What's the atmosphere like at Folsom Field during a CU Buffs game when the home team is getting its ass kicked? Based on my hours in the student section amid UCLA's 42-14 shellacking of the Buffs on Saturday, surprisingly great.
As long as you're not in the line of puke, that is.
The last time I attended a CU Buffs game in person was way back in 1980, when I traveled from my hometown of Grand Junction to hang out with some friends grown-up enough to attend school in Boulder. During the visit, we headed to Folsom Field to watch the Buffs, suffering through yet another in a series of down years, take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, then ranked second in the nation. No one expected CU to put up much of a fight, so when the squad racked up the first touchdown, members of the crowd let themselves believe an upset was possible -- a delusion that received a brutal smackdown when the Men of Corn put up the next 45 points.
The 2012 version of the Buffs is in a similarly bad place. The team lost its first two games of the year versus beatable opponents (the woeful CSU Rams and Sacramento State, from the mighty Big Sky conference) before being embarrassed on a grand scale by Fresno State. And while coach Jon Embree's charges showed their gumption in an inexplicable comeback victory over Washington State last week, UCLA is a much better outfit than any they'd previously faced -- one that had been nationally ranked earlier in the season.
Nonetheless, enthusiasm was high in the student section, despite the lateness of many: My twin daughters, who are CU sophomores, informed us that most enrollees don't bother to show up until the middle of the first quarter or later, presumably because they're putting the finishing touches on their pre-gaming. As such, they missed one of the great spectacles in college sport -- the arrival of Ralphie, the buffalo mascot (not counting the costume-clad Chip), who tears across the gridiron as if the cowboy-hatted accompanists running with her are shooting at her rather than guiding her back to his holding trailer. Lucky thing she (yes, the current Ralphie's a she) makes a reappearance toward the end of halftime.
Then came the contest itself, which stayed close for a while, with the Bruins, led by impressive quarterback Brett Hundley, doing all they could to keep the score close. But CU couldn't capitalize on a UCLA turnover, and while Buffs hurler Jordan Webb looked sharp on one drive, he was maddeningly inconsistent on all the rest en route to a 21-7 halftime deficit.
Which would be doubled on each side of the ledger by the final whistle.
Nonetheless, the crowd stayed hyped, with lots of chanting and shouting along with CU's exuberant band -- nice version of "Crazy Train," guys -- and way less drunken activity than I had expected. In the first half, I only saw one young woman who seemed super-soused, and a single act of potentially divisive behavior, when a student stood up on a bench and proudly ate some Chic-fil-a hate chicken (or love chicken, depending on your point of view).
That changed during the second half, when a number of students were transformed into the equivalent of an old-fashioned still: After being heated by the blazing sun for an hour or two, the alcohol in their bellies erupted, bringing up their most recent meal with it. We saw two technicolor yawns not far from us that were quickly addressed by spray-bottle and bucket-wielding clean-up crews clearly ready for this kind of thing, and my daughters spied a third in a row closer to the field.
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Still, these explosions didn't dampen the spirits of those in the stadium, including many parents in town for family day, and neither did the ultimate score. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday -- so long as you didn't care about the outcome of the game, that is.
More from our Tech archive: "ESPN's Chris Fowler and Twitter Nation on CU Buffs' humiliating loss to Fresno State."