After the ordeal of dealing with the Uconn ticket office who insist on earmarking the worst seats for visitors, I made my way to Rentschler field for what would turn out to be a surreal evening, which I documented with my point and shoot. I've included some of the pictures here with an explanation of why Rentschler felt like another world that night.
First off, Uconn doesn't deserve the "basketball school" label. Despite the stadium being over 20 miles away from their main campus, the grounds were packed with tailagters, trailers and other good stuff not normally associated with "Big Least" football. I take that back considering we may be be banging on their door once we're homeless.
This was my first away game and it can be pretty daunting when you're heavily outnumbered. Luckily, UConn fans are some of the best I've ever met. I was treated like an exotic traveler from a strange land, with people striking up conversation about football and the fate of both teams. They were also pretty tolerant and polite when I was the only person in the section cheering wildly at ISU scores and Husky mishaps. (More on that later)
My scoreboard's bigger than that.
Lateral view of the field
First or second down?
Home section. Cy with an apparently intact arm.
Doffing their helmets
What made this night surreal was the fact that as a Clone fan, I have seldom had reason to feel the way I did after the game. I've had some cocky UNI co-ed pop her collar at me in Welch Ave station, a Kent State fan suppress laughter and of course taken a load of trash from Hawk fans. But what could I do? The doubters had a point.
Postgame Uconn was different. Yes, there were those three interceptions to start the game and some may call the execution sloppy. But what I saw was a tough D that made necessary stops and an offense that could get its act together when everything aligned correctly. As someone who witnessed the last gasps of the McCarney years and the impotence of Chizik, seeing Josh Lenz's flea flicker and Reynolds hurdling over two Huskies was a thing of beauty. There was no desperation or panic in what they did. Just calm, clinical, competent execution from a team that had seldom displayed those qualities. Keep in mind the Huskies are just removed from a BCS appearance.
I cheered widly, yelling like a moron at every score or forced error. Again, it must be said that the Uconn fans were great for tolerating my excitement. I feel my exuberance was justified given that i've seldom had a reason to feel the way I did. For once, to feel like I was backing the better team, to be able to talk trash, to not have to apologize for a Clone performance, to not have to ask what could have been, were feelings I was unaccustomed to. Hence, my unrestrained cheering.
Walking out of the stadium, I felt the emotion reserved for so many others could now justifiably be felt by me. How Paul Rhoads has engineered this rebuilding project where someone who went on to win a national championship failed is amazing. I can only hope the future will be as bright as that night in East Hartford.