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Penn State: Out with a fizzle.

Change was in the air Saturday as I wandered along the Olentangy in search of a tailgating spark to start my day. I don’t know if it was me, or if it was the day, but the spark wasn’t there. Just a feeling of going through the motions, as if everyone was going through the motions, counting down until it was all over. The tailgates were there, lodged into corners and spread across lawns, but it didn’t seem quite the same. It seemed fitting for the final home game for the 2011 edition of the Buckeyes, the last time most of us will see them this season. The end of a long and heartbreaking season.

But there was still hope, still a chance to go out with a bang, a chance at our own redemption by heaping another helping of heartache on the beleaguered Penn State football program.

I zig-zagged my way through the western campus, looking for something different to take a picture of, but I didn’t really see anything that caught my eye. The block O kids getting painted were on my mind, and I didn’t want to miss them. I headed to the ‘Shoe.

I timed my arrival perfectly for my memory of how things worked, but I was early for how things really work, so I hung out for a while, waiting for the students to show. They eventually trickled in for their turn under paint.

Cooold.

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Purdue: Homecoming redemption

A beautiful dawn spread its golden rays across Mirror Lake Saturday morning, wiping away the bitter taste of last week’s defeat as past and present Buckeyes gathered for Homecoming.

Ok. That might be a touch of hyperbole. But hyperbole is one of the main fuels of college football, so it fits. It is not hyperbole that the excitement of the homecoming court was contagious. I caught up with them at the Kuhn House, home of the Honors and Scholars program. It is a lovely little chateau on the edge of Mirror Lake, where the court and other guests gathered for brunch.

After breakfast, we boarded buses and headed over to the Skull Session. Anyone looking to get the full experience of a football Saturday in Columbus should definitely check out the Skull Session.

We were all gathered together in a corner of the court, waiting for the band to make its thunderous appearance when I looked up the tunnel and saw Jim Tressel giving Elvis a hug. It felt a little bit like seeing a yeti and bigfoot, without the hair. Somehow, I didn’t see anyone with a camera phone, which is sort of like seeing a yeti riding a unicorn.

he lives

Like a phoenix.

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Marshall: Corralled

I did everything I could think of to not be in Columbus a ridiculous amount of time before kickoff on Thursday. I cut my hair, shaved, cleaned my car (kinda), tidied up the house (a little) and even drove slower than normal. When I got to Columbus, I stopped at Barnes and Noble on Olentangy River Road near campus and wandered the aisles for a little while.

I was still on campus at 3 p.m.

So much for not being early.

After a visit with my friends at The Association, I humped it across campus to the ‘Shoe, lingering among the beautiful people who love the Buckeyes. The tailgates were just getting started, and most of the parking lots were half empty. There were only a couple of people in the photo dungeon under the “open” end of the stadium, and the stands were empty except for a few knots of ushers and a bright yellow cluster of vendors.

Standing at the field level and looking up, my plan was to do a time-lapse series of photos of the stadium filling up. Halfway up, I began to seriously reconsider. Lacking a Sherpa for aid, even lightly loaded the trip was arduous- and of course once I got to the top I remembered the elevator. I had walked up from the bottom to check various vantage points, but it would have been much easier to start at the top and walk down, since I knew I wanted to be at least 2/3 of the way up the stadium.

Oh well. I could work of the ridiculous chocolatly drink thingy I had at the bookstore. Except, as usual, I was early. I chatted with an usher as I waited for the scarlet masses to arrive, while being buffeted by a fairly strong and warm wind.

At 5:00 the ushers took their positions, silent sentries posted at each exit. They could have been talking, but the wind whipped away half of every sentence I attempted with my usher companion. And then the first pair of fans appeared.

And a few more here, and a few more there until slowly, very slowly, the ‘shoe began to fill. Meanwhile, every 15 seconds, a picture.

Some half-a-thousand pictures later, leaving myself five minutes to get back to field level, I wrapped it up and headed for the elevator. Unfortunately, it took 6 minutes to get back to field level, and as I walked down the ramp I could hear the low roar of the pre-kick chant start. As I was gearing up, another massive roar and the Buckeyes were on the board. I had missed the first touchdown of the season.

side steppin'

Saine steps…

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