Champaign, Ill. (KMOV) -- For my first delve into the professional journalist side of college football, I've decided the best (and probably most entertaining) way to chronicle the experience is to do a running commentary of the day's events, from picking up my first press pass all the way to the post game press conference. Enjoy:
10:31 - They treat press here like royalty. A press pass is equivalent to a Golden Ticket - it opens all doors, it bypasses all bag checks, it waits for no one. Trying my best to act like this wasn't my first time with press credentials, I failed miserably, first accusing a member of the press of sitting in the wrong seat (in actuality I had the right seat, wrong row) and then doing a fair amount of wandering aimlessly before finding the correct seat in the correct row. (Sidenote: in another display of just how new this all is to me, I can't help but gush about the view. The game hasn't even started yet and I already know this will be the best seat I've ever had for a sporting event.)
10:44 - As expected, there's a good deal of red in the crowd. Ohio St. has a very wide and very loyal fan base, and it's no surprise they braved the cold to support their team.
10:45 - While typing the last bit, I missed the national anthem. Strike six.
10:54 - This is my first time being back inside Memorial Stadium in at least two years. It's interesting that they've moved the student section, the Block I, to the north end zone opposite the horseshoe. Not a bad move for space purposes, just interesting.
11:06 - Both teams stall on their opening drives. One thing that's struck me already about the press box is how quiet it gets when a play is going on. There will be fifteen or twenty conversations going on between plays, but when the teams line up everything stops for ten seconds. Interesting dynamic.
11:13 - After a Juice Williams fumble, the Buckeyes pounded out nineteen yards to get on the board 7-0. In other news, it feels like thirty-two degrees on the field with 18-25 mph winds. It might be a ground battle today.
11:22 - The Illini answer with a score of their own. A couple big runs got them into the red zone and a great catch in the end zone by Jeff Cumberland ties the score. Cumberland's catch has the press box buzzing.
11:32 - They're playing Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" over the PA during the television timeout. Not my idea of pumping up the crowd, but to each his own.
11:36 - Ohio St. blocks an Illinois punt for a safety and then the ensuing punt goes about twenty net yards. Not a good sequence for Anthony Santella to say the least.
11:47 - Ohio St. takes advantage of the good field position and drives for the touchdown. Journalist takes advantage of free food and drinks and gets himself a soda and some popcorn. 16-7 Buckeyes.
11:54 - Illinois is working the no-huddle offense beautifully. The Buckeyes call a timeout to regroup. Maybe just to catch their breath.
11:57 - Looks like a good timeout after Juice is intercepted in the red zone. Opportunity knocked. The Buckeyes answered.
12:01 - The Buckeyes waste little time turning the interception into points. Six plays, seventy-six yards, 23-7 Ohio St.
12:07 - The Illini are showing some signs of at least feigned trickery, three times bringing Eddie McGee into the game at quarterback and splitting Juice out wide. It may scare the Ohio St. defense momentarily, but only until McGee runs for the inevitable one-yard loss.
12:11 - The Illinois drive stalls at the Ohio St. 12 yard line and they settle for a field goal, cutting the lead to 23-10. They've shown the ability to move the ball against the Buckeye defense, though, which is a good sign for the second half.
12:15 - The Illinois kickoff was just taken by Ohio St. running back Dan Herron. Nothing newsworthy there, but Herron, while spelled differently than the Diamondbacks' Dan Haren, will for the rest of the game serve a dual purpose: running back, and an ever-present reminder that the Cardinals just parted ways with the perpetually-injured Mark Mulder.
12:25 - Matt Eller closes the half with a field goal. 23-13 Ohio St., but momentum seems to be with the Illini.
12:42 - It's strange watching a halftime show without the Chief. I realize the figure is incredibly divisive and offensive to a group of people, but from a purely fan standpoint it's a tradition that I hate to see go. That said, I understand the anti-Chief sentiment among some, and I can't really argue against it.
12:50 - Beanie Wells just hurdled Donsay Hardeman. In a game that's seen some exciting plays, I think Wells just delivered the haymaker.
12:56 - Wells atones (in the eyes of Illinois fans, at least) for the hurdle and resulting public humiliation of an Illini DB by fumbling in the Illinois red zone. New life for the Illini.
1:07 - The press box is rife with conversation about the Illinois decision to pass up a 54-yard field goal attempt, instead choosing a pooch punt that got downed on the one yard line. What makes it even more controversial is a five-yard penalty that the Illini declined for illegal substitution on Ohio St. Can Eller make a 54-yard field goal? Maybe. Can Eller make a 49-yard field goal with the wind at his back? Absolutely. The Illini passed up an opportunity to get within a touchdown. Bottom line.
1:20 - End of the third quarter and the score is still 23-13. One important factor for the fourth quarter - that 25 mph wind is in the face of the Illini. That makes a field goal much harder. If the Illini find themselves down three late in the game they might end up really regretting the missed opportunity.
1:27 - The Illini just got the raw end of a late hit call to prolong a Buckeye drive. All you can say is the officials just got it wrong. Just plain wrong.
1:29 - Herron takes the ball into the end zone to make the score 30-13. Score one for the Buckeyes and Oakland GM Billy Beane.
1:41 - The Block I has eroded into a Block-Some-of-an-I as the Illini faithful start to clear out in anticipation of an Ohio St. victory. The loss is a continuation of a season-long theme for the Illini of missed opportunities. There are a few defining plays - Juice's red zone interception, passing on a field goal attempt to pull it within seven - that they will certainly look back at and wonder "what if?"
1:54 - It's all over but the cryin' in Champaign as even the press box begins to clear out. At the risk of pulling a Dewey-Truman-type blunder, this is where this press-credentialed journalist signs off. The Illini will attempt to go to Northwestern next week in their last opportunity to gain bowl eligibility. See you then.
Nate Grimm is a journalism student at the University of Illinois.