Yes, despite the relatively high temperatures here in Washington, D.C., September is here and we’ll soon be in the throes of Fall. Depending on where you are in the U.S., the cool autumn breezes may have already laid waste to the swimming pool weather of the summer.
For a sports fan it couldn’t be better. Baseball’s pennant races are heating up, football is back and hockey and basketball are just around the corner. September also means continuing what has become an annual tradition of sorts – traveling to at least one college football game.
Thanks to my continued partnership with my former employer, the Billings (MT) Gazette, and Greg Rachac of the Cat-Griz Insider, I’ve helped fill in the gap with some “on-the-ground” college football coverage in locales far away from Montana. In September of 2011 I traveled to a sweltering Knoxville, Tennessee to see the Montana Grizzlies take on the Tennessee Volunteers in Neyland Stadium – one of the largest venues in the world. Last September I followed the Grizzlies again, this time to Boone, North Carolina, to witness their showdown with fellow FCS (Football Championship Subdivision – you know, the segment of D-1 college football that doesn’t participate in bowl games) stalwart Appalachian State.
This year I’m upping the ante. Again I’ll be tagging along with the Grizzlies for their Big Sky Conference clash with North Dakota on September 14. I have many great memories of Grand Forks (it’s where I met my girlfriend, for one) and have taken in my fair share of hockey games there, but not yet football.
The next weekend I’ll be in Nacogdoches, Texas and the campus of Stephen F. Austin. The Montana State Bobcats – currently ranked No. 3 in the FCS polls – will be taking on the Lumberjacks in the self-proclaimed “oldest town in Texas”.
Grand Forks and Nacogdoches are separated by over 1,250 miles of roads and some 16 degrees of latitude (it could be considered quite an epic “straight line” north-south run for U.S. roadtrippers). I love the mid-size feel of these kind of towns and their respective stadiums, filled to the brim with enthusiasm and support for their teams. Upon entering Boone one is greeted with a sign proudly announcing the accomplishments of the Appalachian State football team. Somehow, someway that little town (pop. 17,500) in the mountains packs 30,000+ into their stadium, rocking and hollering all game long. There’s no way you can’t love that passion! I’m excited to see what awaits at UND’s Alerus Center and Stephen F. Austin’s Homer Bryce Stadium!