Louie St. George: Reliving the dazzling UMD football victory
Random observations from the University of Minnesota Duluth football team's rousing win over Northwest Missouri State in last weekend's NCAA Division II semifinal at Malosky Stadium:...
Random observations from the University of Minnesota Duluth football team's rousing win over Northwest Missouri State in last weekend's NCAA Division II semifinal at Malosky Stadium:
- First and foremost, it was really, really cold. A driving wind helped the temperature plummet below zero. It was the kind of cold that preys on exposed skin. The crowd of close to 4,000 was a hearty collection of chattering teeth, rosy cheeks and frozen eyelids. And, yet, it didn't matter. The game, a 17-13 Bulldogs triumph that propelled the home team into the national finals, was the perfect antidote to Mother Nature's brutality.
- It had the feel of much more than a game. It was, instead, an event. The UMD staff did a fantastic job of creating a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, replete with free hand warmers and hot chocolate, a half-dozen blazing fire rings that lined the stadium's track -- a nice contrast to the snow banks surrounding the field -- and a festive audio playlist for those pesky TV timeouts. One of the highlights was when "Sweet Caroline" came over the sound system and the bulk of the crowd joined in, belting out the chorus and swaying from side to side (anything to stay warm).
- The game should never, ever be referred to as the "Ice Bowl." That is taken. More than 40 years later and every football game played in the cold gets saddled with that moniker, or something similar. It does, however, need a catchy nickname. Suggestions can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ESPN's Kenny Mayne was famous for saying "We all know games aren't played on paper ... they are played by little men inside our TV sets." What Mayne was getting at is this: It's dangerous to judge a team or a contest based solely on numbers. For example, UMD was playing without four of its brightest offensive playmakers: Isaac Odim, who was injured early in the fall; D.J. Winfield and Ryan Hayes, who were both suspended (for violating undisclosed team rules); and Noah Pauley, who was injured in the quarterfinal victory over Augustana.
Also, UMD has roughly 24 scholarships to disperse compared to Northwest Missouri State's full allotment of 36. And the Bearcats, with their high-octane offense, had appeared in each of the five previous championship games.
- Chase Vogler's fourth-down scramble, in which the sophomore quarterback went 34 yards for the go-ahead score with just more than four minutes to play, was stunning in person. From the outset, the play appeared broken, with Vogler rolling to his right while waiting for a receiver to slither free. No dice, so Vogler cut back across the field to his left, found a seam and sprinted for the far pylon. His lunge into the end zone sent the disbelieving fans into a frenzy, many of whom, mere seconds earlier, had uttered something along the lines of "oh, poop" when it appeared Vogler was trapped.
Instead, Vogler, who was sidelined briefly in the third quarter with a knee injury, produced one of the most dramatic plays in the history of UMD football, sending the Bulldogs to their second national title tilt in three seasons.
- There was a roughing-the-kicker penalty whistled against UMD that preceded the Bulldogs' game-winning drive and kept the Bearcats' potent offense on the field. In a word, the call was disturbing. Northwest's punter fielded a low snap, struggled to pick it up off the turf, bobbled it and looked, momentarily, as if he was ready to run it. Instead, the punter got a lifeless kick away, and was rolled into by a UMD defender. The official who made the call, and who was right next to the play, waited approximately 11 minutes before he threw the flag.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs held tight on defense and gave Vogler and the UMD offense a chance to win it.
- By all accounts, there were just shy of 4,000 fans at the game. In 10 years, based on all the people claiming to have been in attendance, that number will swell to 8,000. Twenty years from now, 15,000 will have been in attendance.
- Every so often, there is a transcendent moment that plays out at a stadium, arena or ballpark. These are impossibly rare, which makes them all the more cherished. One such moment occurred as the final seconds ticked off the clock last week at Malosky Stadium. With the Bulldogs headed to Florence, Ala., for the championship affair, "Sweet Home Alabama" started to blare over the loudspeakers. Upon hearing the song's iconic beginning -- those beautiful electric-guitar chords -- the crowd erupted, all the while rushing onto the field to celebrate the resilient Bulldogs' stirring win.
It was a splendid scene, nearly perfect.
Still, it was really, really cold.
Budgeteer sports columnist Louie St. George last wrote about Duluth-bred Olympian Mason Aguirre. He can be reached via email@example.com .