Game Review: New Hampshire Wildcats vs. Toledo Rockets, 8/30/2014, 7pm
Final Score: NH 20, Toledo 54, Attendance: 20,184
Weather: Warm and Clear, low 70’s, Tickets $20 ($25 Face), Parking $10
“I’d rather be at Bowling Green” by Tree
The University of Toledo (the UT) is located in Toledo, about halfway between Detroit and Cleveland. The Rockets play on campus at the Glass Bowl, a reference to Toledo as the heart of the glass industry. Outside of the greater metropolitan Toledo area, one does not generally associate Toledo with ivory towers and classical stone architecture. However, I had visited Toledo’s cross town rivals, Bowling Green, the prior year and a Falcon had given me some indication that Toledo University (they call them by the original school name) alums thought they were a cut above BG grads. I can’t comment on any possible academic disparity, but Toledo’s campus appeared to be nicer than BG’s based on my small tour. There was a multitude of stone buildings and traditional academic architecture. I thought the Glass Bowl might be lots of glimmering steel and glass but it is the exact opposite. Instead the stadium is built much like a castle with a great deal of stone work and corner towers. With a large canon that is fired after each score, the atmosphere works for the most part. It is a slightly lesser version of West Point’s Michie stadium.
Peel back that veneer and the stadium does show a little age. It has two video boards with the larger one having the picture quality slight less than the used 19” RCA color TV my wife and I had when we got married. I half expected to see a promo for Wide World of Sports pop up. The scoreboard did always show down and distance which some these new massive hi-def screens forget to do(I am talking to you USC). The stadium seating was all aluminum bench style. They weren’t selling seatbacks, which is about the only revenue boosting venture not being tried at the Glass Bowl. There was a steady stream of ads and promotions throughout the game. My favorite was the funeral home’s sponsorship of the celebrity of the week. The honoree was none other than Jamie Farr, the only celebrity (? – those of you under 30, google MASH) I know from Toledo. I can’t imagine who the celebrity will be by Week 10. I give the concessions a plus because I could see burgers cooking on a large grill and they sold alcohol, lots of it. Undoubtedly, a nice money maker for the Rockets judging by the stream of fans with booze in hand throughout the game. It was apparently not enough because they were also embracing the old high school booster fundraising program with a high tech version of the 50/50. Hopefully, they will use some of it that money to replace the 1940s porcelain troughs in the men’s room. I embrace the utility of the massive speed urinal at stadiums but these had seen much better days.
I did not tailgate prior to the game, as I had decided to take in the noon game at Pitt. We left at halftime and didn’t have enough time to do a proper pregame setup. There was a small tailgating lot at the entrance of the stadium and I was impressed with activity. There was lots of traditional pregame activity, just smaller in scale.
Getting into the stadium was more difficult that I thought. We did not see any signage for the stadium off of the Interstate and had to rely on my old school GPS to get there. There’s probably an easier route to UT than the scenic tour we took through beautiful Toledo. My research into parking was a quick internet search at a turnpike rest stop which identified $5 lots just outside of campus. I found the road I was looking for, but there was no signage for lots. Taking the path of least resistance, I took a left into campus. I paid $10 to park in a garage that was a 10 minute walk from the stadium. A local radio station was going to set me up with two free tickets at Will Call. As we walked up to the ticket booth, one of the few scalpers offered me two. Just being curious, I asked how much. He said $20 a piece, $5 less than at the ticket window. When I went to Will Call and gave them my ID, they could not find my tickets and asked for more information. So I stepped out of line, pulled up the email from the station. At the window a second time, I showed the clerk the email with all the detail. She took a short second to try again and said “we don’t have anything with your name or the station or any misspellings close to that.” She really wasn’t unfriendly but definitely gave me a vibe of “sorry buddy, you are S.O.L. and don’t bother me again.” I shot off a quick email to my contact at the station with no expectation of an immediate reply. It was nearly kickoff so I hustled down the steps (this is the MAC not the Big 10) to find the scalper figuring I could at least save $10. I got his last two tickets. The seats actually turned out to be very nice, sideline on the visitor’s 40 yard line. I felt a little better until I checked my phone to see an email from the station (6:54pm) telling me to go back to Will Call. With just a little more patience, I could have probably saved $40 instead of $10.
New Hampshire is DI FCS (or DI AA) but a very strong program. I was hoping they might give Toledo a run for their money. They did not disappoint. With aggressive defense and some sharp passing, they stormed to 14 – 3 lead. That woke Toledo up and the Rockets started to turn it around. Their first touchdown was a long bomb. They followed this up with a sharp 96 yard, no-huddle drive to go ahead. They botched the extra point though and NH was happy to take a knee to end the half being only down 2. At that point, I told my son that if I was Toledo, I would start the second half running no huddle. The Wildcats took the opening drive to their 38 where it stalled at 3rd and 1. They gambled on 4th and 1 and like investment in an Atlantic City casino, it did not pay. It left Toledo a short, no-huddle (as predicted) drive to score 7. It was all Rockets after that. NH did cut the lead momentarily to 22 – 30 but the two-point conversion was overturned. I think going back to being down two scores that took the gas out of the scrappy Wildcats and Toledo rolled the rest of the way. In the context of the first game and the opponent, it is hard to tell how good this Rockets team is. Mizzou comes to town next week and that should clarify things significantly.
My Toledo experience was just okay, partly because of the snafu at Will Call. It made the game feel small time, and then everything after seemed to reinforce that. The fans were vocal, but couldn’t support any mass cheers. There was the worst kiss cam I have ever seen. The on-field promos were small time with the host(?) battling an inept scoreboard and horrible audio system. My son and I were hoping for a meltdown by the poor guy working the mike. But, unlike a lot of the activity at Toledo, he worked it like a pro, gritting his teeth through to the end. On the field, Toledo struggled mightily with a lower division opponent for a solid half. I like the MAC and have had good experiences at BG and Kent State. It is almost as though Toledo tries to deliver the big game atmosphere but just comes up short. The prices don’t help. Face value tickets of $25 and parking at $10? At BG, it was $15 and free parking for a better opponent. Similarly, I attended the UD vs Pitt game earlier in the day for a total of $19 and that’s at face value. That game was a blow out for sure, but being at the Glass Bowl isn’t close to the Heinz Field experience.
In my BG review, I mentioned that pairing a trip to one these schools with a trip to Cedar Point could make for a very nice fall weekend. Given that a trip to that Roller Coaster theme park is probably going to gash you for around $100 all in per person, I’d consider BG first where there’s a better bang for your football buck.