Playing under the lights invokes emotion from even the most hardened, grizzled, testosterone-filled football players.
Memories of playing Friday night high school games come flooding back, the early days when the foundation of the game was laid. It was in those early days that players dreamt of playing in front of big, roaring crowds in big, meaningful games.
Which is what makes night games at the Rose Bowl special.
“By the time you’re getting back into the locker room (during warm-ups) it’s already dark outside and you don’t know it,” said offensive lineman Xavier Su-a-Filo. “Having the lights on in the Rose Bowl, that just feels like football.’
It’s a scene that head coach Jim Mora, who has coached in the biggest venues and stages in football, is still taken aback by.
“A 7:07 kickoff at the Rose Bowl is pretty spectacular,” Mora said. “The sky is beautiful, the atmosphere is amazing, it’s electric in there.”
On Saturday, when the No. 21-ranked Bruins take the field to face Nevada in the home-opener, they will have a certain edge to them. Aside from the natural excitement that accompanies openers, it’s the first game in what they hope will be a follow-up to a breakout season and they’re kicking it off with a show under the lights.
It almost gives Su’a-Filo the chills just thinking about it.
“People are sweating already, it’s that nervous and anxious sweat. When we’re walking out the click-clacks of the cleats inside the Rose Bowl echo throughout the tunnels where we’re walking. You look around and guys are in their zone and guys are focused, other guys are getting all worked up.
You go outside and you start to hear everyone getting up on the bleachers because they know we’re about to come out. There’s music, there’s guys, there’s refs, there’s everyone going nuts. And right when we get to the mouth of the tunnel and all of the fans start to see us it’s a special sight.”
What to expect with Nevada While Mora will tell you that he doesn’t believe in trap games, there has been speculation that Nevada could be just that. Under new coach Brian Polian, the son of former Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill, the Wolfpack still employs the pistol offense that was created by former Nevada head coach Chris Ault.
It’s different than what the Bruins have seen, and it has at times both intrigued and frustrated Mora during game preparations.
“A team that comes in with kind of an unorthodox offense, they can shock you no matter who they are,” Mora said. “It’s not simple, it’s complex, it just looks simple.”
The Bruins ran the pistol in 2010 and 2011. In fact, quarterback Brett Hundley was recruited to play the pistol so the veteran Bruin defenders have an advantage in knowing what to expect.
What have the Bruins seen so far from Nevada?
Well, nothing just yet.
“Nevada wasn’t nice enough to send us any practice film,” Mora joked.