COLUMBUS – In a hostile sea of scarlet, there were a few loud and proud oases of maize and blue.
Tucked into disparate corners of Ohio Stadium, a small contingent of a few thousand Michigan fans, students and players’ family members cheered on the Wolverines in person. Other ticketless Michigan students and fans made the trip to Columbus simply to experience the scene surrounding what some called “The Game of the Century.”
And the opportunity to witness one of the most momentous games in Michigan history led some students – who didn’t receive tickets in March’s away-game lottery – to throw financial considerations out the window in the effort to secure a seat.
“(I spent) $600, and it’s well worth it,” LSA senior Alex Smith said before the game. “I’ll never see this again in my life.”
Despite warnings from a campus-wide e-mail, which called on students to “keep your Michigan gear to a minimum,” the small Michigan sections in the Horseshoe were completely covered in maize and blue. Fans reported wearing their colors outside of the stadium relatively incident-free, besides a few “Screw Blue” shouts and other verbal taunts.
“(Ohio State fans) have been really respectful, for the most part,” Smith said.
Before the game, many students who made the trip to Columbus attended a free away-game tailgate hosted by the University’s Alumni Association. The event was so well-attended that it ran out of hot dogs more than two hours prior to the game.
Most of Michigan’s fans arrived at the stadium early, chanting “Go Blue” and singing “The Victors” as the scarlet-clad Ohio State faithful took their seats. The Wolverines’ sections happily greeted Michigan greats Braylon Edwards and Charles Woodson as they entered the field.
But they mocked Ohio State Heisman-winner Eddie George with chants of “Biakabatuka,” referencing former Michigan running back Tim Biakabatuka’s 313-yard rushing performance against George’s 1995 Buckeye squad.
As game time approached, the hype level at the Horseshoe soared to monumental proportions. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool Michigan fan couldn’t help but be impressed by the fervor of the Buckeye faithful prior to kickoff.
“I couldn’t ask for a better No. 1 vs. No. 2 feeling,” LSA senior Jonathan Bogs said. “Everybody’s so pumped up. It can’t get much more exciting, I think.”
For Michigan fans, it soon got more exciting. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Wolverines quickly marched down the field for a touchdown, setting off a chaotic celebration in the Michigan sections.
From there, the game was nothing short of an emotional roller coaster for Wolverine fans. They stood in shock as the Buckeye offense rolled over Michigan’s defense during the first half. They briefly took over the stadium from stunned Ohio State fans as the Wolverines cut the lead to 28-24 in the third quarter. They maintained hope as Chad Henne led the Wolverines on a desperate drive in the game’s final minutes.
And when the Wolverines finally fell short by the slimmest of margins, the pride of Michigan’s fans never faltered. Although disappointed by the loss, those who made the trip gave the Wolverines a warm ovation as they walked sadly off Ohio Stadium’s torn-up turf.
After the game, some Michigan supporters bolted from the stadium as quickly as possible. Others lingered forlornly as Ohio State fans flooded past them to join the party unfolding on Ohio Stadium’s turf. For the most part, the Buckeye supporters ignored their maize and blue counterparts, although some couldn’t resist the temptation to shout a mocking “Good luck in Pasadena” on their way to the field.