Saturday, August 30, 2008

Game 1: Texas 52, Florida Atlantic 10.

What a fun game!

Making this home opener extra fun was Anne, one of my friends who's lucky enough to actually live in Austin. It was such a nice surprise to have an extra ticket so she could join us!
And how mind-blowing to see the new north endzone in person!

Adding to the excitement was the presence of this guy (greeted here by the H-E-B mascots).

That guy at the mike? Why, that would be the best-ever college quarterback: Vince Young!

His number was retired at Saturday's game, and it was so much fun for us fans to get to show him some love—again.

The guy is largely responsible for one of the greatest days in my life and in the lives of many of the 98,000 in attendance Saturday. Wow.

video
Hook 'em, Vince!
(And yes, I'm mortified by the misuse of "it's" in the video!)

It was also fun to see all the gameday additions, like the Longhorn Band intro video and then this peek at the players BEFORE they came out on the field.

Of course, the old traditions are still fun. Having nearly 98,000 people sing "The Eyes of Texas" is always goosebump-inducing.

Here come the Horns!

Even though our D gave up 10 points, our offense was running on all cylinders, never making us sweat this game out. (OK, so we were sweating, but only because of the weather. And even the weather wasn't awful since our seats were in the shade by kickoff.)

Colt McCoy was a MONSTER! Maybe Vince's presence on the sideline inspired Colt's VY-like rushing performance (103 yards). His passing game was top-notch, too, since he was 24 of 29 for 222 yards without an interception.

Yet another addition to our gameday experience: FIRE!
Not only did the LHB's feature twirler juggle three fire batons, but we also had fireworks and flames during the national anthem and again at game's end.

Script Texas: my favorite LHB drill.

When going through my pictures, I realized how few I take of our defense. And this one I took just because I thought my niece's boyfriend's sister's husband's brother was on the field! (Is he there, Cara? I saw him on the Godzillatron right before I took this picture!)

1-0, baby!

The band is now in the south endzone, right in front of us. That means that at the end of the game, the team headed our direction to sing "The Eyes" instead of to the west stands where the band sat for years.

And yep, Bevo is still right in front of us, too.

Whew! What a way to end a long but glorious
first day of the '08 season!

Just like my old bumper sticker said:
"Happiness is an orange Tower!"

Who won the FAU-Texas game?





New NEZ.

It's a project that's been almost two years in the making, but it's almost complete! On Saturday we got our first good look at the new north endzone at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Last year many people with seats at that end were displaced to the temporary bleachers under Godzillatron, our video board behind the south endzone. This season they and many others were happy to find their seats in this new, much larger section.

There's a pretty cool view of the Tower from that north side, too!

The wide walkways and natural light give the new concourses a nice, open feeling.

Apparently there has been a dearth of concessions in those north sections, but now there's a plethora! (How's that for using two SAT words in one sentence?)

There's even a Starbucks!

Fans can walk right up to the tunnel that leads to the field. We're always in our seats at the other end of the stadium when the band marches in, but I'd imagine it's pretty cool to stand along the rail as the LHB and Big Bertha pass by.

After the 2006 football season, the old north endzone was torn down and this new NEZ was begun. For the 2007 season, the new endzone was already better than the old one, even though it wasn't finished. For one, the seats were closer to the field instead of 20-30 yards behind the goalpost.
2007 TCU game with first phase (lower level)
of NEZ construction mostly complete

2008 opener with nearly completed NEZ
including club level and upper level seats

It's crazy how much this construction has changed the stadium's feel. Even from our seats in Section 1 at the far south end, we feel much more enclosed. Now, thanks to the expansion, I can say I was one of 98,053 to attend this game, the largest crowd ever to see a football game in Texas.

Happy New Year!

Saturday marked the beginning of the 2008 Texas football season, and LonghornExperience.com was ready to kick off another round of tailgates!


It was a hot day, but intermittent breezes and an oscillating fan kept us from melting.

Our opponent this week: the Florida Atlantic Owls. In lieu of owl meat, we feasted on a delicacy from the ocean: shrimp.

Also on the menu: brats and Earl Campbell hot links.

Every tailgate needs plenty of koozies, and now we have our own!

It was good to catch up with our Section 1 buddies. Steve (at right) was greeting everyone by saying, "Happy New Year!"

In spite of his cancelled flight and prolonged trip to Austin, T still managed to be the perfect host (even if he did send Dede and me on a wild goose chase to look for a new satellite receiver)!

We enjoyed the canopies' shade and the breeze. At one point, we even got some raindrops. Refreshing!

Tailgate Golf also made its return.



These tailgates are a ton of work (and Dede and I do just a smidgen of it all), but it's so nice to get to the stadium grounds early and have time to visit, eat some good food and watch football while waiting for our own game to start. Back in the day we used to spend the hours before kickoff fighting the crowds at restaurants or sports bars, but now that we've been tailgating for several years, we've grown accustomed to this little patch of grass. It's here that we can fellowship with those other burnt-orange crazies who have also been counting down the days until our year begins.

At long last, it's FOOTBALL SEASON!

Stadium in sight.

Parking weirdness left us without a parking pass, so Dede and I found a pay lot about a mile from the stadium. When we headed out onto Trinity Street to start walking, we looked up and saw this:
From a mile away, we could see not just the stadium's towering upper deck but also the brand new north endzone. Wow! As if I needed to be any more excited on gameday!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday night flights.

Ready to get to Austin for the season's first football weekend, I was planning to leave school ASAP to get to Dede's house in Mansfield, load up and hit the road. I was shutting down computers and locking up closets when the call came Friday afternoon.

"Can you come pick me up?"

I thought my friend T was taunting me because he was already in Austin, but no, he was stuck at DFW because his flight from Dallas to Austin had been cancelled. He had left Amarillo early that afternoon to get a head start on the tailgate shopping and to enjoy a nice dinner before the craziness of gameday began. Instead, the second leg of his trip was cancelled and he ended up having to hitch a ride with a couple of crazy women!

So instead of driving to Mansfield, I made a slight detour by way of the airport to pick up T. Then we began the long, slow drive south in holiday rush-hour traffic to meet Dede in Mansfield.

It's not quite what Dede and I had in mind when we planned to leave town on Friday. We usually don't even attempt the two-nighter since we both like to get in some good Friday family time before heading to Austin for a football Saturday. Since T's in charge of the tailgate, he couldn't wait until mid-morning Saturday to get to Austin, so it really worked out well that we had already planned to spend Friday night there for this particular weekend.

The trip took a little longer, but it was great to spend some time with T. Once we got out of Mansfield, the traffic on 35 was steady but not awful, and we were able to hold off eating dinner until we got to Austin and our favorite restaurant:

The night's close call came when our waitress tried to tell us that Chuy's no longer serves stuffed sopapillas. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Chuy's without stuffed sopapillas, those tasty fluffs covered in sauce? My anticipation turned to bitter disappointment as I scanned the menu (which I usually don't even bother to open since I know what I want). And then the waitress returned: "False alarm!"

It may not be much to look at, but for years my very favorite meal has been the bean and cheese stuffed sopapilla with tomatillo sauce. Here's hoping the one I savored Friday won't be my last!