Alumni, fans watch Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at local bar
They couldn’t make it to Boise, Idaho, but that didn’t stop Central Michigan University fans from cheering on their football team Dec. 22.
More than 100 fans gathered at O’Kelly’s Sports Bar & Grille in Mount Pleasant to watch the Chippewas face Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The game was televised on ESPN and shown on several TVs in the bar.
Donning maroon and gold attire, fans watched as CMU fell to the Cowboys, 37-14, on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium on Boise State University’s campus.
The watch party was put on by the CMU Alumni Association. Linda Leahy, a 1982 graduate and board member, said the watch party was "awesome."
“There was a lot of Chippewa pride from a lot of different regions in spite of (the loss),” Leahy said.
Packs of fans entered the establishment after 3 p.m. Before mingling and ordering food or drinks, they were greeted with maroon and gold pom-poms at their tables,
From the 4 p.m. kickoff, fans clapped after key defensive stops and cheered following big offensive plays. Throughout the game, they screamed for Chippewa defenders to bring down Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen.
Despite the loss, fans rooted for CMU. After each of the Chippewas' two touchdowns, a horn sounded – leading to more cheers from fans in attendance.
With CMU losing in the second half, the crowd celebrated at the end of the third quarter, when Allen slipped and fell on a third-down-and-four to force a Cowboys punt – giving the ball back to the Chippewas trailing 30-14.
Some fans exited the bar before the clock hit zero, but others stayed until the end to watch the final game of the season and enjoy the event in its entirety.
“We thank the Alumni Association office for all our support,” Leahy said.
The watch party signaled a reunion for some CMU alumni. Norma Eppinger, a 1990 alumna, and Donna Husted Kriss, who earned her bachelor's degree in 1991, are members of the Children’s Defense Fund – a nonprofit organization that works for children at federal, state and community levels across the country, according to its website.
“The event brought Norma and I together,” said Husted Kriss, who lives in Mount Pleasant. Eppinger lives in East Lansing.
Aaron Liscomb, a Mount Pleasant resident, said he was disappointed in the game’s outcome. Liscomb said head football coach John Bonamego will take the team to victory in the near future.
He said watching the game with family and seeing alumni from many years ago was a great feeling.
“The atmosphere was fantastic,” Liscomb said. “The energy was high – a lot of positive energy.”
Laura Davidson, a 1992 alumna and Shepherd resident, watched the game Friday with family. She said Wyoming was “kind of mean” but praised the efforts of CMU throughout the season.
“They’re a second half team,” Davidson said of the football team. “They’re great.”
Michala Ebert, who just graduated from CMU, has worked as a server and bartender at O’Kelly’s for three years. The recent alumna said O’Kelly’s provides watch parties for bowl games so residents who can’t travel to the team’s destination can still take part in the festivities.
“It’s an average game day,” Ebert said. “We usually have a lot of fans that come in for game day. It is over break so a lot of students are gone. We had a bunch of locals and alumni."