For a trip to East Lansing, Michigan that would involve a little over 12 hours of actually having my feet on the non-airport ground, I sure got my money’s worth.
For the opening weekend of college football, this trip to watch the Aggies fall just short of the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans inspired both in terms of the on-field product the Aggies put forward, and the game day atmosphere that Logan and Utah State should aspire to.
As far as the game itself goes, I don’t know that I’ve been more proud to be a Utah State fan in quite some time — perhaps since the 2015 Boise State game in Logan that saw the Aggies force eight turnovers en route to a 52-26 win over the Broncos. (Pride that was immediately dashed the next game when I traveled to San Diego to see the Aggies get embarrassed by the Aztecs.)
In East Lansing, the Aggies played with a confidence that we haven’t seen in a few years, punching right back after being knocked down by the Spartans. This was a sharp contrast to last year’s “money game” against Wisconsin when after going into halftime tied 10-10, the Aggies were routed and put up little fight, losing the game 59-10.
This Aggie team is clearly different.
It was quite interesting sitting lonely as an Aggie fan in a sea of Spartan green and white on Row 21 of Section 8 in the heart of the belly of Spartan fandom. While the animated Spartan students two sections to my left were entertaining themselves with chants of “Fuck Jim Harbaugh”, the alumni and boosters around me quickly had attitudes shift from “we’ll dominate in the second half” to “what is going on here?”
The nerves really ratched up when the Aggies took a 31-30 lead with five minutes to go in the game.
Obviously, the Aggies gave up a score and a two-point conversion with two minutes left and a tipped Jordan Love pass on the potential game-tying drive was intercepted to seal the 38-31 win for Michigan State, but as I made the three-mile walk from Spartan Stadium to my hotel, it was hard to be anything but proud of the Aggies.
The team will look forward to New Mexico State next week — the team they lost to in overtime of the 2017 NOVA HOME LOANS Arizona Bowl — where they will seek revenge. By all accounts thus far, Utah State is exponentially improved from last year’s bowl loss team, and New Mexico State is … not good.
Now, the other element of the weekend that was inspiring, as I mentioned, was the game day experience. There was so much energy around the campus of students, fans, and families congregating around the stadium in the hours before the game, tailgating, watching the Marching Band warm up and march to the stadium, drinking and dining in bars, and all in all having a good time.
Virtually every single MSU fan was wearing green or white, and the stadium was “striped” as a result of the shirt color each fan wore in each section. Fan had cheers, chants, and traditions that resonated very positively within the stadium.
There were a couple traditions in particular that I would love to see Utah State adopt:
- The marching band marching from a warm-up location to the stadium, with fans lining the streets cheering, and then following the band into the stadium, was a sight to behold. Utah State’s marching band is nowhere near the size of Michigan State’s, but neither is our crowd. We could start somewhere.
- As the Michigan State team exited the locker room onto the field, the video screens showed Coach Mark Dantonio leading the team out, building anticipation up to when the team entered the field through a tunnel of people on both sides. The tunnel was made up of student athletes representing all of the 25 sports at the school.
Ultimately it was fun to get away for a day and see the Aggies play a road game in great fashion in a real football environment. I hope to have the opportunity to travel to a future away game, especially with games at Louisiana State and Alabama coming up in the next few years.