.
With about eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter Boise St. scored to go up 35-14 and almost half of the Georgia fans headed for the exits. The people around me had been pissy with their team and incredulous that they were being beaten all night. I found it funny that fans whose team hadn't won more that 8 games since 2008 were surprised to be losing to a perennial powerhouse. That so many would leave a marquee game that cost a small fortune to attend so early was downright bizarre. There were a lot of boos, which was odd given the opponent and the fact that Georgia won only 6 games last year.
The decision looked even worse when Georgia scored three plays later on a 51 yard pass from Aaron Murray to Malcolm Mitchell and suddenly it was a two touchdown game with 10:15 left. That it got no closer isn't really the point. Georgia did not play poorly, and it deserved a lot better from its fans. The rest of the game played in front of a half empty dome. It was a shame.
People continued to be unfriendly and chippy on the very crowded MARTA on the way back. Had my son been 16 and not 8, I would have been a little worried about our safety. This in spite of the fact that we weren't wearing Boise St. gear. I think these people need a reality check about the state of their program, or maybe just a primer in how good Boise St. actually is. Yes, we are only Kentucky, but most of our fans seem to realize that. We aren't going to boo our team for played a relatively competitive game against a top five team.
I'll be back tomorrow with a brief wrapup, suffice to say for now that this trip was a great experience.