SHI Stadium was rocking Saturday afternoon as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeated the Temple Owls on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. It seemed like everyone was ready to celebrate as Rutgers played in front of an impressive, if not truly sold-out, crowd, with some opening day kinks after being out of practice for so long. The game started with Schiano running into a cameraman on the way out of the tunnel, the BELIEVE flag runner tripped as he ran down the field. None of us quite knew how to act after being out of practice for so long, but we all managed to shake off those first day jitters and gel as a unified team and fan base.
Much has been said about the actual performance of the team and the takeaways from a never much-contested victory over the still struggling Owls. What I would like to do here is to highlight the highs and lows of attending the game live and the experience of being part of the historic, in-person, return of former head coach Greg Schiano. With that said let’s start off with the negatives, or things to be aware of if you plan to visit Shi Stadium in person this season:
- The crowds, at least for this game, were massive. That means that the lines for everything were very long and the service staff had their hands full. Be patient, and leave time to get into the stadium, have your mobile ticket ready, small or clear bag open if you brought one, and be aware that halftime might not be the time to get a hotdog, water, or go to the bathroom. I waited in a line that wound around and never moved for food at halftime, got impatient, came back up in the 3Q to try again, and then waited for most of that time to get water and pretzels for my dad and me.
- Ok, that might be it and just a really long bullet one. For longtime attendees, the long-time stadium staff with whom you have become acquainted might not be there for various reasons. The security guard in our section, who we have known for years, was replaced by a younger girl and the parking attendant was new as well. This is not a negative but it’s always nice to see familiar faces at the game and it was something that I noticed.
- Perhaps because of the blowout, this time in our favor, many fans left during the 2nd half. No judgment, but it does start to deflate some of the energy when fans start leaving early. My dad knows I will never leave before the end because I personally feel it stinks to win or lose to a half-empty stadium.
Now for the positives and upgrades from the first game:
- The fanfare was back in full force after a year without fans. There were fireworks at kickoff, halftime, and touchdowns set off over the scoreboard. The Scarlet Knight, the horse (my dad’s personal favorite), and the cheerleaders and dance team were on point. These were the intangibles missed last year and I think the team enjoyed them just as much as the fans did.
- Speaking of the fans, the “Jersey Factor,” our the times the fans were so loud they affected the performance on-field, was measured on the scoreboard and caused a false start on the part of the Temple Owls. Jersey fans are loud and proud and the student section especially brought the noise. While I do think after the events of last year and even a few days prior resulted in a cast of melancholy, at least in our section, the fans were happy to be there and the team played it up for us.
- The win was amazing. After the Ash Era of regularly scoreless games, to score 61 points was a refreshing change. I will enjoy it while I can.
- My personal favorite moment of the game—watching Bo Melton’s excitement as his brother Max scored a pick 6 in the 3rd quarter. It’s fun to be reminded sometimes that these are kids who play for each other. F.A.M.I.L.Y was in full effect Saturday.
- Saturday was Eric LeGrand’s birthday. Having had the chance to interview him for the site a few years ago, I was excited to be able to be part of the happy birthday cheer to him as part of the BELIEVE celebration at the start of the 4th quarter.
And now, if you will indulge me, I want to take a moment to explain the bit of melancholy I mentioned earlier. If you have followed my writing long enough, or read my first installment of this fan series, you know that I have long talked about my football family. As my colleague, Art, eloquently mentioned your seatmates might be people you never speak to outside of the game but they leave an indelible mark on you and your game experience. It would be hard for me to talk about the experience of being a fan or at the game without referencing my seatmates in Section 124. I found out Saturday that one of our long-time seatmates, Timmy, passed away this year unrelated to COVID. Timmy was a tried and true Rutgers fan and an all-around kind human being. He always had a kind word to share with my Dad and me, asked after our family who sometimes attended the game, would greet us each game with a hug, and a strong high-five on touchdowns and takeaways. When I got engaged and then married, he was the first to congratulate me. He would always sit on the stairs close to the railing as a way to be closer to the action without blocking the view of others in the section and loved to heckle the team and opposing fans. If allowed, his friends will be bringing a cutout of him to the home games as a tribute so please keep an eye out and send some love to those who loved him if you see it on TV. The games for us will not be the same without him, and his presence will be sorely missed.
So with that, the first game of the season is under our belt, and I am happy to say we are starting our season 1-0 and on Fox Sports Week 1 CFB Top 25 rankings, at least according to one analyst.
The game experience did not disappoint and hopefully, some of the kinks will have been worked out by the next home game on the 18th. For now, I am looking forward to next week’s game against Syracuse and hope we will be back at home with a 2-0 record under our belt.
Do you plan to attend any home games this season? If you attended the first game in person, what was your favorite part of the experience? Let me know in the comments below!