It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. A tad dramatic, yes, but also the first thing that came to my mind as I started writing. All losses are tough and if you’ve been around long enough you’re going to have your share of “heartbreakers.”
Today’s game was marked by swings in momentum. It was one of those games where you look back and say, “If this play had gone like this,” or, “If we had done this,” or, “if they hadn’t done this,” then the outcome would have been different.
Two weeks ago, it was Fresno State that was saying those things. Today it’s us. And Florida. And USC. Sometimes good teams lose. Sometimes they lose to teams that the “experts” think they’ll beat. And sometimes they lose in confounding ways.
In the first half of our game, it seemed almost everything was going our way. The defense was outstanding. The special teams was making big plays. The offense wasn’t entirely clicking but the points kept going up on the scoreboard.
People who know me know that I’m definitely in the “It’s not over till it’s over” camp (I AM a Mets fan for crying out loud). So I wouldn’t say I was comfortable at halftime. In college sports (at least the two I’ve covered) I’ve witnessed the momentum change in what seemed like a heartbeat. Teams snatching victory from defeat. One good play transforming an entire game, an entire team’s attitude, a crowd’s outlook.
That’s what happened today. I can’t point to one play and say that turned the tide, but sitting in the press box, you could feel it. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen and it won’t be the last.
One of the first times I felt it, ironically enough, was right across the street from where I was today, Crisler Arena. In my second season as basketball SID, in our first Big Ten game, we held a 15-point lead with a little over five minutes left in the game. But then Michigan (specifically Daniel Horton) got hot and we got cold. Those five minutes seemed like 35 and the Wolverines came away with a one-point win.
The emotions of the college game can change in an instant. Never was that more apparent than following David Gilreath’s touchdown. Standing on the sideline behind our bench I saw our guys erupt, then calm back down with the knowledge that we needed a two-point conversion. When Allan Evridge hit Travis Beckum, we exploded. High fives all around. I flashed back to Brian Butch’s 3-pointer at Indiana that stunned the home crowd. It was the same sound.
Then I saw the officials huddling. I didn’t see the flag. Not sure anyone on our side did. Then the call. “Are you kidding me,” is now what ran through my mind. One more chance, the pocket collapsing, desperation throw. Too high.
“Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains,” they said in the movie “Bull Durham.” It’s pretty simple (although there aren’t many rainouts in college football). Like Justin is writing in his column, you need to move past it, gather yourself, and look to the next one.
Maybe like the Badger basketball team did following that 2003 loss at Michigan. I’m sure you remember that team. They’re the ones that lost their first two conference games but rebounded to win the outright Big Ten title.