Doubling Down

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

A true blue Husky with Buckeye roots shares how we'll have support from the Ohio State faithful

Hey UConnBlog. Jeff King here - been awhile, been too long. Have to say, so far this year sucks. We'll get to that though.

Saturday is approaching. The day I've been waiting for since July 2009 when the rumor started. UConn and Michigan playing a home and home series. At first I thought it was only basketball, and I thought "that's pretty cool," then I found out it was football. I immediately called my parents.

Now I’m a lifelong UConn fan and a UConn alumnus – true blue to the core – and you know this if you’ve ever read anything I’ve posted on this blog over the past couple years; but I’m also a Buckeye. My mother grew up on the Ohio State campus where her father taught agronomy. My father was on the Ohio State soccer team and many times I’ve heard stories of how their practices (which were held just on the side of Ohio Stadium on the river) would end with the freshmen being thrown into the brown water of the Olentangy. Various other family members and friends are also graduates of THE Ohio State University and they all have something in common – hating Michigan.

The hatred of Michigan by Ohio State was once described to me by an Ohio State fan as being as strong as “Christians hate Satan.” And the passion of Ohio State fans is well known throughout the Big 10. I was in Boston for the Mens’ East Regional two years ago, sitting in the Wisconsin section rooting like crazy for the Badgers to beat Syracuse – I told the fans I was there to root against Syracuse and root for Ohio State in the second game (where they were facing Cincinnati). “Oh, you’re an Ohio State fan. Do you have Ohio State underwear? Do you have a Buckeye tattoo? You Ohio State fans are a little TOO into it,” one Wisconsin backer said to me. Some of the other fans had stuff to say to me I can’t really repeat in a public forum, but they forgave me as I sweated out that last-possession missed basket loss by Wisconsin which would have dropped the Fab-(Melo)-less Orange out of the tournament in early Boeheim-esque fashion. Of course, the Buckeyes took care of that in the next round.

While I am eternally grateful (and respectful) of Michigan for keeping up their bargain of a home-and-home series, there’s nothing I want to see more than a Michigan loss. I hope that Saturday is the one game this season where a Pasqualoni team plays out of their mind and pulls of a huge upset (like they did vs. Louisville last year and Rutgers the year before). I don’t think it’s going to happen – especially if the injury to Shakim Phillips, the lone bright spot this year, keeps him off the field and less than 100-percent. I’d love my next trip to Columbus to be wearing a UConn football shirt and getting high-fives from Ohio State fans just like they do to Appalachian State fans in Columbus still to this day.

There’s something to be said for the passion of Ohio State fans we can learn from as UConn fans. You can’t get within a mile of Ohio Stadium on a game day unless you have a very expensive parking pass in a very limited lot – but you will find 100,000+ fans in their seats at kick off and another 50,000 strong in the large parties like Heinygate (Google it) that are at the bars and hotels around the field. There are no visible colors other than scarlet and gray on people’s clothes. Everyone knows every word to the Buckeye Battle Cry (which isn’t even the official fight song) and the line to see the Ohio State Marching Band’s pre-pregame show at St. John’s Arena (which holds roughly 8,000 people) starts an hour before they go in. Sure, I expected to hear some “Fire Pasqualoni” cheers from the crowd at UConn (I certainly chanted along with that in the second half of the Towson game) but for UConn fans to expect football to work out like basketball where the great Jim Calhoun could take us from nothing to the best program in college basketball in the country the last 15 years (three titles, no argument) is a little more crazy to ask. What Calhoun did is saintly among sports. Virtually no one has done it in any sport. Boise State is probably the closest in college football and they have no titles and one signature BCS bowl win. That’s like if we just had Tate George’s shot vs. Clemson and nothing else. You have to have some love and passion for this UConn football program. You should be in your seats before kick off and you should show up for some of the lesser games.

Not to sound too much like Desmond Connor (sorry!) but this is our team and we have to support it. At this point this is more than likely Pasqualoni’s last year. There will be a new Turner Gill, I mean new coach, here next year. We aren’t going to the ACC or Big 10 any time soon so what you see on the field is what we’re going to get… unless we take some responsibility and start showing the love.

I haven’t seen the coverage map yet but needless to say this game is going to be the ABC game in many households (like most of the East Coast with unranked Texas and Kansas State the other available game). When Ohio State fans get together or randomly find each other at an out-of-town airport or restaurant they don't talk about "what a disgrace Jim Tressel was" or "How they can never beat an SEC team in a bowl game" - they speak with pride and mutual admiration for their team. The first words I usually hear from UConn fans is "how bad Pasqualoni sucks" not something like "wow, the Rent actually is a pretty cool place to place to watch a game compared to Memorial Stadium." There's a lot to love with this program despite the major valley we are in now. Saturday night, I’ll be at that game siting behind the students as I usually do, wearing my UConn blue and an Ohio State hat answer “UCONN” with “HUSKIES” and “O-H” with “I-O”. You'll all be surprised how much Ohio State gear you'll see on Saturday night. We'll all be praying for a miracle together. Columbus is watching you. Go Huskies!

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