At halftime of last night's MAC Championship game I scrolled through the boisterous (and wildly premature) victory tweets and facebook status updates of my large and incredibly attractive network of Ohio University friends and colleagues. Reading these, a thought ever so briefly rolled through my OU-educated head, "We haven't won yet, guys.", but then I shooed that notion away and instead thought about how I would've partied this moment if I was still in college in Athens, Ohio.
It's customary to leave at halftime of OU games after the Marching 110's performed. Not everybody exits Peden Stadium, but a large majority of the students who started the game, will not be in their seats for the second half. Nobody's quite sure when this started, but it's a real phenomenon. Maybe it began with all the years of god-awful Ohio U football teams when the only reason to go to the games was to see the fantastic marching band (link to party rock anthem). Maybe it's because MAC games are often broadcast during the middle of the week and students are trying to get a jump on the nightlight in Athens where every night is a party. Whatever it is, this is noted and accepted behavior.
It's possible that the Bobcats football team followed Blotto's lead and the lead of the student body because the team didn't show up in the second half either. The first half Bobcats played with an angry edge. They were underdogs to Northern Illinois and played with confidence and poise. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton and wideout Levon Brazill couldn't go wrong and by the end of the first two quarters OU held a 20-0 lead. Northern Illinois couldn't stop turning the ball over and it looked like the Bobcats were going to stroll to their first conference championship since 1968.
The second half Bobcats did not resemble the one who decidedly claimed the MAC East title weeks earlier, or the first half team that, out of the blocks, dumptrucked the MAC West champion.
They gave up a touchdown on Northern Illinois' first possession of the second half. Levon Brazill dropped a touchdown ball that would've extended the lead to 27-7 at the time. Matt Weller, so many times the hero on the season, pushed the ball wide right on that possession's field goal attempt. OU failed to score in the second half and watched as mistakes, turnovers, defensive lapses, and to their credit, Northern Illinois' adjustments wittled away their precious lead. With 8 minutes left and a 20-13 lead, Tyler Tettleton was picked off at the 50 on a spectacular catch by a Husky defensive back. With 4 minutes left NIU tied the game, then the OU players and fans (of which my younger sister was apart of) were forced to watch the Huskies celebrate as the game winning field goal cleared the uprights as time expired.
It was one of the most spectacular choke-jobs I've ever seen. It's the kind of choke-job that you can see happening. Everyone in the stadium knows it's happening, including the team it's happening to, which makes it even worse. There's good momentum, but there's also bad momentum, and in the second half OU couldn't stop the snowball of bad momentum.
When you're a fan of a MAC school the best you can hope for is a conference championship and a bowl victory. Last night I watched helplessly as a slow motion car accident unfolded in front of me and ripped the former from my and my OU network's grasp.
It's been a year since The Sports Weekend From Hell. Maybe there's something about this particular date on the calendar.
Sports Hate Me, but at least us Bobcats can still be proud of one thing: The 2010-2011 National Partying Championship. I'll drink to that.