Football and Me Part XII

This is the twelfth post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

Times are approximate…

Friday

8:00 PM – I meet up with Habib and Mario at Buffalo Joe’s in Evanston. Wings + cheddar fries + grape soda. The fried chicken/grape soda pairing is DELICIOUS–I highly recommend it. Buffalo Joe’s is outstanding; their wings–quite possibly the best I’ve ever had–are pretty small but they give you like 15 of them in a single portion so it evens out to be pretty good value. I feel like I could eat at least 50 of them, and, possibly 100 if I worked out and, um, took performance enhancers before the meal.

Buffalo Joe's

Saturday

6:30 AM – After having a weird dream that I quit everything to start a sustainable farm with ethically raised animals because “that s— is the future,” I am awoken for our business trip to Champaign for Wisconsin-Illinois. It’s been awhile since I had to get up that early for anything but my body handled it pretty well.

6:50 – We stop at Dunkin Donuts. This is a weird, vegetarian Dunkin Donuts so my wake-up wrap has veggie bacon in it which, after weirding out my sensibilities, ended up being shockingly decent. What wasn’t shockingly decent, though, was spilling half my hot chocolate all over my pants and absolutely scalding my inner thighs and, um, above.

9:30 – We arrive in Champaign and it feels sort of like a ghost town, not one that is hosting a big football game in 90 minutes. There is nothing quite like spending five minutes in Champaign to make one appreciate having gone to a school with a beautiful and vibrant campus like Wisconsin. The people overall were VERY nice but, man, its campus ranks FAR behind (in ascending order) Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin of places where I would want to spend any time, let alone four years. We eventually meet up with Greg and three of his friends at a moderately-sized Wisconsin tailgate.

10:30 – Meet Tim. Tim is a resident of Bloomington, IL who arrived at the spot where he is now standing at 5 am to start slow cooking beef brisket on his enormous smoker. He is also smoking up some spare ribs, rib tips, and Italian sausage. The man is an artist. We try some of the rib tips and it was enough to make us resolve to put $5.00 a week each into a joint savings account where we buy a smoker at the end. We are good at tailgating but we want to be GREAT.

TIM

 

11:00 – Into the stadium just in time for kickoff. For a modest cost of $20 per ticket through a friend of Greg’s, we are RIGHT on the 50-yard line about 60 rows up. Perfect seats.

11:45 – Ugh. Wisconsin is now down 14-0 and struggling mightily on both sides of the ball. This trip feels like it will be a third straight to end in heartbreak. WHY DO WE GO ON THESE TRIPS, AGAIN?

12:15 PM – The Badgers get really lucky; Illinois can’t get a punt off from deep in its own territory. Two plays later, Montee Ball rushes it in for a touchdown. Illinois adds a field goal before the half and Wisconsin heads into the locker room down 17-7. Wisconsin is going to need to play A LOT better in the second half.

1:00-2:30 – And they do. The Badgers get in the end zone on three of their first four drives–a pass to Ball, a Russell Wilson naked bootleg, and a rush by Ball–and hold the Illini scoreless in the second half. In doing so, Wisconsin’s defense had three interceptions and forced one three-and-out. I would retroactively like to have been a fly in the wall for whatever was said by the coaching staff at halftime. Wisconsin wins 28-17 and has a B1G game next week at Camp Randall versus Penn State for the right to play in the Big Ten championship game in Indianpolis the next weekend.

Montee Ball finishes the game with 18 rushes for 224 yards and, as previously mentioned, three total touchdowns while Russell Wilson goes a modest 10-13 for 90 yards in the air with one TD pass and one run.

4:00 – At about 8 AM, we had stopped at a gas station/Dairy Queen combo and, in a travesty of justice, the DQ wasn’t open yet. I couldn’t shake my dip cone craving all day so we stopped at a different DQ on the way back. For seven summers as a camper and five as a counselor summer camp, we would get to leave camp and go to the village DQ once a week. As you might imagine, this brief respite from cafeteria food was absolutely outstanding. Anytime I go to DQ now, I am flooded with great memories and it may or may not taste about 200% better than it would without this nostalgia.

DQ

 

6:00 – Get back to Chicago. Mario and Habib head to Grand Victoria casino in Elgin and I abstain because I had a really bad experience there a few years ago (it’s the site of the fastest I’ve ever lost $100…I think I won one hand out of seven with a $20 table minimum) and I’m still shellshocked from a trip to the Horseshoe a few months ago such that I am still not sure if winning money at a casino is physically possible. Anyways, there’s a much higher expected value from a trip to the gym to undo some of the past 24 hours’ damage and watching USC-Oregon.

Sunday

11:30 AM – I head to The Stretch in Wrigleyville with Mario, Habib, Horvay, and Bauer. We start the day off by splitting three appetizers–chicken quesadillas, buffalo wings, and mac and cheese fritters which are deep fried mac and cheese + bacon. Quite good.

Apps @ The Stretch

 

12:00 PM – All of a sudden, it is time for a Packers game! This game came extremely quickly this week because they played on Monday Night and then again at noon. Great combination. I’m initially a little nervous that this game has let-down potential but then remember that Aaron Rodgers is a golden God who won’t let that happen.

12:20 – After forcing a Buccaneers punt, the Packers have a really weird drive. Highlighted by a James Jones drop (ugh!), they go three-and-out but on the punt, the Packers’ protection breaks down and Tim Masthay eludes the rusher and scurries for a first down. 12 plays later, BJ Raji, the affable defensive tackle who nicknamed himself THE FREEZER after a similar play last season, runs it in for a 1-yard touchdown. 7-0 Packers.

12:40 – Packers defense forces a three-and-out, Packers offense scores five plays later on a throw to tight end Tom Crabtree, who leads the Packers in enjoyable tweets. 14-0 Packers. Stress free game?

12:50 – Nope. LeGarrette Blount does his best Marshawn Lynch impression for a 54-yard touchdown run in which he broke six tackles. Not particularly inspiring.

1:10 – After the Packers are forced to punt following a drop by Jermichael Finley, the Bucs tack on a field goal and try a surprise onside kick. Luckily for the Packers, who were not prepared, the Bucs are flagged for touching the ball before it traveled 10 yards. Packers strike quickly as Aaron Rodgers hits Jordy Nelson for a touchdown on the fourth play of the drive. WHITE LIGHTNING!!!!!

1:30 – The Bucs are driving but Tramon Williams intercepts a Jaaaaaaash Freeman pass. Packers go into halftime 21-10. Not the best half of football but feels good to go into halftime with a lead.

1:35 – We order The Stretch’s ice cream sandwich, which is Vanilla ice cream and Nutella sandwiched between two chocolate chip waffles, topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, and toasted almonds. It’s pretty good.

DANK

 

2:15 – After a lackluster third quarter where the Packers went scoreless and the Bucs made a field goal, the Bucs score again, this time on a 9-yard pass from Freeman to Mike Williams. The Bucs miss the two-point conversion attempt and the Packers have a tenuous 21-19 lead. Officially nervous.

2:25 – Phew, all is right in the world again–for now. Aaron Rodgers leads an 8-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that is culminated in a 2-yard John Kuhn touchdown run. KUHHHHHHHN!!! Troy Aikman jokes that the Packers just try to figure out who hasn’t scored in a while to determine how they will dole out their touchdowns. He may be right. 28-19 Packers.

2:45 – After forcing a Bucs punt (which was an absurdly dumb decision by Raheem Morris, down two scores with less than six minutes to play, on 4th-and-3 from their own 37), this game is all but over. Wait, what???? On first down, Aaron Rodgers throws his first truly bad interception (if memory serves correct one was a great play by Brian Urlacher and the other two were tipped balls) of the season and now it’s Bucs ball near midfield. Ruh roh.

2:50 – NOOOOOOO!!!!! Bucs quickly score a touchdown to make it 28-26. The only difference in the game now is their previously missed two-point conversion. This could be disastrous.

3:00 – Once again, all is right in the world. Rodgers hits White Lightning for a 40-yard touchdown and the Packers take a 35-26 lead which will be the final score. Not a pretty win but the Packers are 10-0.

Takeaways

  • For really the first time all season, Aaron Rodgers didn’t look very sharp. There were a few drops but there were some throws that he normally makes but missed yesterday. It’s pretty good that a bad day is 23/34 for 299 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception but I’m sure he would be the first to say that there are some throws from yesterday–particularly the interception–that he would like to have back.
  • Jordy Nelson is tearing it up! It seems like almost every ball that is thrown to him is complete for a big gain. According to Advanced NFL Stats, this perception is reality. He leads the league in yards per target with 14.3 (second place is Mike Wallace with 12.5) and is second in the league in the receptions/targets ratio–He has 53 targets and 40 receptions for a 75.6% reception rate, trailing only Jason Avant who is at 76.2% but with 11 less targets and eight fewer catches.
  • The defense didn’t play particularly well yesterday in tackling or coverage. It gave up 455 yards to a Buccaneers offense that had been averaging 331 yards in its first nine games. This is a little precarious.
  • Even though the team didn’t play very well, the Packers got the win. It is a testament to their skill and confidence that they can win games when they aren’t at their best. Net in net, I would say that yesterday’s game is a positive. It didn’t cost them their perfect season and should give them the sense that they are not invincible. It should allow the coaching staff to point out flaws and give constructive criticism in a manner that the players will listen instead of thinking that the coaches are just trying to find fault in their play. I expect the Packers to come out much sharper on Thursday against the Lions.

On ‘Sconnie…

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2 Responses to Football and Me Part XII

  1. HABIB says:

    Tim is my role model. When we finally do get a smoker, I’m fine with being the one to wake up at 5am as long as I get the largest slab of brisket. Also, I must mention that I tried to convince Ryan to go to Al’s beef when we were at Stretch but failed (again). I’ll keep trying.

    How do you rank BIG fans by how nice they are? In my experience, I go (descending):

    Illinois
    Nebraska (based on game in madison)
    Northwestern (basketball)
    Minnesota (Some were actually huge assholes but most were nice)
    Ohio State (Not bad at all, thoughI wonder if it was because it was a down year for them?? They have the worst rep)
    Michigan
    Iowa
    Michigan State (clear worst, not close)

    Unfortunately I don’t think Wisconsin would be too high on that list. I still need to go to Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, and Nebraska.

  2. I really enjoy reading you chicken wing articles, but I have to disagree on the best locations. The reason why I disagree is because I am from Western New York, south of Buffalo, and I have been blessed to have great wings my entire life. I would say there are at least 10 places in the Buffalo area that have better wings than the top ten list I just read on “America’s Best Wings.”

    In Buffalo alone, there is the Anchor Bar and Duffs. Those two are always going back and forth. Also, there is a Buffalo Wing fest around the beginning of each September at the Buffalo Bison ballpark.

    Here are some other places that definitely beat out many of them on the list.

    Jamestown: Miley’s, Honest Johns, Lena’s
    Ashville: Ashville General Store
    Dunkirk/Fredonia: Mary’s Tom’s, The Tavern, Ellicottville Brewery, Chiavetta’s,

    And other’s include Gabriel’s Gate, Braun’s and Buffalo Brew Pub.

    There are just so many places. I currently reside on Long Island and wings here and in New York City are no comparison. The main thing is that wings need to be fried, not baked. Baked wings are not the real deal, no matter what anyone says. They do not taste the same either. I also make wings myself and know a bunch of different ways to make sauces and the sauces here in the NYC/LI aren’t up to snuff either. Some are decent, but still not the same.

    If you haven’t done it already, go to the National Chicken Wing fest in Buffalo in September, You’ll love it!! Great articles though!!!

    Cheers.

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