Game 3 - Notre Dame at Michigan

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

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

Here's the game that initiated the trip in the first place.  Notre Dame at Michigan.  Last year just  before the game at Notre Dame, Notre Dame signed a deal with the ACC that requires them to play five ACC teams a year starting in 2014.  As a result, they needed to make some room on their schedule, and they decided to do it by terminating their series with Michigan.  By contract, either party had to give a two-year notice to end the series, so Notre Dame handed Michigan the letter just before the game last year.  So, this year was the last one in Ann Arbor for awhile, and next year in South Bend will be the last one period until the indeterminate future when they pick it back up again.  

Michigan was already upset with Notre Dame for picking the likes of Michigan State and Purdue over Michigan, and Michigan coach Brady Hoke made his feelings known during a press conference in May by stating,"The Notre Dame game, that rivalry, which they're chickening out of..."  The week before the game, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made it even worse when he said, "I really haven't seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries.  I've seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played."  "It's a big regional game."  Hoke responded with, "“It is (a big deal) for us, yeah.  Everybody looks at everything differently.”  “GameDay’ has been here six times for this football game.  That’s pretty significant, if they’re coming, whether it’s on this campus or in South Bend.  So, it must have some sort of national appeal.”  Needless to say, both teams were fired up for this one.  It was dubbed "Under the Lights at the Big House II."

Now for a game this big, regardless of what Coach Kelly says, tickets were going to be hard to come by.  I asked Michelle, my Notre Dame friend that I had met in Ireland last year, if she knew how I could get tickets to the game.  A few weeks later, I heard from her that Uncle Sal had put in for tickets for me.   Then, a week before we left for Chicago, I got a FedEx envelope from Uncle Sal with two tickets!  Game on!!!

 Stadium - The Big House.  Michigan Stadium was built in 1927 with an original capacity of 82,000.  That was pretty big for the time, but the stadium was actually designed with footings to allow it to expand above 100,000.  After several renovations, the stadium reached the current capacity of 109,901 after the most recent renovation in 2010.  Michigan Stadium is the largest stadium in the United States and the third largest stadium in the world.  Even though the capacity is a stated 109,901, 115,109 people squeezed into the stadium for the Notre Dame game, setting an NCAA single-game attendance record!Walking up to the stadium, we knew we were at the big time.  This is actually the first stadium I've seen with a jumbotron on the OUTSIDE of the stadium.  Michigan Stadium has a very attractive brick façade, and it really doesn't look that imposing from the outside, since it is recessed into the ground.  It was easy to tell where the original part of the stadium is, but the expansion was done very naturally.  Once we got into the seating area, the expanse of the stadium could be seen.  The press box and luxury suite seating was pretty imposing.  That being said, the stadium really didn't look any bigger than other large stadiums I've been to, like Texas, Penn State, or Florida State.  Once everybody took their seats, it became apparent why.  We were squished in like sardines, and I think the extra 5000+ people were all in our row.  In addition to having to alternate shoulders with the two guys next to me to fit on our numbers, I had a knee in my back in addition to having my knee in the back of the person in front of me. I was extremely jealous of the guy sitting next to three kids. He had plenty of room.

As far as entertainment experiences go, this is an excellent venue.  That being said, I can't be as uncomfortable as I was for over three hours and give the stadium the highest rating.  Rating - 8 of 10.

 Tailgating - When I asked my Michigan friends where we should go to tailgate, the immediate and unanimous response was the golf course.  So, we found a place to park the car and wandered to the golf course.  I've never seen a tailgating venue like this before.  Usually, tailgating happens in parking lots surrounding the stadium or, in the case of LSU, on every stitch of grass on campus.  At Michigan, they have the university golf course directly south of the stadium.  This enables a very large amount of people to find a place to park and ample room to set up their tailgating spread.  The best part is that it also enables a lot of room for games.  There were kids playing football on most of the fairways and adults playing lasso golf, corn hole, and even a few drinking games.  Very nice.  Rating - 10 of 10.

 The Game - The game started off with a dedication to Tom Harmon, the first Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan and a speech by his son Mark Harmon (yes, that Mark Harmon).  During the ceremony, it was announced that Harmon's number 98 was going to be unretired and Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was going to honor Harmon by wearing his number 98 during the game.  Pretty cool.

This was a pretty hotly contested game with both teams bringing their A-game.  Michigan went into halftime with a 27-13 lead, but Notre Dame clawed their way back to come within 4 points with Michigan leading 34-30 with just over nine minutes left in the 4th quarter.  Michigan scored again with 4:18 left in the game, and held on for a 41-30 over the Irish.  

In a fairly obvious dig at Notre Dame, the Chicken Dance blared over the speakers as the Michigan fans celebrated in the stands.  It's too bad this rivalry will have to take a pause for an indeterminate amount of time after 2014.  I'm looking forward to next year's version!  Rating - 10 of 10. 

The Band -
  We actually got two bands for this game, since the Notre Dame band played, too.  Full disclosure:  We didn't have the opportunity to move under the press box like I usually do to watch the marching bands, so we couldn't really see the formations as intended, and we couldn't hear the bands well since they don't generally play to the corner of the endzone opposite the press box.  I found the Michigan halftime show on YouTube, but I couldn't find the Notre Dame halftime show.

 Band of the Fighting Irish: The Notre Dame band came out with a difficult high step that said they aren't messing around.  Their formations appeared to be somewhat difficult from our vantage point, but the lines weren't incredibly straight.  Their sound was pretty good from where we were sitting.  

What I did like was that they played a lot during the game.  They were undeterred by the stadium music and the crowd, and they played on.  

I'll admit that since we didn't have the best vantage point, I'm going a little bit off of the two times I saw this band last year.  Rating - 8 of 10.

 Michigan Marching Band: This show had obviously been planned for quite a while.  The music was a Beyonce tribute, and Beyonce herself even announced the band on the big screen!  They had given out glowing blue wristbands, and the lights were turned down for the show.  Combine that with the light show on the field during the performance, and it was a pretty cool show.

The formations were reasonably difficult at times, particularly since it would be hard to see where your spots are in the darkened stadium.  From what I could tell, they did a decent job of being where they were supposed to be.  I also liked the fact that they were always playing when they were moving.  They sounded really good, which is also notable since it would have been nearly impossible to read music with the lights that low.  That means everybody had to pretty much memorize the music.  I really enjoyed this one.

Here's the YouTube video of the show:
I only have two knocks on the Michigan band. Neither is related to the halftime show, and neither is really their fault.  First, I didn't like the fact that they were miked in the stands and had their music pumped through the stadium speakers.  Norte Dame didn't have that benefit.  On the other hand, a 109,901 seat stadium is pretty difficult to fill with sound from the stands, particularly when it's an amped up crowd during a great football game.  Next, I wasn't thrilled with the constant playing of Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes when the band should have been playing.  Unfortunately, it is becoming more common in the college football landscape to blare music over the loudspeakers rather than letting the marching band play. Rating - 9 of 10.

 Fans - I wore a Notre Dame shirt to the game.  I did this partially because I got the tickets from a Notre Dame fan, partially because I don't have a Michigan shirt, and partially because I wanted to see how the Michigan fans would treat the Notre Dame fans.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The only real issue I had was a single "F*** Notre Dame" directed my way at the tailgate, but the guy who said it was somewhat apologetic afterwards and lamely said he was just preparing me for the stadium.  That was the only negative thing I heard the whole time. 

During the game, the fans were pretty good.  They were appropriately quiet when Michigan was on offense and loud when Notre Dame was on offense.  I'd have to give these fans a pretty high score.  Rating - 10 of 10.    

Best Player - This was a pretty entertaining and high scoring game, so there are a few candidates for best player.  On the Notre Dame side, receiver T.J. Jones pulled down 9 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown while fellow receiver Troy Niklas had 6 receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown of his own.  But, they lost.  So, let's look at the Michigan side of the equation.  An obvious choice would be quarterback Devin Gardner, who threw for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns while leading the team with 82 yards rushing and another touchdown.  However, he also threw a nasty interception in his own end zone, which gave Notre Dame an easy touchdown and put them in a position to win the game.  So, although Devin Gardner had a pretty great game overall, the best player in this game was earned by Jeremy Gallon and his 8 receptions for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns.  If you're keeping track, that's over 62% of the receiving yards and 75% of the receiving touchdowns.

 Overall - What more can you ask for?  Great tailgating.  An iconic stadium.  Beyoncé on the big screen.  A fantastic game between the two of college football's royalty.  I'd say this was a fantastic experience.  Rating - 10 of 10.

Here are a bunch of other pictures from the game.
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Nate on

I'll be happy to hook you up with a Michigan shirt, and I think you have a neighbor who would do the same... : )

Mom on

Getting those tickets just proves the old adage -- it's not what you know, it's who you know:-)

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