Game 2 - South Florida at Michigan State

Trip Start Sep 06, 2013
Trip End Sep 08, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Michigan
Saturday, September 7, 2013

This game was kind of the bonus game of the trip.  Since Michigan wasn't playing until 8pm and the stadiums are only about 65 miles apart, we figured we could do both games.  The only thing was that we didn't actually have tickets to the Michigan State game.  A quick search of Craig's List and Stubhub revealed quite a few tickets available for below face value, so we decided to just show up and see what was available.  We were about a block from the stadium looking for a parking spot, and we saw a ticket broker (scalper) standing on the corner.  We ended up buying tickets from him for below face value to sit on the 50-yard-line in the 14th row...before we had even parked the car!  We told our new friend Leroy about our weekend.  He gave us his business card and said if we still needed Bears tickets close to gametime, we could call him and one of his associates could meet us there with tickets.

The stadium was actually evacuated as we were walking there due to lightning strikes somewhere within a 15-mile radius.  So, we ended up wandering around for about 45 minutes checking out the scene.  Luckily for us, we are good Oregonians now, and were two of very few people that actually had a raincoat.  We finally made our way to the stadium, and it was game on!

Stadium - Spartan Stadium was originally built in 1923 as a ~14,000 seat stadium.  Over the years it has been expanded to its current capacity of 75,005, making it the 6th largest stadium in the Big 10.  It also boasts not one, not two, but three big screens.  We were a few rows up from actual seats, but we sat in the same aluminum bleachers found in most of the stadium.  It was an attractive enough stadium with a pretty good experience from the seats.  However, the concessions were a bit lacking.  It had the feeling of a county fair with stainless steel tables being moved in behind a makeshift counter where fans can purchase tacos and hamburgers. 

We heard an interesting story from the long-time fan sitting next to us at the game.  He said that Michigan State spent $60M renovating the press box, luxury suites, and club seats in 2005.  Michigan spent $260M on a similar renovation.  Just sayin'...  

Overall this was a nice stadium, but it's nothing special.  Rating - 6 of 10.

Tailgating - This rating may not be fair since we arrived only about 30 minutes before kickoff of a noon game, but we were certainly not impressed.  There didn't seem to be much tailgating going on at all.  There wasn't much room in the actual parking lots for tailgating setups other than a little bit of space on the grass at the edge of the parking lots.  Here's the kicker.  There is no alcohol allowed in the parking lot by Munn Ice Arena, which is the closest large lot near Spartan Stadium.  Perhaps it would be better for a bigger game and a later time than a noon game against South Florida, but this is the game we attended.  The only thing I can say is that there actually was tailgating.   Rating - 3 of 10.

The Game
 - This game was a defensive battle.  Neither offense was very impressive, but the general impression we had that Michigan State had a pretty good defense and a pretty bad offense.  South Florida seemed to be a bit irrelevant in the equation.  Michigan State rotated three quarterbacks into the game, and none of them really stood out.  Also, for the second week in a row the Spartan defense scored 2 out of the team's 3 touchdowns as the defense lead the way to a 21-7 victory over the Bulls.  Due to the rain delay, we had to leave just after the start of the 4th quarter to be able to comfortably make it to the Michigan-Notre Dame game in Ann Arbor, but neither of us were too sad to have to leave early.  Rating - 4 of 10. 

The Band - First, let's start with the positive.  Unlike at a lot of college games these days, the Spartan Marching Band actually played during most of their opportunities rather than having the stadium DJ take over during time outs and other dead ball situations (by the way, I hope Jack White is getting royalties everytime Seven Nation Army is played at a sporting event).  Curiously, the only time they didn't play seemed to be during a replay review.  Instead we were treated to "Dancing in the Dark" over the stadium speakers.  

Now to halftime.  To say the halftime show was disappointing is an understatement.  First of all, they gave half of their show away to the alumni band (and it wasn't even homecoming).  After the alumni band played a few songs, the regular Spartan "Marching" Band ran out onto the field to a designated spot, played "76 Trombones" and the alma mater with the alumni band, and then marched off to the school fight song.  They sounded good, but they were augmented by the alumni band.  They also didn't march a single step until they fight song.  I know it's only the second game, but we saw three other bands this weekend that not only attempted to put on a show, but put on pretty good ones to boot.  Rating - 2 of 10.

Fans - This was an interesting fan base.  We ended up talking to a few people during the rain delay, and they were pretty fun to talk to.  The interesting thing was that they were actually Michigan fans, but since their daughter goes to Michigan State they go to those games, too.  It was kind of funny when they booed the weather report at the beginning of the game (remember, we had about an hour delay due to lighning strikes somewhere we couldn't see).  They also cheered for an anouncement for when basketball tickets went on sale.  It kind of showed where the priorities are.  They did boo the quarterback, though, which I don't like to see at a college game.  There were a few South Florida fans there, and the Michigan State fans seemed to be treating them well (or at least ignoring them).

The stadium wasn't full for this non-conference game, and many fans left at the end of halftime when a tiny bit of rain started falling (it stopped after a few minutes).  The student section was pretty active, though.  For the most part I found the fans to be genuinely good fans, but there seemed to be a lack of passion.  I'd like to see what they are like for a bigger game against a Big 10 rival.  Rating - 6 of 10.    

Best Player - This one isn't even difficult, so I'll keep it brief. Neither offense really did anything, so that leaves defensive players as the possibilities.  Shilique Calhoun scored on a fumble return and an interception return (for his 2nd and 3rd touchdowns of the year) to enable Michigan State to overcome the poor play of the offense. It's a bit telling that the player of the game goes to a defensive player that only played on passing downs.

Overall - This was really a bonus game for us.  We could have easily skipped it if we hadn't woken up early enough on Saturday to make the drive from Chicago to East Lansing for the noon kickoff.  That being said, this one kind of made it the Ultimate Sports Weekend with the twofer on Saturday.  It wasn't a great game, but I'm still glad we went.  Rating - 5 of 10.
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