A day at the Big House

The Behnke Family and their friends tailgating
Brad, Adrienne, Claire, Brady and Reese Behnke

By Christopher Jones

For most people, Saturday morning is a time for sleeping in.  For the Behnke family of Rockford, on Saturday, August 6th, an alarm is set for 5:15 am.  It never even went off, as 7-year-old Brady was awake at 4:45 am.  Why so early?  Because it’s Game Day! The entire family (Brad, Adrienne, twin boys Brady and Reese and 5-year-old daughter Claire) is heading out to Ann Arbor to watch the University of Michigan Wolverines take on the Maryland Terrapins in a B1G10 Conference game.  Of course, it wouldn’t be game day without a little tailgating!

The Behnke kids are ready for some football

Brad, who grew up a Michigan fan, and his wife Adrienne, who became a Michigan fan the day she met Brad, get everyone loaded up for the 2+ hour drive to Ann Arbor.  Their vehicle is loaded with everything they might need, including tables, chairs, food, drinks, snacks, 3 changes of clothes for the kids (rain is expected), footballs, etc.  Upon arriving in Ann Arbor, they get set up in Allmendinger Park, which is just a stones (or football) throw from Michigan Stadium (also known as The Big House).  The Behnke’s have been coming here for a while and they always meet up with the same group of people.  This location is perfect for tailgating as there is plenty of green space for the kids to run around, for people to throw around the old pigskin and, of course, for grilling up all the tasty tailgating treats!

The view from Section 38
Ben Mason celebrates a TD run

With a scheduled noon kickoff and an arrival at the park of 8:30 am, they don’t have as much time for tailgating as they would for a later kick-off, but a good time is had by all.

Rockford’s Quinn Nordin lining up for an extra-point attempt

They even get a little extra tailgating time as the game would be delayed for about an hour due to inclement weather.  The extra clothes come in handy, as the rain causes the park to be a little muddy, and, well, boys will be boys!  I had a chance to visit with the Behnke family before the game and to photograph the game from the sidelines.  It was quite an experience!

The game finally kicks off at 1:10pm.  Michigan starts slow but takes a 3-0 lead on a 34-yard field goal from Rockford’s own Quinn Nordin.  Maryland answers right back on the ensuing kick-off, taking it to the house on a 98-yard kick

return for a touchdown by Ty Johnson.  The score after the first quarter of play was 7-3 Maryland.  From that point on, it was all Michigan.  Michigan retakes the lead on a bruising 1-yard run from Fullback Ben Mason and follows that up with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to former walk-on Wide Receiver Ronnie Bell.  The score at halftime is 17-7 Michigan.

Up in Section 38, Row 95 (one row from the top), the Behnke family watches with delight.  To some people, this might seem like nosebleed seats, but to the Behnke family, these seats are perfect.  According to Adrienne, “You can stand up, you don’t

Donovan Peoples-Jones celebrating with Nico Collins after a big play

have to worry about offending anybody and you can see everything”.  Brad has had lots of chances to change his seat locations, but they love where they sit.  This is the first Michigan game that Claire has been to, but the boys are seasoned pros.  The kids are into to the game, Brady and Reese are shouting out play formations and there is lots of cheering happening.   This shouldn’t be of any surprise, as the kids could all sing Michigan’s fight song (The Victors) almost as soon as they could talk!  Not to mention their dogs are named Bo and Wheatley (ask a Michigan fan, they’ll explain it to you)!

Back down on the field, Michigan continues to perform well.

Michigan Quarterback Shea Patterson looks for an open receiver
Shea Patterson ready to make a throw with Coach Harbaugh looking on

A 31-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin and a 34-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to Donovan Peoples-Jones stretches the Michigan lead to 27-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The scoring in the 4th got started by Maryland on a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 27 to 14, but Maryland wouldn’t get any closer than that. Michigan answers with another Shea Patterson touchdown pass, this time a 7-yarder to Jared Wangler and follows that

Selfie with Chase Winovich

up with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brandon Watson to make it a 42-14 Michigan lead.  Around that time, one of the biggest cheers of the day goes up from the 109, 531 fans in attendance, as the scoreboard shows the score of the Michigan State-Northwestern game (Michigan State lost 29-19).  Maryland would add a late touchdown with most of the Michigan starters out of the game for a final score of Michigan 42-Maryland 21.

With the win, Michigan improved to 5-1.  At the press conference, I heard Coach Harbaugh talk about how pleased he was with the play of the defense, the offensive line and Quarterback Shea Patterson.  I even had the chance to grab a

quick selfie with one of Michigan’s star defensive players, Chase Winovich!  Michigan is now 6-1 after a big win against Wisconsin in prime time on Saturday, October 13th.  Up next for Michigan is a big road game against Michigan State (coming off an impressive win against Penn State) at noon on Saturday, October 20th.

The drive home to Rockford is always better when your team wins.  Brad, Adrienne, Brady, Reese and Claire all had a great time cheering on their Wolverines and watching them add another win to the record book.  The drive home wouldn’t be complete without one final singing of The Victors!