Todd Carton and his buddy Arnie
We retraced our steps toward the car leaving a bit over a mile more to walk to the football stadium. As we walked mostly uphill along Melrose Avenue, we encountered a group of four other Maryland fans who had opted for a similar weekend to ours – attending volleyball Friday night and field hockey early Saturday before moving on to the football game. They, however, had the good sense to fly rather than making a pair of 16 hour drives in a four day period.
Fortunately, a rainstorm swept through Iowa City Friday night and into Saturday morning and by the time of the scheduled kickoff the rain had passed and we would even have a few minutes of sunshine during the contest.
We went into Kinnick Stadium from the main gate area on the Melrose Avenue side and, of course, the seats I’d bought were on the opposite side of the building – about as far from our entry point as they could have been. However, perhaps because of a television delay from an earlier game, our game hadn’t yet started. We walked around the stadium and, had we not misread the signs and gone to the wrong section, would have seen the kickoff. That play occurred while we were in the concourse to walk to our proper seats.
The Stadium opened in 1929 as Iowa Stadium and had a capacity of 53,000. It was renamed Kinnick Stadium in 1972 after Iowa Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, and expanded to its current capacity of 70,585 in 2006 and is currently the seventh largest stadium in the B1G. The age certainly shows through the concourse, which is largely a brick tunnel lined with concession stands selling a limited selection of stadium food. There is, however, a high definition television above each (or nearly each) concession stand so you miss little of the action while standing in line.
Like Maryland’s home stadium, the bowl is comprised of backless aluminum benches with each “seat” allotted a minimal amount of space. As one Iowan near me put it, “If you’re sitting next to a big guy on a capacity day, you’re going to feel squeezed.” In another fortunate turn of events, we had neither of those situations. The stadium was far short (about 8,000) of capacity, two of the empty seats were adjacent to ours, and none of the people near us were of the jumbo variety. Unlike Maryland’s stadium, Kinnick Stadium has not one, not two, but three video boards including an extra large one at the south end of the field along Melrose Avenue so watching replays is easy. Also, unlike too many Maryland games, the fans are very involved. They stand and raise the decibel level for every big play. After each score, the spirit squad carries lettered flags to each corner of the field and I-O-W-A resounds around the stadium for several minutes.
Perhaps it’s the nature of Iowans, perhaps it’s because neither Maryland nor Iowa are geographic or historic rivals or perhaps it simply that the game was, as expected, relatively one sided, but we were able to engage in some good natured banter with the fans around us and never feel any real animosity. I was also able to educate the Iowans near me about Maryland football and its current disarray and they told me a few things about the Hawkeyes.
As for the game, the first half was more or less a disaster for Maryland and the Terps trailed 21-0 at intermission. They showed some fight in the second half dominating the time of possession in the third quarter before scoring early in the fourth to close the score to 21-7. When Iowa kicked a field goal to extend the lead to three scores with 11 minutes to play, Arnie and I bid farewell to our neighbors and decided to hit the road.
Just as we left the stadium, Desmond King intercepted a pass and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown that put the home team ahead 31-7. We missed that play as well as William Likely’s kickoff return for a touchdown that brought the score to 31-15. Neither team would score again and by the time the final gun sounded, Arnie and I were about halfway to Davenport.
We stopped at the same hotel in Champaign and finished the drive on Sunday. I’m not sure I should admit this to Maryland fans but we stopped for dinner at a recently opened Greene Turtle Restaurant. I know this is fine but the part that might not be is the location: Morgantown, WV. We wrapped up the drive and Arnie dropped me off at my house at about 21:30 Sunday night.
I’m not sure I’d do it again but it was a helluva lot of fun.