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Roadtrippin’ to East Lansing

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I wanted to try something new with this game. While sitting at work on Friday afternoon I had an idea to journal the trip north to East Lansing. Being a veteran of seeing the Boilers on the road, I wanted to document some of the lighter moments of the weekend. Usually I don't end up staying long in the opposing town, but I wanted to put down some of my highlights for this trip. What follows is T-Mill's trip to East Lansing, complete with pictures as appropriate. I even took a notebook and pen into the stadium like a real journalist, only to freeze my hand because I write like an epileptic 12 year old when wearing gloves. We begin by reppin' the West-side, appealing to my west side of Kokomo roots in this West (Lafayette) vs. East (Lansing).

Friday 5:39p
m, Downtown Indianapolis – The weather calls for cold and rainy weather this weekend, so I feel like a sherpa carrying down bags, coats, and blankets from the apartment. It's funny, but tomorrow I'll freeze my ass off, then probably sweat Thursday night at the game in Miami. It reminds me of the duality of the 2006 bucket game followed by Hawaii trip. Of course, Hurricane Paloma could have other plans in store for next week.

6:17pm, Fishers, IN –
Traffic at the forever backed up I-69-465 junction on the northeast side of Indy causes delays, especially with an accident. Dinner at Moe's Southwest Grill in Fishers quickly erases any enmity from the traffic. Only "the orbiter" as named by my wife causes problems. We had one of those women in front of us that studied the menu like it was the SAT and she constantly had to walk back and forth behind us as her quesadilla was made. After three orbits it was nearly time to stab her with our chips.

6:53pm, outside Muncie, IN –
The first funny billboard seen from a distance. This is for Sam Pierce Chevy in Muncie, which with the Chevy logo over the A making it look like S&M Chevy. My comment, "It doesn't just feel like you're getting f***ed in the ass, you really are when you buy a car here!"

rest area outside Ft. Wayne, IN – A restroom break is needed just before Ft. Wayne. Conversation includes that I would like to think if there was ever going to be a three-way between my wife and her best friend I would at least in the pole position to be the guy. It's not that I'm interested, or that it is likely to happen. I just like resting in the knowledge I'd be that #1 draft pick in the highly unlikely event it happened. At least I've been "Loud girled" as they call it. It's not as dirty as it sounds, but it is still good.

8:36pm, north of Ft. Wayne
– We pass The Special on the highway, giving them a honk as they ring the bell after seeing the Purdue tire cover on our Jeep. The first Boiler up moment of the weekend!

9:06pm, Angola, IN – A stop at Speedway for gas means falling to the temptation of the Pumpkin Spice Cappucino. We are slightly delayed as the machine is so gunked up the clerk has to clean the nozzle, comment on how gross it is the whole time. "I'm trying not to think of how gross it is, but it tastes good," said Mrs. T-Mill.

9:13pm, Michigan State line – Mrs. T-Mill takes a picture of the Welcome to Michigan sign… 100 yards after we pass it. Camera FAIL.

9:24pm, near Coldwater, MI – What is it with these Lion's Den Adult Bookstores? Do they really do that good of business in the middle of nowhere along highways? Shouldn't people be concentrating on driving instead of pornography? Perhaps my standards are too high.

10:35pm, Lansing, MI – Arrival at our hotel, the Best Western on the west side of Lansing. It's a nice place, and even boasts of a Salsa Night tonight at Roxy's on the property!

10:51pm, Lansing, MI – Roxy's is not all it is cracked up to be. The Salsa is mild at best instead of picante. I don't even have swim trunks for the indoor pool and hot tub (strike two!) The debate ranges internally if it worth heading to a campus bar now or if we should hit one up tomorrow either before or after the game. Fatigue from the week gives way as the comfy king-sized bed makes me doze before I even get my shoes off.

11:55pm, Lansing, MI – Just before shutting down the laptop I get an e-mail asking if I want to write a season preview on the Boilers for the upcoming basketball season for AOL FanHouse. A chance to talk about basketball, a game I have loved since before I can remember anything, with the masses of the nation? HELL YES!!! It's a good weekend already! That is the fulfillment of a dream and a step along the greater journey.

8:10am Saturday, Lansing, MI – Thanks to the folks at Best Western we were presented with an 8 hour Audioslave concert (a.k.a. the mattress was Like a Stone).

9:00am, Lansing, MI – Woohoo for reruns of Full House on ABC Family Saturday mornings!

9:07am, Lansing, MI – Fortified with coffee and a continental breakfast that came from one of the heartier continents, it's time to shower and prep for the game. Our route today will take us through downtown Lansing and down Grand River Road as we search for parking. The coldest shower in the history of hotels before venturing out into slightly above freezing weather did not help. At least the hotel is still nicer than the infamous Villa Harding from our last visit to Miami. This one has locks on the door.

10:52am, Lansing, MI – A lunch stop of Subway brings about a humorous moment. The kid making our sandwich sees our Purdue gear and is like, "I'm going to go for Purdue today. It makes Michigan look that much worse if you beat MSU since MSU beat Michigan." I'll take the fans where I can get them

11:19am, East Lansing, MI – The Enlightened Spartan's gameday guide comes through! We find free parking north of Grand River Rd. in the neighborhood and it is a short walk to the stadium. Huzzah!

11:31am, Spartan Stadium - I love seeing the Special in different venues. Seeing it in Pasadena nearly reduced me to tears. Today, not so much, though I had to rep the U here too.

11:51am, Spartan Stadium – We get to the gate only to discover that the Nazi-esque guards will not let Mrs. T-Mill in carrying a purse. A five minute walk to another gate finds a more friendly Gestapo-type guard that merely searches the bag. "Even Yankee Stadium wasn't this bad," mutters Mrs. T-Mill. She even left her missile-like objects back home in Indy!

12:02pm, Spartan Stadium Section 122 – I get to my seats just in time for kickoff. Due to the height, steep angle, cold, and wind I need that sherpa again and some oxygen, but I made kickoff. (All notes now made in game time)

14:04 1st Quarter – Summers' shanks the first punt. D'OH! This is not the best way to start. A dropped pass sets up the punt.

9:53 1st Quarter – Javon Ringer takes advantage of the short field and bulls in on 4th and goal inside the one. I begin to wonder why I drove 250 miles to sit in the cold and watch this.

7:45 1st Quarter – Two more dropped passes lead to another punt. I check to see if I have eligibility remaining and see if I can catch the football. At least Siller keeps a drive going with a nifty first down run.

3:05 1st Quarter – Nick Mondek recovers a fumbled pitch (not Ringer's finest hour). The guys in front of us that kept saying Rose Bowl after every good MSU play change their tune to "Motor City Bowl". They then alternate this between good and bad plays. Is this a momentum builder?

1:46 1st Quarter – No, it is not a momentum builder. Once again there is no hole as Sheets is stuffed on 4th and short.

13:50 2nd Quarter – The slant was there for a first down on the last play of the first quarter as it always is for opposing teams on third and long, but the defense actually isn't playing that badly. We just got a stop on 4th down.

11:00 2nd Quarter – TORRI WILLIAMS PICK!!!

6:39 2nd Quarter – It leads to nothing. Once again we have good field position lead to nothing. We have another critical drop too. The guys in front of us pass a bottle of Southern Comfort discreetly to the end. The guy on the end then blatantly tips the bottle to finish it. "Don't be so discreet, man," his buddy yells.

5:05 2nd Quarter – Chris Carlino does a really good job of running down Ringer for a short gain. He had a couple of plays like this all day and even recovered a fumble. Very impressive for the true freshman. Unfortunately we keep dropping easy passes that would lead to first downs and momentum.

0:09 2nd Quarter – Just a godawful interception by Siller that is taken back all the way. We didn't need to be throwing, but I can understand why we are taking chances here. Still, it's a throw that shouldn't have been made. It's a shame too. The defense was playing very, very well and the offense not only wasn't helping, but now handed them 7 points. I get up to go to the restroom and the line for the men's room is the longest I have ever seen. Spartan Stadium has one men's room on the upper level west side. Mrs. T-Mill has a great comment about the line on the way home. "The only way a line to a men's room should be that long is if Beyonce and 12 Playboy Playmates are in there 'servicing' men." I nod in agreement.

Halftime – After being crammed into our seats (but warm) we decide to move to a more open section in the upper level on the other side of the stadium. Spartan Stadium seems to think the average person needs 3 cubic feet to sit in. Fewer people blocking the wind at that altitude lead to one of the coldest halves of football ever watched.

12:12 3rd Quarter – We fail to contain a deep throw by not playing the ball. This sets up…

10:23 3rd Quarter -- ... Ringer's second TD of the day. We've done a decent job of containing him and he still has two TD's. I write GAME OVER in the notebook.

Mid 3rd Quarter – "Even though we're kicking your ass right now, welcome to Michigan State," say the new fans near us. "Don't worry, we're 3-6, so we're used to it this year." They are at least impressed by our quest to see Purdue play in all 11 Big Ten Stadiums.

7:36 3rd Quarter – Siller gets knocked out of the game. The absolute disaster scenario I described in the QB season preview comes true as Chris Bennett gets his first and possibly only career action as a Boilermaker. At least the kid had a nice gain on an option keeper. Mrs. T-Mill offers to quarterback, because it couldn't be much worse.

13:36 4th Quarter – "Our bowl hopes are still technically alive, but they just asked our relatives to come in and pull the plug," I say. The paper journal stops at this point as it is too cold to write. It should be noted that we finished the game with a very impressive 96 yard drive for our only score. I stayed to the bitter end, making sure I saw at least some points put on the board. That, or I was frozen to the seat. At least the people were friendly and I recommended that if they end up in Pasadena it is worth it.

Postgame – Wind, cold, rain, and traffic prevented a more thorough search of campus, but I do highly recommend the Grand River Rd. area north of the main campus. There is a Bruegger's Bagels there, which is just about the best bagel place on God's earth. It is the Dunkin' Donuts of bagels. As exciting as dinner and then outlet shopping in extreme northwest Indiana is, I'll spare you those details.

At least I got a very nice picture with the Spartan Statue. It's a nice tribute to a very good team that bested us this day.

Final Thoughts:

It is now official: The rest of this season is playing for the future. Unfortunately, that future will not include players like Kory Sheets, Cory Benton, Alex Magee, Ryan Baker, Anthony Heygood, Torri Williams, Greg Orton, and Desmond Tardy. Even Curtis Painter, who is much maligned, deserves a much better sendoff than this. What I saw today was a number of those guys playing their hearts out, but I also saw plenty of reason to hope this is a one year aberration at best.

Justin Siller continues to make plays with his feet. It was not his finest day passing, but many of his mistakes were simple freshman mistakes. Chris Carlino looks like an incredibly promising player and leader of the defense as only a true freshman. Ryan Kerrigan was disruptive, but he did whiff on Hoyer once allowing a huge gain. Ralph Bolden could be a very promising running back if we can get the offensive line settle. That line involves another great true freshman in Ken Plue.

The defense had another good day as Ringer had to work hard for everything he got. A quarter of his yards came on one 31 yard jaunt. The rest were earned the hard way, as we made sure he wasn't the sole reason we lost. We forced four turnovers, but did nothing with them. Aside from Heygood, Baker, and Williams, we get almost everyone back on a defense that is getting better every week. It is a defense that is better than its statistics, especially on the road.

The more that Siller plays in these last two games will allow him to improve for next season. We also get Jaycen Taylor back as a nice player to help him in the backfield. Valentin and Smith will get better as receivers, and Wasikowski and Adams should return as solid tight ends. There are enough players coming back that are making contributions right now to give me some hope. We have been decimated by injuries to our offensive line and quarterback positions. Those are the two worst places to have injuries, so it has to get better next year, right?

Finally, Tiller himself deserves better than this. Last week's win over Michigan showed me he is still trying, but he just doesn't have it anymore when you look at the results of the season as a whole. I don't know what will happen in Iowa City next week, but the Indiana game is a must win. Tiller deserves better and the seniors deserve better. I am feeling a venting session much like the 63-20 win four years ago coming on.