Week 4 - Michigan at Notre Dame

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 26, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Indiana
Saturday, September 22, 2012

Apparently, tickets for this game weren't as hard to come by as I thought they would be. The initial plan was to talk to some Notre Dame fans in Dublin and fine one that had an extra ticket to the Michigan game. Well, the very first person I talked to, Michelle Massarini, had one extra ticket! Two weeks later, I was helping Owen wash his hands in the bathroom at the Lewis and Clark game, and a guy started reading the t-shirt Trent got for me that listed all the games on the back. He asked me if I needed tickets to the Michigan-Notre Dame game. He had won 8 of them at an auction at his kid's school. Then the next week, we were driving from Iowa to Indiana, and we ran into a Notre Dame fan at a Kum & Go (yes, that's what it is really called) in West Branch, Iowa. She had three extra tickets to the game. So, I was able to find tickets to the game in Ireland, Oregon, and Iowa with surprisingly little effort. It kind of gives me hope for the Florida-Georgia and Alabama-LSU games, which we also need tickets to.

Since hotels in South Bend are ridiculously expensive on game day, we ended up staying about 35 miles away in Michigan City, Indiana. Since it was a night game and we had just driven 8 hours, only Jason was going to this one. The day didnt start off well for sitting at a football game. It was cold, windy, and rainy in Michigan City. We were getting similar reports from South Bend. After freezing in a Buffalo Wild Wings parking lot after lunch in the 47 degree wind and rain, I decided I wasn't prepared to sit at a football game in this weather for 3-4 hours. You can handle any weather with the right gear, and I didn't have it. So, after a quick stop to pick up some long-johns and gloves, it was off to South Bend. On the way there, it seemed like the luck of the Irish was kicking in. About 10 miles from South Bend, the sun came out, and it got 7 degrees warmer. It turned out to be perfect football weather!

Anyway, now for the ratings.

Stadium - Notre Dame Stadium is pretty interesting. When you get through the gate, it is very obvious that there was a pretty large expansion at some time. You can clearly see where the exterior of the stadium used to be. There was an entire upper deck added, but instead of going over the top of the existing seats, they simply made the stadium larger. You can feel the history when you walk in the door. One thing that surprised me is that touchdown Jesus isn't really that close to the stadium. On TV it always looks like it is right outside, but it really is a hundred yards or so away. There were over 80,000 people in attendance, but honestly it wasn't as loud as It should have been with that many people yelling during a close game. Autzen is definitely louder. Notre Dame Stadium is also noticably missing a jumbotron. Therefore, there were no replays in the stadium. Whether or not this is a good thing is up to the observer. Rating - 7 of 10.

Tailgating - The Notre Dame fans know how to tailgate. Any parking lot or grassy area within a mile of the stadium was full of people grilling, playing games, and enjoying some adult beverages. I'm sure I would have had a different report if the rain and 47 degree weatherh had kept up, but with the sun shining, it was a great atmosphere. Rating - 9 of 10.

The Game - Much was expected for this game, and it didn't disappoint. Although it was a low scoring game, it was a very well played defensive game for both teams. Notre Dame completely shut down Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense. Notre Dame couldn't do much on offense, either. Luckily for them, the defense kept giving them the ball in field goal range. This one came down to the wire, with Notre Dame able to put together enough offense at the end of the game to run out the clock and hold on for a 13-6 victory. Rating - 9 of 10.

The Band - There is a bonus this week, since the Michigan band was there, too. Since they played first, I'll start with them.

Michigan Band - The Michigan band did a lot of straight line, high-step marching very much like we did at Iowa State in the early 90's when I was there. Their sound was pretty solid. Their marching, however, could have been more precise. Since they aren't a corps-style marching band, I would expect their lines to be straight as they move to the next formation. In most cases, they were not. That's a minor knock, though, and overall they were pretty solid. Rating - 8 of 10

Notre Dame Band - This is the second time I've seen the Notre Dame band this year, with the first time being in Dublin. I was able to witness more of the pregame pageantry this time, though. Michelle took me to where the band plays a 30 minute concert prior to the game. They stand on the steps of Bond Hall on campus, and run through their music. Then, after a bit of a break, they march to the stadium with quite a few fans following behind, including Michelle and me. Their halftime show was fantastic! They had a very full sound, and their marching was nearly flawless. One intersting thing is that their color guard consisted of 10 guys called the Irish Guard. All of them are the same height (6'2") and dressed in kilts and large hats. No flags like most bands. Their job, in addition to the halftime show, is actually to protect the band. Apparently, it is illegal to interfere with a marching band in the state of Indiana. Rating - 10 of 10

Fans - I was very impressed with the Notre Dame fans in Ireland, and I was wondering how they would act at home. I have to say, they are some of the best fans I've ever been around. There was no negativity in the stands around me, and from everything I saw they were gracious hosts to the Michigan fan. For such a big game against a big rival, that is quite impressive. Rating - 10 of 10

Best Player - This one was an easy one. There certainly wasn't anybody on offense who deserved it for either team. And, after watching Manti Te'o grab two interceptions and make plays all over the field, he was clearly the best player in the game. It's also notable that both his grandmother and his girlfriend died on the same day only a week before. Te'o is from Hawaii, and the Notre Dame fans were all wearing leis to the game to show their support.

Overall - Well, I was really looking forward to this game, and I wasn't disappointed. The fans were great, the game was close, I had some fantastic company, and we didn't have to sit in the rain. A special thanks goes out to my hosts, Michelle Massarini and her family and friends! Rating - 10 of 10
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