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Early in the 2022 football season, Friend Randy said that if his beloved FSU made it to a postseason bowl game, we were going. Well, FSU did make it — to the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando — but Randy decided we should go to a closer game. So we went back to the Birmingham Bowl to see the East Carolina Pirates play the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.

Coastal Carolina 29, East Carolina 53

Full disclosure: Randy wanted to go to the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery to see Georgia Southern play Buffalo. But that game kicked-off at noon Eastern time, and I didn't want to wake up so early in the morning. So we compromised and went to Birmingham, which had a 6:45PM Eastern start. The only down side to this decision was that the entire game was played after dark. We could have used a little sunlight warmth. Actually, we could have used a lot of sunlight warmth. It was cold.

University of Alabama-Birmingham's Protective Stadium has replaced historic Legion Field for reasons that are not entirely clear to me. I mean, it does have larger bathrooms and more convenient concession stands, but its seats aren't any more comfortable and the place isn't wrapped in the smell of BBQ. I mean, it's fine. I'm just old fashioned.

Sadly, the game itself wasn't as good as our last visit. The Chanticleers' starting quarterback knocked himself out of the game in the second quarter, bouncing on his head in the end zone right in front of us, and the team never recovered. (The backup's nameplate read "Guest," which Randy and I had a lot of fun with: the poor temporary replacement wasn't even given his own account!). We left at the end of the third quarter when the game was very obviously over.

Despite these minor problems, Randy and I agreed we both had a great time and will have to try to make going to some bowl game an annual tradition. Maybe we'll get to the Camellia next year... depending on kickoff time.

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I'd been saying for several years that I should just take a day trip over to Legion Field to attend the annual Birmingham Bowl. This year, I finally put my money where my mouth was and bought tickets near midfield. I'm glad I did.

Memphis 34, Wake Forest 37

Friend Randy drove. He's always extra fun at football games. He often sees things on the field that I would miss. However, neither one of us spotted the fireworks on the field prior to the National Anthem. We weren't the only ones in the stadium caught off guard when rockets quite literally went off with a red glare, interrupting the poor singer struggling to cope with a bad sound system.

That wasn't the only time fireworks would catch us unaware. There were explosions after every score, it wasn't until halfway through the second quarter (score 28 to 7, Memphis lead) that we finally learned to anticipate the bang.

Dreamland BBQ was one of many vendors brought in just for the event, and we were surrounded by a cloud of delicious meat smoke for most of the game. Considering the warm December sun and enthusiastic (if smallish) crowd, it was an ideal way to watch a game.

All of which was set dressing for the game itself, which was fantastic. Memphis managed both an interception and kickoff returned for touchdown on back-to-back drives, and Wake Forest fell into an early hole which would take them more than three quarters to reverse. Memphis responded, and the game came down to a missed field goal at the final gun. Very exciting.

If every Birmingham Bowl was this good, I'd go every year.

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To be continued...

 

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