After more than three years at Miami University, I finally attended my first football game at Yager Stadium on Oct. 19.
Where I grew up as an Indian living in the Middle East, American football was never a big part of my culture, and I never really followed the sport until this fall. Cricket was my favorite, and with millions of Indians living in that part of the world, I was not going to be the odd one out by not playing. Cricket is to Indians what football is to Americans.
I attended my first ever football game in September, with The Miami Student, when Miami took on the University of Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. I wanted to participate in the game as a reporter due to the history between the two rivals and the game from my sophomore year being one for the ages (UC beat Miami, 21-17, on a last-second pick-six).
After enjoying this year’s Battle for the Victory Bell, I decided it was time for my first game at Yager.
The Miami RedHawks were playing the Northern Illinois Huskies, and I felt I witnessed everything possible in a football game.
As I entered Yager, the first thing I noticed was the tailgate taking place around the stadium. I had always heard about tailgating and was invited by friends in the past, but I never noticed how popular it is. I saw a band playing music and people enjoying a pleasant picnic right before the game. I lost count at the number of RVs; it all seemed so well-designed.
The first thing about the game that shocked me was an insane one-handed catch by Cole Tucker, a redshirt sophomore wide receiver for the Huskies. The ball was flying away from him before he plucked it out of the air with one hand. It was a great athletic display and fantastic effort by Tucker.
The first quarter had a fantastic finish because of Maurice Thomas, Miami’s redshirt senior running back. He returned a kickoff 86 yards and almost made it to the end zone in the final eight seconds of the quarter. I could not believe how Thomas almost ran past the Huskies’ return defense with such ease. Another reporter in the press box turned and showed me a video from last year, where Thomas successfully completed a 100-yard touchdown return.
As the second quarter got underway, the Huskies eventually got the first touchdown of the game. The RedHawks fought back but trailed, 10-7, at halftime. By the end of the first half, the game looked like it was shifting in favor of the Huskies, especially after several dropped passes by RedHawk receivers.
Watching the game from the press box, I realized I was not getting the ultimate football experience.
I decided to join the crowd by the food stands and purchase a hot dog. I had always witnessed on television how people enjoy their traditional American snacks during their games, and I was able to do that, too!
The second half featured a complete turnaround by the RedHawks. They began with a quick touchdown by James Maye, who received a great ball from freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert.
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The Huskies were not going to give up just yet, as they regained the lead, but the RedHawks were ready to steal it one final time. Thomas was at it again, running another 40 yards on a kick return before Gabbert made a strong pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jalen Walker. Walker was tackled at the 2-yard line. Eventually, Jaylon Bester scored the touchdown for Miami, and it ended the third quarter with a 21-17 lead.
The fourth quarter brought on injuries to two RedHawks, Andrew Homer and Bart Baratti, but that was not going to stop them from losing the lead. The RedHawks kicked two field goals before the Huskies scored the final touchdown of the game. The final score was 27-24, a RedHawks’ win.
Ultimately, I feel I have witnessed the complete football experience, except for cheering Miami on in the student section itself. I plan to attend the RedHawks’ next home game against Bowling Green as a Miami fan to tick off that part off my American college bucket list. Maybe I’ll eat another hot dog.