Sometimes things just don't work out the way you planned. Saturday night was supposed to be a coming out party on national television for CU football. It didn't turn out like that. It was also supposed to be the night that marshmallow fights returned to Folsom Field. That didn't happen either. Sometimes even the best laid plans don't work out, and both the Buffs and their fans were reminded of that repeatedly on Saturday.
Rain doesn't visit Folsom Field often. It had been since 2006 that so much as a drop of rain had fallen during a game (which is remarkable when you think about it) and you'd have to go all the way back to 1996 to find the last heavy rain during a game. Both of those clocks were reset on Saturday, as rain started to fall a little less than two hours before kickoff. I was standing at the top of section 116 handing out rally towels to students (and more than a few alumni who asked nicely) when the rain started to fall. I quickly discovered that a towel could also serve as a makeshift hat, and I wasn't the only one. As long as the rain was falling it looked like the entire student section was making a very interesting fashion statement.
The rally towels were pretty much the only thing planned for the game that was enhanced instead of hampered by the rain. Folsom Frenzy spent a good part of the week organizing and planning a card stunt that had to be scrapped on Saturday afternoon because of the impending storm. Although it's being saved for another game, it was still disappointing that we didn't get to do it in front of a national audience. Even more disappointing was the fact that the signs that members of the student section had spent hours (and their own money) making were confiscated by stadium security. The only explanation given was that "there are no signs allowed in Folsom Field." I saw quite a few amongst the general public last night. Apparently the only people actually subject to this rule are the people who actually work with the athletic department. There were plans for Chip to do a "Duck Hunt" with a t-shirt cannon and giant cardboard ducks with targets painted on them. It didn't happen.
Despite all of this disappointment, I was still excited for the game to start, and the student section was starting to fill in well over an hour before kickoff. I've been to 18 home games in the last two years, and I have never seen students so excited to be at a game in Folsom. Then, less than an hour before kickoff, the game was put in a weather delay. I have no idea when, if ever, this has happened at Folsom Field. Fans were instructed to seek shelter because of lightning in the area. Most of the students stayed put.
Someone in the student section (and I hope to God he wasn't a CU student) was wearing an Oregon sweatshirt. He was booed and flipped off by many students around him, but stood his ground. Then a chant of "Take It Off" started, and persisted, while "It's Raining Men" by the Weather Girls played in the background. Whether the mostly male students chanting were cognizant of this or not, I do not know. He took the sweatshirt off, to raucous applause, only to reveal an Oregon T-shirt underneath. The chant started again. The Weather Girls continued to sing. He took it off. Everyone cheered. It was glorious.
The players returned to the field shortly after that, and it seemed like the game was about to get underway. But mother nature had other plans and another weather delay was announced, to a chorus of boos. Once again, the students didn't budge. Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" came on the PA, and seemingly the entire student section sang the chorus louder than 18,000 people at a concert would have. "Livin' on a Prayer" came on next, and a hilariously loud and off-key student section belted out every word. These were not students looking for any excuse to leave the game early. They were students who wanted to be a part of something and had decided to make the best of a weird situation.
Yeah, things were weird. Really weird. The teams finally returned to the field and warmed up, before heading to the sidelines to start the game. Ralphie didn't run. The band played the Star Spangled Banner from their section in the horseshoe instead of from the field. Suddenly, the teams were running on the field for kickoff. Despite having waited over an hour, it seemed like the game couldn't really be starting.
The surreal aspect of starting a football game past 9PM local time was only augmented by three early turnovers, two of which were by the Buffs deep in their own territory. When Oregon scored to make it 7-0, it felt like the game might be over before it had even really had a chance to get started. Then CU found their footing and scored 14 straight points, sending Folsom into a Frenzy (I'll see myself out).
Even in the midst of the celebration after Shay Fields's touchdown catch, I still felt ... strange. There's really no other way to put it. It was already so late and I saw several people around me suppressing yawns in between cheers. Tiny, light raindrops that looked more like snow than anything else were falling in the stadium. It felt like a dream, but not the dream I had the week before where CU beat Oregon. Something felt off the entire time to me, even while CU was ahead in the first half.
With the score tied at halftime, I nervously watched to see if any students would leave. Few did. There were far more defections from the general public, which I can understand. Some people actually have to wake up on Sunday morning. The crowd was still large, but not as large as it was in the first half when the second half kicked off. CU's first drive stalled and Oregon went right down and scored a touchdown that sucked a lot of air out of the building. Still, the students stayed.
In my two and a a half seasons here I haven't seen that kind of dedication from the student body, and it was encouraging to see how much more they believed in the team compared to years past. Oregon's second touchdown of the third quarter did send some people to the exits, but I would say that 90% of the student section was still there when the fourth quarter began. While I'm disappointed that the south end zone never completely filled up like I was expecting it to, I can't be anything but impressed with the fortitude shown by those who did come. They were in it for the long haul, and most of them stayed past midnight in less than ideal conditions.
There were rumors this week that the first marshmallow fight in years might occur on Saturday night. The rumors were true. One was planned for the TV timeout between the third and fourth quarters. Unfortunately it wasn't the weather, but rather a handful of irresponsible students that prevented it from happening. It didn't take long for some students to find out that a wet rally towel makes for a decent projectile, and Oregon players were pelted with them during warmups. I thought this was kind of funny, but I worried that it would still be an issue once the game started. It was. A handful of towels made it down to field level through the first half, but the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against CU in the third quarter caused more than a few to rain down on or near the playing surface. This prompted a warning from the PA that any further towel throwing would result in a penalty against CU.
After hearing this, it was decided that a potential 15 yard penalty in a game that CU still had a chance to win was just not worth it. While this was yet another disappointment, it was probably the right call. The marshmallow fight's time will come, but, like so many other things, Saturday night was not it. To the credit of the students, no more towels were thrown after the warning, and we didn't end up with an embarrassing situation a la the 2005 Nebraska game.
The crowd really started to thin out after Oregon made it 38-24 with 8:43 remaining in the game, but it's difficult to be mad at the people who stayed until it was technically Sunday for not staying until the bitter end. There's still work to be done, but our habits are getting better. I saw this in the UCLA game last year and again on Saturday night. People aren't giving up on the team as easily as they used to.
Saturday night was not everything that so many had hoped it would be, but it was not a complete failure. The team was in the game until the final minutes, and the largest crowd in three years looked great on national TV. Hopefully the kind of atmosphere we had on Saturday night will return to Folsom again this year. The team is going to have to win some games in order for that to happen, but I hope that we'll see a strong showing for the homecoming game against Arizona no matter what happens this Saturday against ASU. You never know ... instead of raining water it might just rain marshmallows.