Saturday started off pretty much like every game day for me. I pulled into the stadium a little more than three hours before game time, found a decent parking spot near the main aisle, unloaded my gear and proceeded to get my game on before the eventual trek into the stadium. Saturday's crowd was predictable for a mid September night game. 43K+ fans were milling around the lots. Some were scalping, some scavenging but most were just celebrating a beautiful Iowa day.
As game time approached optimism peaked. Was this going to be the year that a Texas team(not named Baylor) was going to leave town with a loss? Would the cold Iowa wind finally play that factor we always hoped for? Could Iowa State somehow hop out to an early lead and drive that Victory Train home? We were about to find out. The only sure thing I knew for sure was 30 minutes later I would be celebrating or drowning in my halftime refreshment.
I got to my seat and became less than mesmerized with another Jeff Johnson attempt to inspire the Cyclone Faithful. I have been coming here a long time and he has never gotten anyone in my group charged up. Don't get me wrong, Jeff is a terrific ambassador for ISU. Jeff has taken upon himself the impossible task of installing tradition into the minds of the uninspired. ISU fans do not need robotic, lethargic chants. ISU fans need wins. The Iowa State Football Team delivered in the second quarter in a span of just under twelve minutes what Jeff Johnson has been trying to deliver since day one.
The game started and ISU traded punts with Texas Tech. ISU again got the ball and shot themselves in the foot with more penalties. Another punt would give Texas Tech the opportunity to try and get an early field goal lead. The kick went poorly and ISU started rolling. The offense overcame three more penalties to set up Grant Mahoney for the lead. 35 yards seemed too long for me. I couldn't watch. I looked at my shoes. The crowd went crazy. ISU had the lead. Texas Tech quickly went three and out and ISU took over. It was soon ten to zero, good guys.
Something happens to a crowd of people when a quality opponent is starting to reel. The hope balloon starts inflating. They get excited. That guy behind me who I thought was mute started screaming. The people in front of me that I didn't know had faces turned around and started high fiving me. The guys to my left who have all year saved their loudest chants for a local TV celebrity stood up and cheered. Texas Tech was at third down again and the announcer didn't need to say a word. We were all on our feet already.
The script changed quickly before half and ISU had to fight its way to victory. Texas Tech almost did to Iowa State what any team facing our last two coaches would have done. Saturday night it didn't happen. Saturday night this football team gave the crowd glimpses of what a quality win felt like. When the game appeared to be tilting the other way, The ISU fans showed both teams what a home field advantage was. Winning is a funny thing. The adrenaline it stirs, the emotions it provokes, the blanket of unity and optimism it provides, these things can't be manufactured.
Winning: I could get used to this.