Monday, September 5, 2016

The Eyes of Texas Were Upon Me

So it is said that everything is bigger in Texas. In my case my appetite for College Football and the associated pre game ritual of Tailgating was ginormous this weekend as we pulled off a rare triple header of top notch schools. Joining me for the entire junket were my college fraternity brothers Jim “Tubby” Devine and Colonel Doug “Neidermeyer” Raymond. Our journey commenced with a meetup at Austin’s Bergstrom Airport followed by a fast paced cattle ride up Interstate 35 to Waco for Baylor’s Friday night matchup with Northwestern State. This was the bonus game of our trifecta weekend as Baylor was playing a guaranteed win, patsy team in FCS opponent Northwestern State. Proper Texas style refreshments in the form of ice cold, out of the Yeti 110, Shiner Bock were provided by the good colonel in an improvised “trunkgate” to ensure we had the correct frame of mind for the first game of the weekend. 


Baylor is a private Baptist institution that was founded in 1845 in Waco, TX. Student population is approximately 17,000. The Baylor Bears play in the Big 12 conference and have been a force to be reckoned with in the past decade. In recent months, Baylor is best known for the black eye the school has suffered as charges of a program spiraling out of control surfaced and the head coach Art Briles and school president Ken Starr were forced to resign. Many recruits and players de-committed or transferred as it appeared the hammer would eventually fall in the form of costly sanctions. Even with these distractions and losses, there is still a plethora of talent on this team as Baylor has risen in the past decade as perhaps the best program in the state. Famous alumni include former Heisman Trophy winner RG III and Hall of Famer Mike “Pants Dropper” Singletary. 

For us, the main event at Baylor would be seeing McLane Stadium on the Brazos River that was opened in 2014. This magnificent college cathedral seats 45,000 and is connected to campus by a foot bridge. It has a gargantuan state of the art video board that I found myself watching more than the live action. At the onset of the game, we witnessed a Baylor tradition where thousands of freshman clad in yellow shirts storm the field from end zone to end zone before sitting in the student section. We also learned the hand sign that represents a “Bear Claw”. The Baylor saying of choice is “Sic' em Bears”! There were rumors that Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper were spotted in the upper concourse. I did not verify this sighting.
Mclane Stadium panoramic view inside....
...and out
The game itself was more or less over during warmups. We sat in the lower bowl north end zone and were able to see the mismatch up close and personal. Northwestern State is an FCS (D1 AA) school coming off a losing season. Games like this should not be played. The size and speed differences were akin to a varsity squad beating up the freshman team. Baylor is now coached by former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe who agreed to come in and steady the ship for this year. Also, returning to lead the team on the field is QB Seth Russel who had a serious neck injury last season.  The Bears scored early and often as they raced out to a 48-0 halftime lead. By the middle of the third period with a score of double nickels to zip, we departed for College Station, TX for part 2 of our weekend. Final score Baylor 55 -7.

DFT crew planting the flag with the Major and cohort Dennis
Upon rolling into College Station, home of Texas A&M and checking into our five star lodgings at the Super 8, Colonel Doug led us on a 2 mile forced road march to Kyle Field to witness the Midnight Yell. Quite a spectacle to see once if you go as a visitor. I emphasize just once like the Parade of Roses. The 5 male Yell Leaders teach the crowd hand signals and cheers and noises to make for all game situations. They accompany this with corny inside humor. It made sense during the game but we felt like it was a skit from Hee-Haw watching the practice session. Following the Yell, off we went to our first of many stops at World of Beers for a few late night snacks and refreshments to dissect what we just saw.

Texas A&M is a massive school in both acreage and student population of over 64,000. Those that do not attend there refer to it as a cult. Those that graduate from there look after their own like no other. The football program has a rich tradition going back a century or so. In 2012 they bolted the Big 12 conference for the vaunted SEC and have fared well over their first four campaigns. Most notable recent alumni is the mercurial Bieberite Johnny Manziel and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of the Broncos. Aside from these two, there are too many pros and HOFers to rattle off in this write up. Kyle field is a massive facility and outstanding on every level. It seats a little over 100,000 but with spacious seats and plenty of leg room it felt like the biggest stadium in the country. 

A&M has arguably the most tradition rich fan base in the nation. The 12th Man began in 1922 for them and has taken on several different versions throughout time. The singing of the Eyes of Texas and the Aggie chant and whoop are heard constantly throughout the game. Each active class has a verbal noise to make as well. The saying “Gig'em” (not giggity) basically means beat em.

The core of cadets, the Yell leaders, the hand signals, the crowd swaying arm and arm, the hands on the knees leaning forward, boots, and the  400+ member Fighting Aggie Marching Band are all part of one of the most unique in game scenes you will experience.  The biggest treat was the pre-game F-22 raptor squadron flyover.

Additionally, the Tailgate tents were set up in multiple green areas around the campus. We unexpectedly partook in someone’s tailgate post game. Thanks for the ribs.

The Corp of Cadets

A late wake up Saturday morning had us scrambling to get our game day outfits on and out the door. First stop back at WoB for a wake-up call in the form of an uber-spicy Bloody Mary.  We participated in another road march in the sweltering heat to the institution that is “The Dixie Chicken” across from the main campus gate in the bar district of College Station. We were told to hydrate due to the extreme heat so we followed orders.  Convinced we could survive the heat we along with 100,000 of our new closest friends made or way into Kyle Filed to watch one of the eight marquis games of the weekend (more on that later).

Bruin faithful "Bieber" Maddalon with the crew

The opponent on the day was the UCLA Bruins out of the PAC 12 and their wunderkind QB, Mr. Humble himself Josh Rosen. Although UCLA was ranked higher, A&M was slightly favored. The action saw both teams battle back and forth. A&M led by Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight took a 10-9 lead into the locker room at the half. In the third quarter it appeared the boys from Cali were melting in the Texas heat as the Aggies scored two more touchdowns to extend the lead to 15.  However in true Ali “rope a dope” fashion, the Bruins came off the turf with multiple counter punches to tie the game up and take the battle into overtime. In OT, the Aggies scored and the Bruins didn’t thus giving the home crowd more to celebrate about. We too felt the celebration needed to continue and so after several stops we dined at the WoB again catching all the late games on the big screen.
The Fighting Aggie Marching Band
The spectacular Kyle Field

Day 3 started as day 2 did and then we made the 90 mile trek to witness our Anchor game of the weekend. Two of CFB’s blue bloods were meeting up as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were visiting the University of Texas Long Horns in Austin. Both schools steeped in tradition and history would be battling for the second year in a row.

Goodbye World of Beers and College Station
Stubbs BBQ on 8th street was hosting a Notre Dame Tailgate so we opted to partake in their pre- game soiree.  After a few more Shiner Bocks we cattle called into Darrel Royal Stadium for a night to be remembered. In last year’s game in South Bend, UT forgot to bring their team as the Irish boat raced them all the way back to Lake Travis. Memorial Stadium seats over 103,000 but with tight quarters, it felt much smaller than A&M’s Kyle Field.  As a father of a student at University of Oklahoma (Texas’s natural rival), I had a hard time absorbing the sea of burnt orange and the “hook em horns” shouts. Texas has several traditions but since one of them ends with the words “OU sucks”, I did not think them very clever. 
Tailgate at Stubbs BBQ
Both coaches opted to platoon 2 QBS during the game. Notre Dame with Deshone Kizer, scored very quickly to take a 7-0 lead. The Horns struck back repeatedly behind QB’s Tyrone Swoopes “There it is” on the ground and Shane Buechele in the air. Notre Dame fared well with Kizer but went backwards when Malik Zaire was running the show. Texas had a 31-14 lead midway through the third before the Irish opted to stick with the productive Kizer. With the luck of the Irish, ND battled back to take a 35 -31 lead. Late into the 4th quarter, with the Horns feeling energized by their largest crowd in history, they scored on a 19 yard run to take the lead. However, the Eyes of Texas looked down upon the Irish and ensured the game would continue when ND blocked the PAT and returned it 90 yard for 2 points.
Say what?

Darrel K. Royal Memorial Stadium
In the first overtime, Texas and Notre Dame both scored touchdowns. In the second overtime the Irish were held to a field goal and on a performance like Vince Young, Tyrone Swoopes’s scored his third TD of the game as the Horns pulled off the upset. Final score Texas 50-47. These Irish eyes were left once again crying. Thus we fled to 6th street to drown our sorrows and take in the post- game chaotic scene. All in all, we saw two of the top three games of the weekend and had a trip to remember.

DFT flag planted on 6th street in Austin.
Around the Country (marquis games):

In perhaps the strongest week one ever, we witnessed eight games with ranked teams squaring off. Alabama destroyed USC in the most impressive beat down of the weekend at Jerry World. In one of the most exciting games, Wisconsin led by De La Salle’s Bart Houston shocked LSU at Lambeau field.  Georgia knocked off North Carolina, Houston upsets our Oklahoma Sooners, Clemson Tigers clawed out a win over the Auburn Tigers and Florida State takes down the Rebels of Ole Miss. Lastly, DFT/Eagle Tailgaters made the trek to Dublin Ireland only to watch their BC Eagles lose a close one to Georgia Tech.

The Eagle Tailgaters in Dublin Ireland!
 Bieber Award
- Colin Kaepernick. Shame on you. There is no excuse to support his actions. Our nation needs to be united and the Flag is one thing that does not dictate our internal differences.  I could ramble on for hours but will leave it at that.

Next Week – DFT and crew will be at the San Jose State game versus Portland State. For those in the Bay Area, please join us for an easy tailgate.

Happy Tailgating!