TIM WILDMON: Trip to Gator Bowl offered excitement and sobering lesson

By Tim Wildmon

The five Bulldogs in our family made the trip to Jacksonville, Florida, for the Gator Bowl clash with the storied Michigan Wolverines over the New Year’s weekend. Sure it costs some money, but like I told someone the other day, when you are a State fan you never know what decade your next bowl game might come so you drive to wherever you have to when given the opportunity. But now it appears that Dan Mullen is building a program that can at least be competitive in the Southeastern Conference and so maybe more bowl games are on the way in the near future. But what an unmerciful beat down State put on the maize and blue boys from the great white north.
Wow.
After Michigan went up 14-10 the Dogs proceeded to score 42, which in football as we all know is six touchdown and six extra points, unanswered points on the hapless Michigan defense. I knew Michigan’s defense was porous, but how in the world a program with the name and tradition of Michigan ever gets to the point where they are indistinguishable from an Alcorn State defense in beyond me. And evidently, it was beyond the athletic director of the university as well as head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired Wednesday in Ann Arbor.
But as impressive as the Bulldog offense was, it was the defense that really made the difference holding All-American candidate quarterback Denard Robinson, who came into the game averaging 137 yards per game running the football, to 59 yards. This same defense also held Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton of Auburn to 70 yards rushing and the explosive Tiger offense to just 17 points. Not too shabby.
So what’s the reward for having this kind of success on defense? Well, you lose your defensive coordinator to Texas – that is your reward. Last week, Manny Diaz left for greener pastures and many more greenbacks in Austin. If you read about Diaz or listen to him you quickly realize how smart this guy is and he will have a head coaching position at a major university in the next five years, I predict. Credit Mullen for wooing him to Starkvegas from Middle Tennessee State after the 2009 season.
New Year’s Eve we went downtown to the riverfront to see what was happening and watch the fireworks display, which was spectacular, by the way. But as we walked around The Landing area it was apparent a high percentage of the people were consuming vast amounts of alcohol. In short, a lot of folks were celebrating the New Year by getting drunk.
In one of the most pitiful scenes I have ever personally experienced there was one young lady nearly passed out lying along the sidewalk face down in her own vomit. Her boyfriend was gently shaking trying to get her back on her feet. As my 23 year-old daughter Wriley looked on with me I told her: “That is why you never want to start drinking.”
My lovely and talented wife Alison and I discussed briefly the idea of going over and trying to help the girl out. She looked about 18. But it was one of the situations where interjecting yourself into someone else’s business would very likely have led to problems we were not looking for that evening. Her boyfriend was quite lit up himself. I may have made the wrong call there, I thought about that after we left, but there were plenty of police around so I didn’t see her in any imminent danger.
I made mention to Alison and Wriley that I thought the idea of getting drunk was to have a good time. How ironic that for many people alcohol consumption not only leads to vomit but to addiction, pain, family misery and sometimes – as in the case of my cousin’s wife – death at the hands of a drunk driver, leaving him a widower and their baby daughter without her mom. I wondered that night how many of the drunks would be driving home after the party. I think we would all be shocked at what percentage of people driving on any given night are buzzed or worse.
But back to the lighter side. I it was more than a little humorous watching the reactions of Michigan fans see what had to be 30,000 or more Bulldog fans clanging cowbells. And like Rocky Top played at Tennessee games, we rang them and rang them and rang them some more. I saw more than one Michigan fan with their fingers plugging their ears.
For certain, it was a redneck symphony. I know thousands of Bulldog musicians are more than ready to turn this into an annual traveling concert series.
Long live Maestro Mullen!
Community columnist Tim Wildmon is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at twildmon@afa.net.