Spartans in West Lafayette

Michigan State has had an unbelievable start to their season. Ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings after beating Michigan last week in Spartan Stadium, we were hopeful the team would continue its streak of undefeated games. With Purdue’s campus only an hour and a half drive from Valparaiso and ticket prices much lower than what we saw in East Lansing, we decided to follow the team on the road for the first time since MSU played Penn State on October 26, 2019. 

After a Saturday morning power breakfast, we left early to do a little exploring prior to the game at Celery Bog Nature Area. The sun was out and the fall colors illuminated bright yellow and orange hues as we hiked the trail tracking bird calls. The nature center offered walking sticks for visitors so Derek got a kick out of trekking with his trusty walking stick. The trail hugged the perimeter of wetland basins where we spotted three Great Blue Herons and large flocks of ducks. In the trees, there were tiny birds zipping around us and a few woodpeckers tapping beats including the beautifully speckled Northern Flicker. When we made it out to the grasslands, there was a strange shriek calling from the highest trees that the Merlin Bird app identified as the Red-Shouldered Hawk. With our binoculars, we were able to see it soaring above as it looked for prey.  The bog would have been a beautiful place for us to run but we enjoyed an hour of walking about enjoying nature. 

The football traffic was picking up in town and we were relieved to have pre-registered parking at the University Garage.  It was a convenient process to have our e-ticket scanned on the phone and leave our car there to walk from there on out. We had lunch at the Greyhouse Coffee & Supply Co. that was reviewed on the Big 10 Campus Eats TV show. I enjoyed a “Monkey Dog Unleashed” savory crepe and we split a Maple Walnut doughnut made to order from scratch to round out our picnic lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn, apples, and mini-oranges.  It was a quaint location for us to take in the pre-game atmosphere. The MSU cheerleaders walked by at one point and I shouted out “Go Green!” with a hearty “Go White!” cheered back to us. We did get a few taunting “Boiler Ups!” from some college kids walking by too.

Following lunch, we made our way to the stadium to await the gate opening when we ran into one of Derek’s good friends from Hope College, Derek Bradley! We got to catch up for a few minutes and snap a photo before the game. It was such a random circumstance for all the people in the crowds to walk right into each other!

As we found our seats, we were surprised at just how close we were to the field. The Spartan team was right in front of us with Coach Mel Tucker pacing back and forth with the players. It was fun to see the players warm up and the Purdue band dance their way in during the opening events. Derek pointed out the names of all the coaches and I was excited to pick out some of the big-time players including the Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III #9! A huge highlight was seeing parachuters fly into the stadium during the national anthem as part of Purdue’s memorial to Veteran’s Day next week. We were lucky to be in a green section of MSU fans who made the trip down to cheer on the team. The stadium was a packed house and the roaring noise was something that I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

It was a very close game that Michigan State struggled to keep up with. We were down a few key players due to injury and the roar from the home crowd must have been difficult to play through. Purdue won with a 40-29 advantage and the fans stormed the field at the end of the game.

Purdue gets the credit for playing a fantastic game with an unstoppable wide receiver, Derek Bell #3, who delivered great plays throughout the game. Coach Tucker said in post-game press conferences that “all of our goals are ahead of us” and that “we’re going to block out all the noise.” The Spartan team will need to hit the ground running for Maryland and let this game sit in the past so they can keep “chopping wood” and push forward. It was disappointing to witness our first loss of the season but also a charged environment to be a part of and support the Spartans on the road. Go GREEN! GO WHITE!

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