No excuse good enough to miss chance at history

By Jason Grodsky

During Illinois’ game at Wisconsin last weekend I got the opportunity to witness what a real home-field advantage looks like.

When the third quarter came to a close and the Illini clung to a 24-20 lead over the Badgers I went to get a glass of water and came back to experience one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in a college football stadium, Wisconsin’s traditional “Jump Around” before the fourth quarter.

Every student in Wisconsin’s student section along with its band members, cheerleaders and members of the Badger football team began to jump up and down to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” causing the entire press box to sway and the pipes over our heads to rattle around.

The jumping and yelling continued into the fourth quarter and the stadium grew louder and louder as the Badgers made their comeback. By the time Illinois freshman quarterback Juice Williams took the final snap with one second left the noise was deafening, and when Williams was sacked to end the game it got even louder.

As this occurred I began to think how exciting it must be for Wisconsin players to come running out of the tunnel onto the field at Camp Randall Stadium and see every seat in the entire stadium filled with a fan, and how great it must be to know you have the crowd to feed off of late in the game.

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But when I thought about this it made me realize that Illinois players don’t get the opportunity to experience such an atmosphere, and the only time the players see what a full stadium looks like and what a real home-field advantage is, they’re on the road.

So far this season all four of Illinois’ road games have been sellouts, while the attendance at its home games have been, well let’s just say pitiful.

When the Illini run on to Zuppke Field they don’t look up and see a packed house, they just see barely enough fans to fill the bottom levels of Memorial Stadium, and when they run out of the tunnel after halftime they see even fewer fans because most head for the exit doors once the Chief has finished his halftime performance.

Maybe that’s why the Illini seem to play with more intensity on the road as opposed to at home, because on the road they have a crowd, even if it is against them, to fire them up.

According to Illinois junior safety Kevin Mitchell, there is more intensity in a stadium when there is a full crowd. Mitchell went on to say that is how it should be at Memorial Stadium, and that fans should want to come because the Illini are improving.

He is absolutely right. The Illini should be welcomed by a stadium full of orange-clad fans. So with all that said, I offer a challenge to Illini fans.

I challenge you to give the Illini a home-field advantage to be proud of, to give them the support they deserve and to be the 12th man they need against Ohio State.

This isn’t a hard challenge, and I’ll explain why.

First of all, the game doesn’t start until 2:30 p.m. This gives you plenty of time to sleep in and recover from whatever partying you did the night before.

Secondly, after trips to Madison and Happy Valley these past two weeks, I can truthfully say our student section ranks somewhere near the bottom of the Big Ten. Students at Wisconsin and Penn State were out in full force when the Illini came to town, and we can barely fill Block I when Big Ten rival Iowa comes to Champaign.

But it’s not just that students at Wisconsin and Penn State were out supporting their team, they were coordinated.

I hate to admit this, but we can’t even fill all of Block I, and when we do, most of the students aren’t in sync with cheers, and at halftime when they hold up the colored cards, its just a jumbled mess. The first time they tried to spell out “Got Juice,” I had to ask someone what they were trying to say.

Thirdly, this isn’t just any ‘ol game the Illini will be playing. While the Illini have been eliminated from making a bowl game, they have the chance to play the role of spoiler and cause the Bowl Championship Series standings to go haywire.

Don’t you want the opportunity to say you were there when they put it all together and witnessed the biggest upset in Illinois football history?

At the very least, even if the Illini don’t win, you get the opportunity to see THE Ohio State University. You get to see the front runner for the Heisman Trophy in Troy Smith and one of the most electric receivers and punt/kick returners in all of college football in Ted Ginn Jr.

Oh, and there is just one more incentive for all Illini fans to come out and support the Orange and Blue: if you don’t come, Ohio State fans will. Buckeye fans are notoriously known for bringing a lot of fans to road games. If Illini fans don’t fill the seats, Buckeye fans will, and our Memorial Stadium will just turn into Ohio State’s second Horseshoe.

If all of that isn’t enough to get you to come out to Saturday morning then I don’t know what is.

Jason Grodsky is a sophomore in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].