Back in Missoula after several days down south, I am trying to adjust my internal clock and get back in the mountain time zone mode. You see, right now my body is all sorts of messed up. I guess that is what happens when you pull an all-nighter Tuesday night, travel all day Wednesday, work non-stop from Thursday through Saturday in the eastern time zone, finish work at 3am Sunday morning, and then travel all day once again. Because of this schedule, I admit that a lot of what happened over the past several days seems like a blur. Certain things seem to run together and I am hard pressed to say exactly what days we completed certain tasks on. However, despite all the cloudiness over the last week, there is something that is still crystal clean in my mind, totally unscathed from the hustle and bustle: last night’s football game.
On Saturday evening, the Appalachian State Mountaineers hosted the Montana Grizzlies in a regular season, non-conference dream matchup between FCS powerhouses. In Boone, North Carolina, in front of 30,000 people under the lights, the two best programs at their level clashed in yet another down to the wire game. When all was said and done, Appalachian State came away with a 35-27 victory.
In my first game working on the advanced travel crew with Jimmy, I learned a lot. We ran around frantically as we were either meeting with people, traveling from one place to the other, transporting our own people, or preparing for a meal/walk-through/hotel check-in/etc. Because of the pace we were moving at combined with the jet lag and travel fatigue, it is easy to see why I can’t recall everything with pinpoint precision. Thus, it speaks volumes to how special last night’s game was as my memory from 6pm ET to around 10pm ET is spot on.
It is hard to describe the atmosphere of last night’s game. Well, wait a second, maybe it really isn’t. If you were in attendance for the 2009 Montana-App State semi-final game, then you have an idea of how Saturday night was. The Appalachian State students packed their designated section two hours prior to game time. During those two hours they had a great time dancing, engaging in cheers, and doing anything to get on the video screen. Speaking of the video screen, the App State game operations crew ran a special highlight video of the 2009 game that basically paid homage to Montana. It was cool and a very respectful thing for our hosts to do. The entirety of the pregame rivaled what we have in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. While I don’t think their tunnel walk outshined what we have, their fireworks display was right on the field and very impressive. As I have said before, I love getting the chance to enjoy a sporting event and observe what other teams are doing. It is so nice to be removed from the craziness and stress of actually running the show.
Once the actual football game got started, it was an intense and fun experience. Even though the game was non-conference and even though it was early in the season, both teams knew the underlying importance of what was at stake. It was the battle of the two most successful programs at the FCS level, it was east versus west, it was one tradition against another tradition. Both teams played hard and I don’t mean that in the cliché type of way. I mean it more from the standpoint that the teams hit hard the whole game, played with passion, and did whatever they could to win. The stadium was packed. The students were wild, the general App State fans were into it, and a certain section of people dressed in maroon and silver made their presence known the whole game. The large ASU band, the very good crew of cheerleaders, and that Mountaineer mascot that kept running up and down the home sideline also added a special touch to the atmosphere. As the evening got darker the bright lights illuminated yet another nail-biting finish.
In a wild fourth quarter, both teams came up with Sportscenter worthy plays and with less than nine minutes to play only one point separated the two teams. With under a minute left to play in the game, the Griz had the ball and threatened to tie the game up. However, as sports go, it was just not meant to be.
Before, during, and after the game, App State fans were admirable. Save for the handful of drunk students that every school has, everyone in that stadium seemed to be classy. After the game as I was running back and forth through the crowds I couldn’t count how many times Appalachian fans said to Montana fans as they crossed paths “Thank you very much for coming.” True to the great nature of many of our fans, they all responded with either a “Congratulations,” “Thank you for your hospitality,” or “Hope to see you down the road.” Rivalry at its best.
Last night I was very fortunate to be on the sidelines and witness a great college football game between two teams, two schools, and two fan bases that have the ultimate respect for each other. What I watched play out on the field and in the stadium plaza after the game is something I will always remember. No case of jet lag could ever touch that. Don’t Blink.