This late! This site is all about savoring things, so this kinda got to simmer.
All things considered, Northwestern-Auburn was probably the greatest sporting event I've ever seen in person. I've seen games with fantastic finishes before. I saw the Knicks come back from 20, send a game to OT, then double OT, adn then David Lee tipped in a game winner with .1 seconds left. I saw Hideki Matsui and Kenny Lofton hit back-to-back homers when the Yankees were down two with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. But they all lacked the import and weird, crazy, disturbing nature of the Outback Bowl. I've never seen two teams try so hard to win that they kept accidentally actually making it significantly easier for the other team to win. I've never heard 35,000 quiet southerners, and I've never heard an entire crowd of purple successfully coordinate a "Go U NU" chant. (For all the greatness of that cheer, it's too difficult to coordinate over large sections at games for some reason.) There's a bunch of bulletpoints encapsulating that game/weekend after the jump.
(oh, and it's an epic post. read it.)
- There's only one place that any coverage of that game can start. (besides the fake field goal thing.) Mike Kafka. My first thought during/after the game was man, it sucks that just a few days after I started reading articles about how Kafka could be a hypothetical pro prospect, he throws that (and five passes) away by having the worst game of his career.
- It took a while to sink in. Yeah, he threw five picks. Yeah, three of them were completely his fault. The fourth (the pass to Markshausen) probably could have been thrown better or shouldn't have been thrown, the fifth was just silly. Yeah. Some of his biggest passes (diving snag by Jeremy Ebert, sideline grab on a tossed up joke of a pass by Sidney Stewart, the one-handed faux-pass interference on Andrew Brewer) were on his receivers, not him. But dude played the game of his life. 47/78? WHAT? 538 yards! And he would've led the team in rushing if not for a -15 yard sack that he thought was an incomplete pass. Kafka didn't really look great - as it was all season, a lot of that stuff was short, and for the first time all season, Kafka seemed to be constantly underthrowing his receivers and made a variety of bad decisions more befitting of Kafka 1.0, but, still, one of the more miraculous games by an NU quarterback.
- And I'd give some of the credit for his day to the WR corps. Andrew Brewer legitimately beat his man on two touchdown catches, Sidney Stewart was open for days on the touchdown, in addition to other plays, Freaky Zeke Markshausen had 12 catches, even Jeremy Ebert, who I had presumed deceased, emerged from the depths of the depth chart to register six catches.
- And as for Drake Dunsmore... he's the he's the best.
- The logical thing to do after saying "hey, the offense played great!" is that we must have lost because of poor defense. But you can't blame a game like that on the defense. It's awful tough to win when your offense gifts the opposition 14 points before you even get points. If it wasn't for the silly pick-six and Scott Concannon's shoulder pad, we're looking at an NU win right now. There was one abhorrent play by Northwestern's defense, and that was Brendan Smith's pass coverage of ex-name of the week nominee Quindarius Carr. Carr had a few steps on Smith, but the pass was underthrown. Smith could have deflected that ball or at least tried to break up the pass by putting a hit on Carr, but instead he seemed to slow down as Carr looked up to receive the ball without even putting his hands up. Strange play. There were a few other plays where Auburn's speed allowed them to get steps on NU's secondary, but Chris Todd isn't really good enough to make us pay - the closest I remember he came was a pass to Kodi Burns down to about the five yard line.
- Not to mention that NU's secondary was bailed out by two excessively great picks of Kodi Burns' only two passes of the day. I thought Burns had his man towards the right sideline when Sherrick McManis came from the middle of nowhere to make his pick which sort of revived a then-struggling NU, and Brian Peters' pick of a coulda-been touchdown was Sportscenter's #1 play, which isn't really something that happens around Northwestern very often. I'm pretty sure Peters is some sort of amputee, considering it was his second Madden-esque one-hander of the year and according to articles written during bowl week, he apparently had another one in practice. It certainly would explain why he couldn't tackle anybody back in the beginning of the year.
- That being said, good game by the defense. Ben Tate wasn't a huge factor in the second half, and we did a decent job controlling the Auburn passing game. If only for a few deep balls and interceptions we could have back.
- This game has been a major topic of discussion obviously, and I think the consensus is this: someday, I'd love to watch that game. It was amazing. So many things went awesome, and it's difficult to describe the form of happy that emerged after the following events I can remember: Drake Dunsmore's touchdown, the game-saving facemask by some anonymous Auburn d-lineman on a 4th and a million play that gave NU a first down, the kickoff return fumble by Auburn, the two-point conversion to Brendan Mitchell, the roughing the kicker penalty on Auburn. That being said, I don't want to watch it now. Not now, not for a few years probably. Show me that game when I'm 25. I need a few years to let that get the hell out of my system.
- I'd like to point out that my interactions with Auburn fans have, for the most part, been nothing but classy. Both online, and in Tampa: when I talked to orange sporting mofos, they were generally kind and wished me the best after the game, and when I saw them after the game, they generally were respectful. Where if NU had won, I might have pounded my arms against my loins in the universal gesture for "suck it" every time I saw an Auburn fan, with a few exceptions, Auburn fans said nice things like "NU played a great game, they deserved to win any other day of the week except today, great game and good luck, etc." No negative reviews.
- AIGHT. That being said, I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU ALL. I HATE YOUR STATE, I HATE YOUR FOOTBALL PLAYERS AND YOUR TEAM AND YOUR COACH AND I HOPE BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO ALL OF THEM. HATE HATE HATE.
- Whew. Needed to get that out of the system.
- I noticed any fan of any other down south school I met - Florida, whatever - said something to the effect of "I don't know much about your school, but beat Auburn." But if I met a fan of Georgia Tech before their bowl game against Iowa, I'd probably say the exact opposite, and I hate Iowa. This led me to one of two conclusions: a) people dislike Auburn a lot. Auburn fans and their players are dicks and people around the SEC hate them. b) Big Ten teams hate each other, but SEC teams hate each other. I get the feeling it's closer to the latter. There is such a thing as Big Ten hate, but SEC hate is a whole nother animal.
- Oh, yeah, and the war eagle thing is stupid. A bunch of hawks spent most of the game flying in really big circles above the stadium, word as to whether or not they were in fact war birds of prey is unknown.
- THAT being said, that trip reminded me that I'd really like a mild southern accent. Not a full blown banjo/shotgun/incest southern accent, but a slight drawl and the ability to pronounce the h in the word "why" without sounding like a complete fool.
- With regards to doing it for the love like Ray J, how can you not let me board the pirate ship? What? You can't have a pirate ship in your stadium and not let me board it. Also, it's weird that the fake buildings behind the pirate ship are actually bathrooms and stuff.
- A fun game to play at the stadium was "guess which gigantic poster of a Tampa Bay Buccaneer that is". Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers any of us could name off the top of our heads were Ronde Barber (we think), Cadillac Williams, the ghost of Mike Alstott, and maybe the other Alex Smith, no, not the quarterback, the other one. I spotted a guy walking around the stadium in a Martin Gramatica jersey, which proves Tampa's economy is either robust enough to support a thriving throwback Buccaneer jersey industry, so much so that people are buying decade-old kicker jerseys, or more likely, Tampa's economy is so bad that there's a broke dude walking around in a Martin Gramatica jersey.
- So I flew into Tampa on the 31st, and left on the 3rd, so I now consider myself an expert on the Tampa Bay metropolitan region, and I have this to say: the Tampa Bay metro region sucks. I knew nothing about the area before the bowl game outside of the fact that they have a baseball team, a football team, and Busch Gardens. Then I saw everybody getting excited about going to Tampa, and I watched the Outback Bowl preview show, which depicted Tampa as a beautiful tropical paradise, with long, silky white beaches and wild parrakeets flapping from tree to tree. Then I got there. I know I had a small sample size, but, it was pretty cold the whole time, there's no real downtown (actually, there are like eight downtowns, one of them is that Ybor City place, which was pretty cool, one was Channelside, which features a hockey stadium, an aquarium, a Bennigans, a bowling alley, and a scenic overview of what appeared to be a horrific post-industrial factory on the other side of a bay.) Maybe I'm being harsh, but it seems to me like the main tourist draw in Tampa is Busch Gardens, which is unfortunate, because there's a theme park within a two-hour drive of every major city in America, and quite frankly, I'd rather go to Great Adventure. Tampa is a city where somebody can violently throw up in public and nobody would really notice. Not like I'd know from experience, but I got that sense.
- Oh, and they have a Yuengling factory. Little known fact: glass bottles of Yuengling Lager are scientifically proven a 90% chance of surviving a flight in a checked bag. This is only a problem if you try carrying 10 Yuengling Lagers in a checked bag, because it only takes one of them not surviving the trip to make the rest of your clothes smell enough like Yuengling Lager that you have to do a wash lest your professors think that you're an alcoholic on the first day of classes. But anyway, the fact that a Yuengling factory exists in Tampa is another sign Tampa is a pointless place, because Yuengling is definitely from somewhere near Philly.
- Sign Tampa is a horrible place #4268: my friend and his friends went to a Steak-n-Shake, and he mentioned to me how he thought it was weird that the restaurant had a height chart near the door, and I explained to him that it's something they put in banks a lot in case someone robs the bank so that police looking at the surveillance tape can identify how tall the suspect is, but that I've never seen it in a Steak-n-Shake. The next day he stayed with me, and we went out to a restaurant for dinner, and the news was on TV, and the headline was "STEAK-N-SHAKE SHOOTING". He also claimed his friends got interviewed on a local TV station earlier in the week about a drive-by shooting near their hotel, but I find that less plausible.
- Sign Tampa is a horrible place #4269: I stayed with roughly 8 friends of mine in a hotel room meant for four, but being college students, we aren't 25, and therefore couldn't rent cars. We spent most of the week abusing our hotel's free shuttle services, leaving dozens of keys at the front desk for other people staying with us, and generally hoping they didn't catch on. So when we were leaving the stadium (after moping for roughly 25 minutes as the place emptied out) we didn't want to take the hotel up on the shuttle service. Then we realized our options were waiting on a 2-hour long line for a cab or trusting Tampa's notoriously efficient bus system, which may or may not actually exist. So I looked at my iPhone and said, well, we could wait behind 30,000 people for a cab, or we could walk 4.6 miles to our hotel, which would take like an hour if we walked reasonably. We figured we could take our minds off the game and undergo some serious bonding.
- DO NOT WALK 4.6 MILES THROUGH TAMPA. Now, understandably, we weren't walking through the heart of Tampa. We were walking in and around Tampa's International Airport. I'm sure there are parts of New York that are as unaccomodating to walking around as the part of Tampa we walked through, but at least New York has people. In 4.6 miles of walking, we walked on about 300 feet of sidewalk, 2 miles of roads without people, houses, or signs of human life - some of them were just stretches of asphalt with huge lots of grass on either side, and all the roads off of them were randomly blockaded. I saw less people than stray animals, chickens, or abandoned strip clubs. Our favorite game became betting on how lonely and desolate the next road we'd have to walk on would be on a scale of 1-10. I wouldn't be surprised if the area surrounding Tampa International Airport is one of the less frightening levels of hell, or at the very least a bad area of purgatory.
- At the end of our 1.5 hour hike, we ended up in a Cici's. Apparently I'm the only person who doesn't know about Cici's Pizza. After having stood since 9 A.M. on a rainy day in shoes with holes in the bottom, I payed five dollars for all-you-can-eat pizza and cinnamon buns. All I'll say is, if the average Cici's consumers were eight college students who had just stood for eight hours straight and walked five miles, that joint would be so far out of business it's not even funny.
- I wanted to end this post on a good note, so, I'll end on a good note: my friends and I didn't have anything to do on Saturday, and one of us is from Pittsburgh, and we went to go see the Penguins-Lightning game. Well, technically, we went to go scalp tickets: problem is, apparently, people actually go to Lightning games, meaning we were going to have to pay more than the 15 dollars we had all agreed was too much for a ticket to a hockey game. So the three cheapest of us decided to kill three hours wandering around Channelside, and we saw a sign for a place we didn't think could possibly be real: it's called "Qachbal's Chocolatier". A lot of places and things have names that sound like they could hypothetically be euphemisms for genitalia. Most of the time, they sort of do. It's sort of funny. But Qachbal's is on a whole different plane of genitalia humor. It's actually called "Cockballs." Furthermore, there's no other way you could pronounce it besides "Cockballs." And it's not like Qachbal is an actual name that humans have. Whoever came up with that name was clearly screwing around with the family they bestowed that name upon. So, upon hearing about Cockballs/Qachbals, we went on a trek to find the place, and if you think that three college students are mature enough to walk around a friendly little chocolate store called Qachbal's without generally cracking up, taking pictures of anything and everything with the word Qachbal on it, and making suggestive poses with chocolate-covered bananas emblazoned with a Qachbal's logo, you're so, so, so wrong. We even ordered milkshakes from who we presume to have been Mr. Qachball himself, although we can't be sure, we can definitely dream.
- So, if you're ever in Tampa, stop by Qachbal's Chocolatier. They have a website. And although our teams may lose in heartbreaking fashion, Qachbal's will always be there to sweeten our lives with chocolate. And the fact that they're named Cockballs.