There were no real surprises to be had in this year’s battle for the Key to the City, as USF’s 27-10 win over Augie went about how I expected. Augie was never not in the game, but USF seemed more or less in control for the duration.
I expected Augie’s offense to get things going a little bit, and they did, totaling 329 yards of offense, their second-highest output of the year, but I also thought USF’s defense would stiffen up a bit and keep the Vikings point-totals down, and they did.
The battle of USF’s offense against Augie’s defense was pretty close to as competitive as expected, though the Cougars got the best of that matchup with 433 yards and 27 points (20 of which were set up by short fields, it should be noted).
No, the only real surprise to me in this one was the crowd, or lack of one on the visitors side. In last year’s Key to the City battle a record crowd of 7,120 showed up to Kirkeby-Over Stadium to watch the Cougars’ 32-31 2OT win.
I didn’t expect that big of a crowd this time, for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t the first matchup, so some fans who don’t have a dog in the fight that attended last year’s game might not have felt the need to go back.
It was at night, and it was cold, and on TV. Plenty of fans surely chose to watch on TV in their warm basements where they could watch the World Series at the same time.
But I still expected a crowd of close to 6,000, and was surprised and disappointed that only 4,721 showed up.
USF will never draw as well as Augie, because not only is their stadium on the edge of town, off-campus, but their enrollment is also significantly less than Augie’s.
USF fans, to be fair, didn’t fill their side of the stands, either, but the crowd on the visitors side was particularly disappointing.
Augie’s students turned out pretty well, especially considering they’re on a fall break. It wasn’t the Augie students who I feel dropped the ball. It was their other fans. Their alums. The former players. The extended families. Where were they? I don’t think there were even 1,000 Augie fans in attendance.
Last year, USF fans made up pretty close to 50% of the 7,120 at the K-O, completely filling the visiting grandstand and creating a bipartisan crowd that made it feel like a home atmosphere for USF when they were the ones making big plays.
On this night the crowd was decidedly pro-USF, as Viking fans didn’t come close to filling their side of the stands.
I’ve heard some rumblings that it was intentional, that some Augie fans simply refused to buy a ticket for a USF home game. I have a hard time buying this, because if true it would say a lot about Augie fans, and what it would say would not be good. It would be kind of a slap in the face to the Viking players, wouldn’t it? It’d basically be saying you’d rather stick it to USF’s ticket sales than support your team.
I also heard (directly) from some Augie fans who told me they weren’t going because they expected to lose. This is pretty lame, too. If you’re afraid to go to a rivalry game because of the fear of embarrassment of a loss, you really have no business crowing if/when your team wins one.
Minnesota Vikings fans know their team is probably going to lose whenever they play the Packers. It’s still the game they look forward to most.
The people that are trying to diminish the rivalry with USF (and there are still plenty who are doing it) are missing the point, and that point is that rivalries are about the athletes and the students of the school. No matter how many times someone insists that it’s ‘just another game’, or that Augie has ‘bigger things in mind than beating USF’, the fact is no game on the schedule, in any sport, engages the students, puts pressure on the players and draws interest from outsiders like the Augie/USF game.
And as far as having bigger things in mind than beating USF (first of all, duh), perhaps that wouldn’t sound quite so silly if the Vikings weren’t 8-11 since USF joined the NSIC, while the Cougars are 14-5.
Maybe start with beating USF. Then worry about Duluth and Mankato.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the Augie players. They like this rivalry and they played hard on Saturday. They want to be a part of this and they understand and appreciate the attention it brings them. Do they have their sights set on more than just winning the rivalry game? Of course they do, but they’re also not downplaying the USF game or pretending that they’re above getting excited about it.
If I was an Augie player, I’d be a little insulted that so many fans skipped the trip to the Bob, especially since I’ve seen Augie fans travel well to farther-flung places like Mankato and Duluth.
USF’s fans were a factor in last year’s game. Augie’s were not in this one.
Then again, maybe it really was just the cold weather and late start (we know a large portion of Augie fans have early bedtimes), and it’s also worth noting that USF people seem to be the ones most upset over the Augie crowd. They’re not doing much to dispel the inferiority complex by whining that visiting fans didn’t come to their game.
Why worry about it? Instead, take solace in the fact that it might actually be a point in USF’s favor when it comes to recruiting (though these teams don’t overlap in recruiting nearly as much as people think).
* No, I don’t think Leslie Frazier will or should get fired before the end of the season. Who would you replace him with? His coordinators are even worse than him.
In fact, firing one or both coordinators might make more sense. Either way, the whole staff is likely gone after this season. It’s stunning how inept they look one year after going to the playoffs.
And as much as I’ve given Christian Ponder the benefit of the doubt, it was hard to believe he could play so passive last night. He had to know this was his last chance didn’t he? He did nothing with it.
* Football fans love to complain about how much they hate the prevent defense, but the Dallas Cowboys gave a textbook example Sunday of why the prevent exists and when it should be employed. The Cowboys rushed four and played man on the outside, allowing Matt Stafford to lead the Lions roughly 80 yards in 40 seconds with no timeouts in what was one of the more pitiful examples of late-game defense I’ve ever seen.
And Dez Bryant sure seems like a swell dude, doesn’t he?
* I enjoy making fun of marching bands and their fans because who doesn’t, but this performance by the Ohio State band is truly amazing. Just…wow.
* College football has been a haven for goofy names for a long time, but it’s really starting to get out of control. Someone tell John Stiegelmeier to give Scoish Velociraptor Maloish more playing time.
* Dear Red Sox fans and people who are wrong: It was obstruction. Shut up.
* RIP to the great Lou Reed.