CU At the Game Preview – Texas A&M (Note: you will have to scroll down to read the preview and review)
- This week’s “T.I.P.S.” look at the talent of the Aggies (guess what? We’re not playing a Heisman hopeful at quarterback this week!). The stats actually favor Colorado for a change, but the real question concerns the heart and desire of the Buffs in responding to the blowout loss to Missouri ……
Review of this week’s game (Note: you will have to scroll down to read the preview and review)
- Colorado fell to Texas A&M, 24-17, before 78,121 at Kyle Field. The loss all but eliminates CU from the bowl picture, with two wins in the last three games now required for eligibility. In addition to an expanded game recap (since the game was not televised), I have not one but two essays for you:
Six Plays Decide a Season – a second quarter drive which helped determine the fate of the game, and perhaps the CU season
Aggie Fan – a recounting of an (otherwise) exciting first trip to College Station.
Trivia You Need to Know – Texas A&M
This side of Notre Dame, there are few schools as steeped in tradition as Texas A&M. Before kickoff against the Aggies, you’ll want to read up on:
- The history behind the 12th Man; Reveille, and Midnight Yell Practice;
- When Texas A&M won its national championship;
- CU’s record against the Aggies, including the Buffs’ record in College Station ….
This Day in History - November 1st
Some fantastic games have been played on November 1st in college football history. A sampling:
1969 – Florida had never defeated Auburn on the Tigers’ home field. What NCAA record (still held) did Gator quarterback John Reeves set that November 1st to keep #7 Florida winless at Auburn?;
1975 – Cal’s Chuck Muncie gets the better of USC’s Ricky Bell;
1980 – The final play on the one-yard line decides Ole Miss v. #1 Alabama;
2003 – Vince Young and Cedric Benson of #16 Texas take on #12 Nebraska.
For CU fans, there is a game on this date which is near and dear to my heart. The Buffs’ win over Iowa State in 1980 was not only the first game I saw in which the Buffs were victorious, it was the only Colorado win that ignoble season …..
Going Down in History …
…..is a section devoted to those players who current players have recently surpassed in the all-time CU record books. We take a look back at the names and the accomplished of those who should not be forgotten.
This section, though, is available only to those who are on the (free!) email update list! Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and get on the list today!
Archive Game of the Week
If you read the “This day in History” section, you know that the Buffs’ only victory in 1980 came on November 1, 1980. Well, the Cyclones did the Buffs the same favor in 1984. The only win of the year came against Iowa State, at home, on October 13, 1984. Read about how close the Buffs came to being winless in Bill McCartney’s third season ….
CU At The Game Preview – Texas A&M
Two-thirds of the way through the regular season, and what have we learned? The 2008 Buffs are capable of playing well for stretches, but really have not played a complete game since week one. The Buffs are also capable on complete implosion, inexplicably playing without coordination or consistency.
Bottom line: Colorado is 4-4, and the season can still be a success, or it can be a dismal disappointment. The next two weeks will likely be the deciding factor.
This week’s “T.I.P.S.”
T – Talent.
For the first time since week two, the Buffs clearly have more talent than the opposition. After running the gauntlet of Patrick White, Colt McCoy, Todd Reesing, Josh Freeman, and Chase Daniel, the Buffs finally will face a quarterback who is not up for any post-season awards. This is not to say that Jerrod Johnson should be taken lightly, however.
Who is Jerrod Johnson? Only the sophomore Texas A&M quarterback who threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns against Iowa State last weekend. Only the quarterback who hit on 31-of-39 passes against the Cyclones, with four of his Aggie receivers each collecting at least six passes.
While Johnson put up impressive numbers against Iowa State, that does not necessarily mean that he is the second coming of any of the aforementioned headline acts at quarterback. Nor does Johnson have the same supporting cast.
In August, it was assumed Texas A&M would be led by the versatile returning starter at quarterback, Stephen McGee. McGee would team up with speedy tailback Mike Goodson and bruising fullback Jorvorskie Lane to provide the Aggies with a power rushing offense. McGee, though, has been benched in favor of Johnson, as the Texas A&M running game has struggled. Texas A&M is 101st in the nation in rushing, and the offense is being remodeled under first-year head coach Mike Sherman into more of a pass first attack.
While the offense for A&M has struggled for most of the season, the Aggie defense has been, well, awful. Texas A&M gave up 35 points to Iowa State, and that total was the lowest of the Big 12 campaign for the Wrecking Crew. Iowa State, in a losing effort, still put up 574 yards of total offense against A&M last week, amassing 34 first downs and converting 11-of-16 third down conversions (and this was a winning effort for the A&M defense).
If the Buffs, shut out last week for the first time since 1988, are to have a successful offensive output to put aside the memory of the Missouri debacle, they could hardly have been given a better Big 12 opponent.
I – Intangibles
….. but all of that depends on which Colorado team shows up at Kyle Field on Saturday. Will the Buffs, wounded and deflated, be able to put the Tiger massacre behind them? Will the Colorado offense be able to sustain any semblance of consistency? Will the Colorado special teams be able to make a play to help the team, rather than hurt it? Will the Colorado defense be able to withstand the crowd and the momentum of the A&M offense long enough to keep the Buffs in the game early?
When asked about how his players responded Sunday after the demoralizing loss to Missouri, CU head coach Dan Hawkins, rarely at a loss for words, responded, “Good”.
We can take that response one of two ways. Either Hawkins has no answers for what has happened to his team, and the Buffs are in disarray and ready for another November to forget (1-3 in 2006; 1-3 in 2007), or that the CU head coach (and, presumably, his staff and players), are chomping at the bit to get back on the field and prove themselves.
Let’s hope that it is the latter.
Remember how, a few weeks ago, I wrote in the “T.I.P.S.” for West Virginia: “The first quarter of the Colorado/West Virginia game may be the most important quarter of the Buffs’ 2008 season”? Okay, so I got lucky on that one. The Buffs put together a great opening stanza, putting up 14 first quarter points on their way to a 17-14 overtime win over the Mountaineers. Why was the first quarter so important? Colorado was facing a ranked team, on national television, after almost losing for a second time to a 1-AA team. A sluggish start could have been devastating. Instead, the Buffs came out with fire, and had just enough energy to hold off a good but not great West Virginia team.
What about this weekend? Let’s raise the stakes: The first quarter of the Colorado/Texas A&M game may be the most important first quarter to date of the Dan Hawkins’ era.
Why? A loss to A&M all but assures Colorado will finish outside the bowls, posting a third consecutive losing season. Dan Hawkins will be on all of the “hot seat” watch lists in the 2009 preseason magazines, and recruiting can’t help but suffer as a result.
A win, conversely, sets the Buffs up for a sixth win next weekend with Iowa State coming to town. Two consecutive wins and a 6-4 record allows CU to play with house money against Oklahoma State and Nebraska, as a bowl game will be all but assured. The program will again be perceived as being on the upswing overall, and the Missouri debacle will be reduced to a bad memory.
Two huge games for the Colorado program the next two weeks.
But the second game will matter little unless the first game is a win.
P – Preparation / Schedule
What about the Aggies? Texas A&M, even with the win over Iowa State, is only 3-5 on the season. The Aggies lost in the season opener to Arkansas State, then almost lost to New Mexico on the road and to Army at home (the other non-conference game was a blowout loss at home to Miami, 41-23). The 35 points given up to the Cyclones last weekend is the lowest point total given up this year by A&M to a BCS team.
In case you skimmed over the last sentence, I’ll give it to you again: The 35 points given up to the Cyclones is the lowest point total given up this year by A&M to a BCS team.
While the Aggie fans can certainly be heartened by the first road win of the Mike Sherman era, that certainly doesn’t mean they are ready to erect a Mike Sherman statue down at Fitzwilly’s Bar and Grille in College Station (okay, so I’m getting a little excited about our trip to see Kyle Field and all of the trappings of an A&M home game this weekend).
For Texas A&M to become bowl eligible in its first season under Sherman, they must win three of their final four games. After the Buffs, the Aggies play Oklahoma (the Sooner effect again), at Baylor, and at Texas. Even the most loyal A&M fan would be hard pressed to see three wins in that stretch. Most Aggies, including their players, must realistically see this season as a 12 game effort. A win over Colorado would help show progress, but the rivalry games to follow probably carry more weight with those who live and die with the maroon and white than a game against the Buffs from Boulder.
For the Buffs, you already know the math. Two wins, and the Buffs are going bowling (with two BCS bowl bids all but assured, there are nine spots for the Big 12 to fill. Iowa State, Texas A&M, and Baylor are not likely to get to six wins – and don’t be surprised if Kansas State repeats its swoon of 2007 and finishes 5-7). Oklahoma State looks very impressive, and, hard as it is to admit, Nebraska is much better than many of us anticipated.
That leaves A&M and Iowa State as the best bets to get the Buffs to six wins.
Really kind of hard to understate the importance of this game to CU and its fans.
S – Stats.
Two weeks ago, I gleefully pointed out a number of unimpressive statistics which represented the efforts of the Kansas State defense. While the scoring output of the Colorado offense in the 14-13 win over the Wildcats was far from impressive, the CU offense did put up decent numbers. The Buffs scratched out 353 yards of total offense, 24 first downs, and held onto the ball for 36 minutes.
Against the Aggies, similar numbers are realistic, if not anticipated. The highest national ranking the Wrecking Crew defense can boast is 84th, and that is in pass defense. In most other categories, A&M slips into triple digits: 106th in rushing defense; 103rd in total defense; and, in the number most important to the numerically challenged Buff offense, 109th in scoring defense.
The only games in which Texas A&M has surrendered fewer than 20 points have been in a loss to Arkansas State (18 points), and 17 points in a 21-17 win over Army. These are the same cadets who this season scored all of three points against Akron, seven against Temple, and ten against New Hampshire.
Other than their passing offense, where Texas A&M ranks a more than respectable 26th (still only good enough for 8th in the Big 12), the Aggies are in the bottom half of the nation in every statistical category – both on offense and defense.
No, the Buffs have not exactly burned up the stats sheet this season, and there are plenty of numbers from which Aggie fans can take solace.
Fact is, these are two fair to middling teams right now – but Texas A&M is worse.
If the Buffs can pull their collective chins off of the floor long enough to withstand the initial heat of the enthusiasm of 82,000 desperate Aggie fans, they can more than hold their own this weekend.
The Buffs need to win.
They have to win.
Or it will be a long, cold winter in Boulder.
Texas A&M – 2008
November 1st – @ College Station Texas A&M 24, Colorado 17
Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson was held in check for most of the afternoon by the Colorado defense, but one good quarter was all he needed. Johnson led the Aggies to three touchdowns in the third quarter as Texas A&M came from behind to edge Colorado, 24-17. The Buffs held the advantage in most of the statistical categories, including first downs, total yards, and time of possession, but three turnovers proved costly as CU fell to 4-5 on the 2008 season.
The Buffs’ offense, coming off a 58-0 shut out at the hands of Missouri, played well to open the contest. On the game’s opening drive, Cody Hawkins hit Demetrius Sumler on a screen pass on third-and-13. With the catch and run, Sumler chalked up the Buffs’ first 40-yard offensive play on the season, putting the Buffs on the Aggie side of the field at the A&M 43-yard line. From there, however, the CU drive stalled, and senior Tom Suazo, in now full time for Matt DiLallo at punter, pinned Texas A&M back at their own six yard line.
The Colorado defense, victimized for five opening scores in eight games, appeared willing to allow Texas A&M to make it six of nine, as the Aggies marched smartly out from underneath the shadow of their own goalpost. In seven plays, helped by a roughing the passer penalty called on senior defensive tackle Brandon Nicholas, the Aggies netted fifty two yards. On first down at the CU 42, though, Buff defensive tackle Curt Cunningham forced a Jerrod Johnson fumble as Johnson was attempting a pass to avoid a sack. Brandon Nicholas recovered the ball for CU at the A&M 43 yard line.
A little trickery ensued on the Buffs’ next drive, and it paid dividends for CU. On second-and-seven at the A&M 40, Cody Hawkins pitched the ball to Rodney Stewart on what appeared to be a sweep to the right. Stewart, though, stopped and threw the ball backwards across the field to Hawkins. Scooping up the lateral on one hop, Hawkins found tight end Riar Geer for a 23-yard gain down to the A&M 17. After an 11-yard run by Josh Smith on an end around set up the Buffs at the six, Rodney Stewart outran the Aggie defense to the corner of the endzone on the next play, giving the Buffs their first points since the second quarter of the Kansas State game – almost two full games without a score.
The Colorado defense next forced two three-and-outs from the Texas A&M offense, giving the CU offense a chance to pad the Buffs’ 7-0 advantage. Early in the second quarter, Colorado put together a 13-play drive which stalled deep in Aggie territory after a Josh Smith fumble resulted in eight yard loss. On fourth-and-13 on the A&M 29 yard line, the Buffs thought long and hard about going for a first down with the offense, but ultimately sent out the kicking unit. Aric Goodman, who hadn’t made a field goal since the overtime winner against West Virginia, made it 0-7 since that last success when his 46-yard effort hit off the right upright.
The Texas A&M offense came to life after the Goodman miss, driving to the CU 22. There the drive stalled, and, with 5:43 to go before halftime, A&M kicker Randy Bullock connected from 39 yards out to cut the lead to 7-3.
The next drive by the Buffs lasted six plays, but it took only four plays to give the CU offense a first-and-goal. On the second play of the drive, Rodney Stewart broke out of a scrum at the line of scrimmage, darting off towards the Colorado sideline. Stewart gained 11 yards on the play, and the Buffs were rewarded with a 15-yard horse collar penalty on top of the gain. The fifteen yards were of little consolation, though, as Stewart, the Buffs’ leading rusher (and well within striking distance of the Colorado freshman rushing record) was lost for the season with a broken right leg.
On the very next play, freshman running back Darrell Scott took off for the longest rushing play of the season for the Buffs. The 42-yard effort, which included a leap over defenders similar to the one Scott made against Eastern Washington earlier in the season, set up the Buffs at the Aggie six yard line. A four yard run by Demetrius Sumler put the Buffs at the two-yard line, but three of those yards were lost on the next play as Scotty McKnight was caught on a sweep back at the A&M five. On third-and-goal, Cody Hawkins lofted a pass for the back of the Aggie endzone, but the ball was snared out of the air by A&M’s Jordan Pugh, and the Buff threat came to a close.
The half was not quite over, though. A sack of Jerrod Johnson by safety Ryan Walters and linebacker Shaun Mohler forced an A&M punt, and a 31 yard punt return by Josh Smith set up the Buffs at the A&M 32-yard line with 1:11 to play. The Colorado drive, led by Tyler Hansen, got the Buffs as close as the 13-yard line, with Jameson Davis setting up for a 30-yard field goal attempt. Davis’ effort, the first of his CU career, was good, giving Colorado a 10-3 lead with just three seconds left in the half.
The first half score was Colorado 10, Texas A&M 3, but the Buffs were dominating. CU held the ball for over 18 minutes of the first two quarters, and had 218 yards of total offense. The Aggies, meanwhile, had less than 12 minutes of possession time, and had generated all of 76 yards of total offense.
Then the third quarter started.
On a beautiful 81 degree afternoon with little wind, there was no particular advantage for the Aggies in driving toward the open end of Kyle Field in the third quarter, but it certainly appeared during that stanza that A&M players were running downhill. Taking the second half kickoff, Texas A&M needed only six plays to navigate 68 yards to tie the score. A 32-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Johnson to Ryan Tannehill knotted the score at 10-all with 12:02 still to play in the third quarter.
Colorado could not get anything going on their next two possessions, and, after a 19-yard punt by Tom Suazo set up the Aggies on their own 41-yard line, it took only one play for Texas A&M to take the lead for good. Jerrod Johnson connected with Jeff Fuller on a 59-yard catch and run to give A&M their first lead, 17-10, with 3:34 to play in the quarter.
After the Buffs’ third consecutive five play, one first down drive resulted in yet another punt, the Aggies took command. This time, the long gain came on the ground, as Cyrus Gray cut loose for 54 yards down to the CU 20-yard line. Three plays later, Johnson and Fuller connected again, this time from 10 yards out, and, as the third quarter mercifully came to an end for the Buffs, the huge scoreboard in the Kyle Field endzone read: Texas A&M 24, Colorado 10.
Despite playing behind an offense which hadn’t reached the 20 point mark in over a month, and even though they had been torched for 212 yards of total offense in just 15 minutes of play, the Colorado defense refused to allow the Buffs to fold. The first CU drive of the fourth quarter netted only 15 yards and a punt, but the Colorado defense gave the Buff offense the ball back on a three-and-out. After Tyler Hansen threw an interception on the very next play, the Buff defense nonetheless forced another three-and-out.
This time, the Colorado offense clicked.
Taking over at their own two-yard line, the Buffs put together one of their best drives of the season. Led by Tyler Hansen, the Buffs strung together an 11-play, 98-yard drive to pull CU to within a touchdown at 24-17. On the drive, Hansen himself carried the ball five times for 38 yards before Demetrius Sumler burst up the middle for a ten yard touchdown to give the Buffs new life.
The only problem with the touchdown drive was that, after consuming 3:26 of game clock, only 2:59 remained to be played. Once again, though, the Buff defense stiffened, forcing a third consecutive three-and-out. The Buffs’ offense took over with 2:29 to play, with the ball positioned at the Texas A&M 46 yard line.
A storybook ending seemed in the offing, as most of the 78,121 on hand shifted restlessly in their seats.
One play later, though, the Aggie Nation was happily heading for the exits, as Tyler Hansen was picked off on the only play of the CU comeback drive. The threat and the game were over.
“There were just too many missed opportunities in the first half,” said Dan Hawkins after the Buffs had fallen for the fifth time in six games. “When you leave too many things like that on the table, you know, it’s the age-old deal. It becomes a drain for your squad and it becomes a momentum deal for the other team.”
On the day, the Buffs accumulated 392 yards of total offense, a season high. The Buffs held the ball for over 34 minutes, and sacked Jerrod Johnson five times. Three interceptions, though, doomed Colorado to a fifth defeat, and all but eliminated the 4-5 from bowl consideration.
Up next is perhaps the Buffs last best chance at a win, with Iowa State coming to Boulder. The Cyclones are 2-7 on the season, 0-5 in the Big 12 after a 59-17 mauling by Oklahoma State. After Iowa State will be those same Cowboys, ranked 8th in the nation after the big win over ISU. The finale is in Lincoln against the 4-5 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Buffs have to win two of three to be bowl eligible.
On the heels of five losses in six games, that may be asking too much.
Six plays decide a Season
They look so innocuous on the stats sheet, I almost overlooked them in the game summary. I knew that those six plays decided the outcome of the A&M game, and perhaps much more, but they don’t jump off the page.
The situation: Second quarter. Colorado 7, Texas A&M 3.
The Aggies have just posted their first score of the game, and the Buffs are taking over at their own 24 yard line with 5:43 to play in the first half. The Colorado offense has shown signs of life, and the Colorado defense has just held the Aggies to a long field goal. This game, unlike the Missouri game, is still very much in doubt. The Buffs, at 4-4, must win this game to keep the promise of the 3-0 start to the 2008 season from slipping away.
First down. CU 24 yard line. Tyler Hansen; rush for two yards to the CU 26.
How many times have we seen this stat this season? “First down; rush for two yards”? You can take out Hansen’s name and insert that of Rodney Stewart, Demetrius Sumler,or Darrell Scott if you like, but there has been a frustrating consistency to the inconsistency of the Colorado offense all season. It certainly seems that the Colorado offense has been playing with “second-and-eight” on the scoreboard all year.
Second down and eight. CU 26 yard line. Rodney Stewart; rush for 11 yards to the CU 37. 15-yard penalty for a horse collar tackle assessed against A&M. Ball on the Aggie 48-yard line.
Perhaps the last gasp for the Buffs’ 2008 campaign ended on this play. It was a great run by Stewart. Clogged up on the right hand side of the CU line, it appeared that Stewart was going to be stopped for a short gain. Instead, Speedy bounced outside, taking off for the CU sideline, caught from behind by a horse collar tackle which cost the Aggies 15 yards.
As the play took place on the Colorado sideline, those of us in the stands did not notice that Stewart had been injured. It was a hard tackle, to be sure, but one that until this season would have been perfectly legal. When we saw Stewart sitting up as he was being hauled off in a cart a few minutes later, we assumed (hoped?) that heat exhaustion had taken a toll on the freshman running back, and that he would be back for the second half.
No such luck. The solitary bright light for the Colorado offense in 2008 has been extinguished. Stewart’s 666 rushing yards will go down as the third best for a freshman, behind Lamont Warren’s 830 (1991) and O.C. Oliver’s 668 (1986).
First down. A&M 48 yard line. Darrell Scott; rush for 42 yards to the A&M six yard line.
Is it too early to say that this was a “vintage” Darrell Scott run? Against Eastern Washington (oddly enough, the only other CU game not to be televised), Scott had a 22-yard run in which he leapt over an Eagle defender in the secondary. Breaking into the Aggie secondary on this play, Scott did his thing again, jumping over and through two A&M defenders on his way to the longest play from scrimmage for CU this season.
First-and-goal. A&M six yard line. Demetrius Sumler; rush for four yards to the A&M two yard line.
Demetrius Sumler has been an overlooked element to the CU offense. Usually in on passing downs to assist in blocking (unfortunately, the Buffs’ opponents are all too aware that if Sumler is in the game, the Buffs are likely to pass), Sumler has been the only real between-the-tackles option for CU. On this play, Sumler sets the Buffs up nicely with a four yard gain. Second-and-goal from the two yard line. Just over three minutes to play in the half, with the Buffs already up 7-3, a momentum shifting touchdown is in the offing for the offensively challenged Buffs.
Second-and-goal. A&M two yard line. Scotty McKnight; rush for loss of three yards to the A&M five yard line.
From over 100 yards away (our seats were in the opposite endzone from where the Buffs were marching), we tried to make our voices heard. “Run it up the middle again!”; “DO NOT run backwards!” was our cry.
No good. CU ran a sweep with a wide receiver, losing three yards. Instead of ramming the ball straight ahead for one (or even two) play(s), the Buffs got cute, and a rushing touchdown was removed as an option for third down. “What made us think that play was exactly what we saw on film and again what they did,” said Dan Hawkins of the ill-fated sweep. “I don’t know if there was a mis-communication there at the point of attack, but we just can’t cut the defensive end loose, and that’s a situation where we should have two guys on that guy.”
From a sure touchdown, the Buffs now faced the uncertainty of a third down from the five.
Third-and-goal. A&M five yard line. Cody Hawkins intercepted by Jordan Pugh. Touchback.
Hawkins had a player open running along the back of the end-zone (Geer?), but did not get enough air under the ball. The floater was picked off by Aggie safety Jordan Pugh, and the Buff drive was snuffed out.
Would a touchdown have brought a CU victory? It’s impossible to say. What is clear about that drive is that it is a microcosm of the Colorado 2008 season. The promise of Stewart and Scott are there, but only in short bursts. Injuries have all but ground the Buff offense to a halt, and now the Buffs’ leading rusher has been sidelined. The CU offensive line cannot be counted on to punch the ball in from two yards out, so the Buffs resorted to trickery which backfired. And Cody continues to make freshman mistakes well into his sophomore season.
Can the Buffs’ rebound? I don’t think so. I believe that CU will be able to handle an Iowa State team which has been, if anything, a bigger disappointment than the Buffs. A lopsided loss to Oklahoma State seems all but a certainty, leaving CU with a make or break game against a Nebraska team which may also be fighting for a bowl bid. The way the ball has bounced so far in 2008, I don’t like our chances. A 5-7 season seems to be in the offing.
It will be a long, cold winter in Boulder.
“Aggie for Life” is a badge of honor worn proudly by most alumni of Texas A&M University. “From the outside, you can’t understand it. From the inside, you can’t explain it”, is all the alums can say about the fanatical devotion Aggies have for their school.
After a weekend in College Station, I can’t say I really understand it. But if you put the Aggie history on a campus which looked just like Boulder, I would have likely been anxious to try.
Suffice it to say, we had a great time in College Station. Yes, losing the game makes it an “other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” weekend, but as a fan of college football, I can’t say enough about Texas A&M football and their fans.
On Friday night, we made our trek up to campus. College Station, Texas, is not close to anything in the state, and it doesn’t have much to lend itself by way of description. It is not in the dusty plains of West Texas, nor it is in the dense bayou of the southeast portion of the state. The city is not large (around the size of Boulder),and it is not near a major city nor any geographic area of note. The campus itself is bland, with Kyle Field and a huge water tower (best described as a gigantic tan golf tee) the only major landmarks.
Yet it was still, somehow, fantastic.
Start with the Dixie Chicken. A bar/restaurant just across the street from the A&M campus, the Dixie Chicken is on a street comparable to the Hill area in Boulder (bars abutting bookstores, copy centers, and gift shops). We were told by several familiar with the area (including two alumnae we met on the plane to Houston), that the Dixie Chicken was a favorite local watering hole.
We – Randy from Bozeman, Brad from Denver, and I – were not disappointed.
The Dixie Chicken is a wooden structure with hunting trophies on the wall and Willie Nelson tunes wafting over the speakers. There are names carved into the wooden tables, and Shiner Bock and Lone Star beer on tap. The menu consists of carnivores delights – vegetarians are not the target audience.
The Sink meets the Dark Horse.
We walked in around dinner time, spotted a few fellow Buff travelers, and plopped ourselves down next to them (safety in numbers!). We ordered a pitcher of Shiner Bock and three half pound hamburgers (diets are for next week. We were on a road trip!). Not long thereafter, a middle aged Aggie, decked out from head to toe in maroon, came over to our table. “You boys pay for that beer?”, he asked. Thinking that we were perhaps being accused of not paying our tab, we stammered out an affirmative response.
“We’ll”, the Aggie smiled, “that won’t happen again. The rest of your beer will be on us. We’ll keep an eye on your pitcher, and when it gets low, we’ll get you a new one.” The Aggie was true to his word. Twice our pitcher of Shiner Bock neared empty. Twice it was re-filled.
We had made our first Aggie friends (for the record, we bought a round of Lone Star bottles for the Aggie table as well).
Around 10:00 p.m., the Aggie students began filling out the Dixie Chicken.
Did I mention it was Halloween?
A popular hang out prior to Midnight Yell Practice for any home game, the Dixie Chicken had a very festive feel on Friday night. Many of the Aggie students were decked out for the occasion. There were two different Sarah Palins who received raucous reviews (in case you were wondering about the politics of College Station – there was a “George W. Bush – ‘04? sign still on the wall). A Fred and Wilma Flintstone couple went to great lengths to create realistic costumes. There were not one but two coeds wrapped up in Twister playing mats (”right hand, red” anyone?), and more than a few super heroes. There were angels and devils, and more than a few stunningly beautiful young female Aggies. (Brad and I agreed that we were just about as likely to strike up a conversation with these women as we would have been 25 years ago – as in no chance).
Around 11:30, it was time to head off to Midnight Yell Practice. Kyle Field was only a short walk away, and we followed the masses as a moth to a flame, walking straight for the lights of the well lit monstrosity.
Kyle Field holds 82,000, but is not particularly attractive. Like Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, it is an ancient concrete structure which has had numerous additions. The underlying gray skeleton, though, is not particularly appealing.
This was my second Yell Practice, having been to a watered down road version on the steps of the Colorado state capitol in 1997. To describe what we saw at Kyle Field, I will defer to Bob Waldestein and Phil Silverman, in their classic college football road trip book, Saturday Afternoon Madness:
“The entire procession seemed to be led by three guys (there were five in Denver and at Kyle Field last weekend) clad in overalls and carrying axe handles. For a lack of a more descriptive name, we’ll call them the ‘Hee Haw Boys’.
“As we looked on in complete amazement, one of the Hee Haw Boys stepped up to the microphone and let out a thunderous ‘Howdy!’ We nearly jumped out of our shorts when the entire student section responded in unison with an even more deafening ‘Howdy!!’ Then the Hee Haw Boys told some jokes about the University of Texas, during which, the students continually intervened with assorted yelps, whoops, and hisses …… If this wasn’t bizarre enough, every now and then, the Hee Haw Boys would start waving their hands in crazy spastic motions, except that they couldn’t have been totally crazy, because within moments, the entire student section would be making the same inexplicable motions. After finishing their seizures, everyone again assumed the please-sir-may-I-have-another position (leaning forward, hands on knees) and let forth another mighty yell. Despite being clueless, we were incredibly impressed.”
Brad, Randy and I were also suitably impressed. The corps band, without any doubt the best college band I have ever seen (and the only one I have ever seen receive a standing ovation at Folsom Field), led the students and fans in playing the school song and other great tunes (including the theme from Patton), and the Yell Leaders led their well rehearsed audience through their “humping” rituals. It was quite the show.
In addition to practicing cheers, the Yell Leaders told their corny jokes. Here is one from last weekend:
Three coeds, one from Texas (teasip), one from Baylor, and one from Colorado, were in a burning building. Firemen from A&M came to the rescue. The only way to save the women was for them to jump into a blanket held out by the Aggie firemen.
Aggie Firemen to the t.u. (always t.u. and not u.t. when you are in Aggieland, and always lower case) coed: “Jump, and we’ll catch you”. t.u. coed (in a husky voice): “No. I’m scared”. After persuading the t.u. coed to jump, the Aggie firemen pull out the blanket. Whoops and cheers from the crowd.
Aggie Firemen to the Baylor coed: “Jump, and we’ll catch you”. Baylor coed (in a prissy voice): “No. I saw what you did to the t.u. coed”. “That was because it was t.u. We wouldn’t do that to you”. Baylor coed jumps, and the blanket is pulled away. More whoops and cheers.
Aggie Firemen to the CU coed: “Jump, and we’ll catch you”. CU coed: “No way”. “It’s okay. We only pulled away the blanket because they were Big 12 South women. We would never do that to you.” “Okay”, says the CU coed, “but I’m taking no chances. Put the blanket down and step away.” Rim shot.
Okay, so no one said the jokes were particularly funny, but can you imagine getting 20,000 to 30,000 CU fans to anything similar? Me, neither.
On Saturday before the game, we walked over early to see the parade of cadets. The corps of cadets follows the band into the stadium, and it is a well attended ritual. Though only 2,000 of the 40,000 enrolled at Texas A&M, the corps is the heart and soul of the Aggies. Their march into the stadium was impressive, and was taken very seriously.
Though decked out in CU wear, we were never accosted. Everyone we met was friendly, and most everyone said “Howdy” as we passed (traditionally, if you don’t say “Howdy” back, the next words you’ll hear will be “Howdy, dammit!”).
To say that Texas A&M is tradition-laden is like saying Bobby Knight had a tendency to be intense. Being a long-time fan of college football, and a long-time admirer of football tradition, I have to say I loved being a part of it. Other than Ralphie, Colorado has nothing to compare. We have the mountains and the beautiful campus, but traditions? Not so much.
You can say that the Aggies are over the top in their devotion.
I would reply that CU could use a little more of that.
I’ll leave you with this: How many Aggies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Three. One to screw in the lightbulb. The second to write a Yell about it, and the third to make it a tradition.
Trivia You Need to Know – Texas A&M
- Few schools are as steeped in tradition as Texas A&M. From the 12th man to Reveille to Midnight Yell practice, the Aggies of College Station have tradition down to a science.
- The 12th Man. The tradition of the Twelfth Man was born in 1922, when Texas A&M was playing Centre College, then the nation’s top ranked team. As the hard fought game wore on, and the Aggie bench became depleted, Coach Dana X. Bible remembered a squad man who was not in uniform. He had been up in the press box helping reporters identify players. His name was E. King Gill, and was a former football player who was only playing basketball. Gill was called from the stands, suited up, and stood ready throughout the rest of the game, which A&M finally won 22-14. When the game ended, E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, “I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me.” The tradition of “Standing by” was born, and to this day the entire student body stands throughout the game, ready to go in if called.
- Reveille. In 1931, some Aggie students accidentally struck a dog with their Model T. They took the injured collie back to their dorms. When the bugler sounded Reveille the next morning, the dog began barking loudly, and the dog had its name. After Reveille accompanied the band onto the field for the first home game that fall, the Corps adopted her as their mascot. Thirteen years later, when Reveille died, she was given a full military funeral at Kyle Field. The latest Reveille, Reveille VII, has been on campus since 2001. All the Reveilles have been commissioned as five star generals, making the mascot the highest ranking member of the Corps.
- Yell Practice. Dating back as far as 1913, the first actual Yell Practice began in 1931. Some freshman cadets suggested falling out and meet at the steps of the YMCA at midnight. Senior Yell Leaders caught wind of the event, but instead of stopping it, joined in, and the tradition was born. Today, Yell Practice is conducted at midnight on Fridays before every home game, and on Thursday nights before road games (plus some Yell Practices are held close to stadium of the opposition on Friday nights of road trips). The Yell Leaders lead the band and the 12th man into the stadium, with practices for cheers (along with stories about how the team is going to beat up on the opposition) the main order of the evening. The Yell Leaders are five students chosen by the student body. They are not cheerleaders in the traditional sense. Instead, they use a series of hand signals, or “pass backs”, to spur on the faithful.
- A charter member of the Southwest Conference, Texas A&M played in the SWC from 1915 to 1995, joining the Big 12 Conference in 1996.
- Texas A&M won the national championship in 1939. Little was known about the Aggies nationally, despite an undefeated regular season (part of the reason may have been some of the opponents in ‘39: Centenary, Santa Clara, and Villanova). That changed when Texas A&M defeated Tulane on the home field of the Green Wave, 14-13, in the 1940 Sugar Bowl.
- The Aggies Big 12 title came in 1998, when A&M upset Kansas State, 36-33, in the Big 12 Championship. A 24-14 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl left Texas A&M with an 11-3 final record, and a #11 final ranking.
- Colorado leads the all-time series against Texas A&M, 5-2, with all seven games played since 1995. CU is 2-1 at College Station, with the only loss a 29-26 overtime setback in 2004.
- famous alumni – football – John David Crow (Heisman trophy winner, 1957), John Kimbrough (fullback, 1939-40), Lester Hayes, Dat Nguyen, Tony Franklin
- famous alumni – other – Lyle Lovett (singer), Jeff Maggert (golfer)
This Day in History – November 1st
1969 – #17 Auburn 38, #7 Florida 12. The Florida Gators had never won at Auburn’s home field, and, after a record-setting loss to the Tigers in 1969, that record was still in tact. Florida quarterback John Reeves passed an SEC record 66 times, completing 33 passes to fellow Gators – and nine passes to Auburn Tigers. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ quarterback, Pat Sullivan (who would go on to win the Heisman trophy in 1971), passed for two touchdowns and ran for two others. On the day, Reeves surpassed teammate Steve Spurrier for the most passing yards in a season in SEC history. [That record has since been broken, but Reeves’ nine interception mark continues to find its place in the NCAA record book.]
1975 – California 28, #4 USC 14. In a battle of all-American running backs, Cal’s Chuck Muncie got the better of USC’s Ricky Bell, as the Bears snapped the Trojans’ 18-game winning streak. Muncie rushed for 143 yards on the day, while Ricky Bell put up 121 yards for USC. At season’s end, Muncie would edge out Bell once again; this time in the Heisman balloting. Muncie received 730 Heisman votes to Bell’s 708. Unfortunately for both, Archie Griffin of Ohio State had returned for his senior season, becoming the first – and only – repeat Heisman trophy winner (Griffin’s vote tally: 1,800).
The game was also notable as it was the first game played by USC after Trojan head coach John McKay announced that he was leaving Southern Cal at the end of the 1975 season. In 1976, McKay coached the fledgling Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an 0-14 record, an ignoble record and a first in NFL history.
1980 – Mississippi State 6, #1 Alabama. Top-ranked Alabama lost for the first time in 28 games as Mississippi State defeated the Crimson Tide, 6-3. Alabama had its chance to pull out the win, but fumbled at the Rebel three yard line with six seconds to play. Perhaps too nervous too handle the prospect of the huge upset, Mississippi State fumbled on the next snap, but Rebel fullback Donald Ray King fell on the ball at the MSU one yard line as time expired. It was the first win for Mississippi State over Alabama since 1957 (only three members of the Rebel squad were even alive the last time MSU defeated the Tide). Alabama would recover, finishing 10-2 and ranked 6th after a 30-2 whitewashing of Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Mississippi State wound up 19th, with a 9-3 record, after falling, 31-17, to Nebraska in the Sun Bowl.
1986 – Texas Tech 23, Texas 21. Texas came into the contest with Texas Tech with a 3-3 record; the Red Raiders were 4-3, so the outcome of the game was neither exciting nor particularly notable. What is significant about the game involves the two head coaches who were on the sidelines. Texas head coach Fred Akers would be fired after the 1986 season, his Longhorns finishing 5-6 on the year (Akers’ first losing season in ten years in Austin). Akers’ replacement? None other than Texas Tech head coach David McWilliams. McWilliams, who was 7-4 in his only season in Lubbock, would last five seasons with Texas, compiling a 31-26 overall record (with three losing seasons out of the five).
2003 – #16 Texas 31, #12 Nebraska 7. Sophomore quarterback Vince Young, who would go on to lead the Longhorns to a national title (and a second place Heisman vote for himself) as a senior, gave the Cornhuskers and the nation a preview of what was to come over the next two seasons. Young had 163 yards rushing, including a 65-yard touchdown run, in leading Texas to an easy win over #12 Nebraska. Tailback Cedric Benson chipped in 179 yards and three scores as the duo of Young and Benson became the first duo in Longhorns’ history to each have over 150 yards rushing in the same game. By season’s end, the teams had all but switched places in the polls, with Texas finishing 12th; Nebraska 19th.
November 1st – Colorado – best game on this date
Colorado 17, Iowa State 9 – November 1, 1980
Colorado has had as much success against the Cyclones from Ames as against any team in the Big Eight/Twelve. Coming into the 1980 season, the Buffs had played Iowa State 35 times, losing only eight of those contests. Of course, the Buffs were not the only ones looking forward to seeing Iowa State on their schedule. Notwithstanding some moderate success in the 1970’s (the first four bowl appearances in school history took place between 1971 and 1978 – all losses. The Cyclones would not go bowling again until 2000), Iowa State consistently battled Kansas State for the title of Big Eight doormat, with neither school ever claiming a Big Eight football title. It was not surprising, then, that Iowa State was Colorado’s choice for a homecoming opponent in 1980.
Still, Iowa State came into the 1980 game with reason for confidence. The Cyclones were on a two game winning streak against the Buffs, and were 5-2 overall on the season. In a conference known for its running prowess, ISU was more than holding its own, boasting the 5th best rushing attack in the nation at over 295 yards per game. Colorado, for its part, was 0-fer 1980, coming into the contest with an 0-7 record. After hanging tough against LSU in game two (a 23-20 loss), the Buffs had only been within twenty points of one other opponent (and that was a 19-point loss – to Drake!).
For Colorado, junior Scott Kingdom was given his first start at quarterback. Kingdom’s line for the day: 2-6, 16 yards, one interception. His eleven rushes? Minus-five yards. From these numbers, a safe conclusion would be that Colorado was dominated. The reverse was true, though, thanks to the Buffs’ defense and previously dormant CU running game. Colorado ran for 307 yards, with four Buffs gaining over 60 yards apiece. Linebacker Steve Doolittle had ten tackles, three for sacks, to lead the defense.
The Buffs held an opponent to less than 40 points for only the second time in eight games. Iowa State succumbed as CU’s only victim of 1980 before a Folsom crowd of 41,567 (Iowa State was to repeat this dubious distinction four years later, being the only team to lose to CU as the Buffs again were to post a 1-10 record). The win was the only win for Scott Kingdom as a starter. Kingdom was the starter for the remaining three games of the 1984 season – all losses.
Going Down in History
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