Friday, January 20, 2017

WIldcat-palooza - The Finale

We of course were early to the game. I parked in the lot where I had reserved a spot on ParkWhiz and we walked to the stadium and then went to the riverfront of the St John’s River. We finally went in about thirty minutes before the game. We had club seats so we had very nice area to wait in if we wanted plus some nice places to buy food from. The temperature had warmed nicely to around sixty and we were in the sun, so it was nice. The stadium crowd was at least two thirds if not more UK fans.

Kentucky got the ball first and drove to midfield and then disaster struck. QB Steven Johnson was sacked and fumbled and Georgia Tech ran it back for a TD. Kentucky got the ball back and punted and Georgia Tech got a field goal. Kentucky got a field goal and then drove down to the Georgia Tech five yard line and had a fourth and one. They went for it and didn’t get it. A few minutes later Georgia Tech had a fourth and one on their own fifteen. Their coach decided to go for it in a huge risk. They got it and drove for a touchdown. UK did nothing after that and had a punt blocked before the half. The referees made a horrible call saying a Georgia Tech receiver went out of bounds with three seconds to go when the replay plainly showed he did not. This allowed Georgia Tech to kick a field goal to go up 20-3 at the half. I later found out Coach Mark Stoops was so upset that the tried to get into the referee’s locker room at half time.

Georgia Tech got another field goal in the 2nd half to go up 23-3. Kentucky finally got a touchdown but Georgia Tech got another field goal to make it 26-10. Kentucky finally got a touchdown and two point conversion to cut the lead to 23-15. An attempted onside kick failed and Georgia Tech scored another touchdown to ice the game. Josh and I used this opportunity to work our way to the lower part of the field. I had purchased a couple of passes to allow us to go out on the field after the game. We got our armbands and when the game ended, we headed out. It was really neat to be on the field, this was the first time I’d ever been on an NFL field. It was odd to be out there with all the Georgia Tech team and their fans celebrating. We had no problems though and it was really fun. We walked around the stadium afterwards and then drove back to our hotel. We went to Longhorn Steakhouse and then watched college football for the rest of the evening.

We got up the next morning and went to worship services at the Lake Forest church of Christ. We througly enjoyed that. We had lunch and then headed to the Jacksonville Beach. The weather was beautiful – 81 degrees and sunny. It’s a very nice beach, very wide with lots of room to walk around. We tested the water, but it was pretty cold. We went to evening services at Lake Forest and then got dinner at Zaxbys.

The next morning, our flight was at 7:30. Josh didn’t want to leave as early as I did (with TSApre, he doesn’t have to). I took the shuttle to the airport. The line for security was huge stretching all the way back down the entrance hallway to the airport. It took me about 45 minutes to get through security. I still had plenty of time. Josh came almost an hour later than I did and waltzed right through security. Our flight went fine. Our luggage was coming onto the belt just as we got there and the Economy Parking Lot shuttle pulled up just as we came outside. We got breakfast on the road and got back home with little trouble.

Even though Kentucky lost, we still had a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to hopefully go to more bowl games in the future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

WIldcat-palooza - Part 3

Since we were flying out of Nashville (it was much cheaper than flying out of Memphis), I talked to my sister Melissa about coming up to see her family before our flight left. We headed out Friday morning and got to her house in the afternoon. We had a lot of fun as always hanging out with our nephew and nieces playing games and reading stories. We hated to leave when the time came to go. Amelia even asked if we could come back tomorrow, but we had to tell her we’d be in Florida and couldn’t. We got to the airport no problem.

Josh is fortunate to be signed up for TSA-Pre. This allows him to skip the longer lines and he doesn’t have to remove his shoes, jacket or take his laptop out of his case. Since he knew he could get through security faster, he dropped me at the airport and took the car to the Economy lot to park. When TSA checked my license and boarding pass, I for some reason was allowed to get in the TSA-Pre line. The people in front of me had to have been randomly chosen for this. They took their shoes and jackets off which actually caused the line to go SLOWER. I did finally get through in plenty of time and Josh was not far behind me. We grabbed something to eat at Wendy’s and just walked around til it was time to board.

I had gotten tickets on Southwest because it was the cheapest and it’s my preferred airline. Josh had never flown them before. I like the seating method where you line up and grab the first available seat you want. Josh said he preferred the method he’s used to where you already have chosen your seat. He also said the WiFi was not very good. I just read on the flight so it didn’t bother me much. It was only an hour and half flight so it went really quickly. We got to the airport and got our luggage. I called the hotel for the shuttle. We decided not to pick up a rental car until the next morning. This would have a day on the car rental since we would not need the car until the next morning to get to the TaxSlayer Bowl.

The shuttle got there pretty quickly. Our hotel (Fairfield Inn) was pretty close to the Jacksonville airport so we got there pretty quickly. Once there, we decided we needed a snack. It was after nine, so we ended up just walking to a convenience store down the street and grabbed a few things and took them back to the hotel. We ate and watched a little TV and went to bed. We got up the next morning and had the hotel breakfast. Josh took the airport shuttle and picked up the rental car. The temperature was only 38! Here we thought we’d left the cold behind. That low of a temperature was odd for Florida, but the weather report said it would warm up rapidly into the sixties. The game started at 11:00AM so we left a little before nine since it was about a 30 minute drive and we didn’t know how traffic would be.

I imagine you are wondering when I’ll actually talk about the bowl game. I’ll get to that in my next post.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wildcat-palooza - Part 2

Josh and I started out on Thursday to head out for part one of our trip. Shelby and Josh went to see Lucy. I met them there a bit later so I could of course see my granddaughter as well. I picked up Josh there. Since Jonathan and Cheyenne live just off of Highway 68, we took the route of going down the Purchase Parkway and through Western Tennessee as opposed to my usual route of I-55 South. The trip through Western Tennessee is a bit more complex, but we made it to our hotel in Southaven Mississippi with no trouble.

My brother Kevin met us there. He came bearing a wonderful gift of one of those handheld Mattel football games from the 70s that I used to have. I immediately had to play a game on it. Josh could not believe that this game (as elementary as it seems now) was so popular. We discussed where we would have dinner. I had read there was actually a Canes inside the new Ole Miss arena. Canes is a really good place to eat with fabulous chicken strips. We decided we’d eat when we got there.

As we drove along, I couldn’t help but think of some of the trips I took as a teenager to Oxford and Starkville. My dad, my brother and I used to go with my Uncle Donnie and my cousins Tony and Neal to see UK play. We’d meet my Uncle Reggie in Jackson Tennessee with his dad – who we all called Mr. Smith. We always had a lot of fun. The first time I ever went to a UK game was in Starkville in 1975. Our whole family went. I remember my dad pointing out an old guy sitting down by the court and telling me to get his autograph. My dad told me it was Adolph Rupp. Sadly at the time, I didn’t even know who that was. My sister Jody and I got our programs autographed. I had lost mine over the years, but my sister gave me hers a few years ago.

We got to the Ole Miss campus. I had stalked out online where to park before we got there. There were a lot of people parking on the side of the road as we came in, but I held out for the parking lot I’d found and was rewarded with finding a spot there with little trouble. We walked a few blocks to the arena. We passed a sign for Manning Way which I ended up having to take a picture of for Jonathan – it had Ole Miss alum (and his favorite player) Eli Manning’s name on it. We got to the Ole Miss arena with no problem and went in.

They had moved into a new basketball arena since I’d been there last (almost ten years ago) called “The Pavilion”. It’s a very nice new arena with a good sized video board. All the seats are chairbacks which is nice. We found the Canes and while it was pricey, it was excellent. My brother ended up buying tamales from a university group since he felt sorry for them – Canes had a huge line while hardly any one was buying tamales. We settled into our seats and waited for the game to start. I would say about a third of the crowd was UK fans.

The game started out close. UK was scoring a lot but their defense wasn’t too great. Kentucky however had amassed sixty points by halftime and shot over sixty percent and led by twenty one points. Ole Miss got the lead down to fifteen at one point in the 2nd half, but KY ended up winning 99 to 76. Malik Monk had thirty four points and Bam Adebayo got twenty five. Isaiah Briscoe ended up with a triple double although I felt the tenth rebound was a bit tainted – Derek Willis intentionally bricked a free throw so Briscoe could get that tenth rebound. We thoroughly enjoyed the game. We had no trouble getting out of the parking lot and back on the road to head back to our hotel.

In my next post, I’ll continue the story of our trip and what we did in Nashville before we flew out to Jacksonville.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wildcat-palooza - Part 1

When Kentucky’s football season started with a huge blown loss to Southern Mississippi and then a blowout loss to Florida, I thought “Here we go again”. However, they actually won some games and won their sixth game over Austin Peay. This made them bowl eligible for this first time in six years. Their last game would against nationally ranked Louisville at Louisville. Given that plus with their Heisman trophy candidate Lamar Jackson, I thought Kentucky had no chance to win. All the bowl projections I saw seemed to agree with that and projected Kentucky to end up in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Jonathan and Josh and I planned to go the bowl game. There was an interesting alignment of the date of the bowl game with Kentucky’s basketball schedule. Kentucky would play Mississippi in Oxford the night before the Liberty Bowl game. Oxford is about an hour’s drive from Memphis. Tickets for that game would go on sale the day before the Louisville game. I went ahead and bought three tickets right when they went on sale. In an unbelievable turn of events, Kentucky upset Louisville. This ultimately caused them to be chosen for a different bowl game – the TaxSlayer (formerly known as the Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville Florida. I loved the idea of a Florida bowl, but I wasn’t sure what we’d do now.

So, the boys and I started discussing our options. The trip to Jacksonville would end up being a multi-day trip. Jonathan decided he didn’t want to do that since he didn’t want to be away that long from his new daughter Lucy (which I totally understand). Josh and I batted around ideas and came with the idea for him to come home and then we would drive to Southaven Mississippi and stay and go to the game in Oxford. We ran all sorts of options on flights and found the cheapest option was to fly out of Nashville (non-stop) to Jacksonville on Southwest. I bought bowl game tickets (club seats!) and got decently priced flights.

We still had that extra ticket to the Ole Miss game though. I came up with the idea to invite my brother Kevin. He lives in the Memphis area plus it’d been a while since we’d seen him so I invited him along. He was able to go with us, so the “Wildcat-palooza” was all set up and ready to go. In my next post, I’ll let you know how part one of the trip transpired.