Fans prepare for Michigan

By Nathan Lindquist

On Saturday afternoon, a sea of more than 100,000 blue and yellow-clad fans will descend on Ann Arbor, Mich. to watch No. 4-ranked University of Michigan play its first home football game of the season against NIU.

But in three days, cameras for the nationally-televised game will probably stumble across a boisterous red-and-black blob in the middle of the ocean of Wolverine supporters. NIU alumnus Justin Heuer will sure to be among them.

“I try to make it to every game, home or away,” said the 26-year-old. “I was at Alabama two years ago when we beat them. That was quite an experience. And playing Michigan is a can’t-miss game.”

Heuer knows at least 30 to 40 other people who will also make the trek to Ann Arbor to take in the game. The Mt. Prospect-native has become a pseudo-celebrity in recent years with his Huskie Mobile and Huskie Bus visible at virtually every NIU football game. He estimates the drive is around 4.5 hours normally, but could take 6-7 hours with traffic on Labor Day weekend.

Anthony Kosiba has been planning for this weekend ever since tickets went on sale.

“It will probably be the biggest game in NIU history,” said the senior biology major. “Michigan has such a big stadium and rich tradition too. We went the first day tickets went on sale and we were the first ones in line at 7 a.m.”

Kosiba and the four other people he is carpooling with will leave at 7 a.m. on game-day and stay at a hotel for the night. With his agenda for the day filled with tailgating, football and parties, Kosiba said they will return to DeKalb whenever they feel like waking up Sunday.

Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House”, officially seats more than 107,000 fans and has hosted more than 35 million people since its inaugural season in 1927. The history attached to one of the biggest football stadiums in America is worth the $49 ticket according to junior geography major Brent Fulton.

“When I was a kid, I was a Michigan fan,” Fulton said. “But NIU has been good for the past couple years, so it should be an awesome game. I’ve been to a Bears game before, but nothing like Ann Arbor.”

As a pre-season Top 5 team in the country, the Wolverines figure to be a huge favorite against the Huskies thanks to their talent, tradition of greatness and home-field advantage. But Heuer thinks the Huskies could pull the upset if the run game gets established.

“Both of our running backs should get over 200 yards rushing [combined],” Heuer said. “[Wide receivers] Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers need to produce and step up. It will be a tough game to win, especially with Big Ten referees.”

No matter the result, NIU students and alumni will make their presence felt, whether it be pre-game tailgating or the bars after the game. Through the online MAC Bulletin Board System, Heuer has organized a group of people to meet up at Scorekeepers bar, 310 Maynard, Ann Arbor, after the game.

Even with all the festivities planned for before and after the game, watching NIU vs. Michigan is the real draw.

“I want to see us win,” Kosiba said. “I hate Michigan because I’ve been a Notre Dame fan. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere. I’ve never been to a stadium with 100,000 people, not even close. We’re probably going to get heckled pretty bad.”