Pigskin Pursuit

A fourteen year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: American Athletic Conference (page 2 of 2)

Temple vs East Carolina – Owls pillage the Pirates…

My trip to Philadelphia was a quick one, fouled by wet weather and a lackluster Temple squad that plays their home games in the sterile NFL confines of Lincoln Financial Field – home of the Philadelphia Eagles. Before any football was played however, I made sure to sample a few of Philadelphia’s finest sandwiches for breakfast. No, I’m not referring to the iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak, a City of Brotherly Love staple that I sampled extensively back in 2012 (read the reviews here). Instead, I decided to try out a few of Philly’s other, lesser known staple – the roast pork sandwich.

There are two spots known for these delightful porcine gut bombs: Dinic’s and John’s Roast Pork. I try the offering at Dinic’s first, located in the Reading Terminal Market, a converted rail terminal that houses dozens of enticing food vendors. Crafting the sandwich in this location since 1980, the Dinic’s example is exquisite – nice crusty bread holds the tender slices of pork, while the provolone and hot peppers all blend into perfect bite after bite. The sandwiches are crafted with care here, and it shows.

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From there I head down the road to John’s Roast Pork, a tiny stand with counter service on the industrial east edge of town. Dishing out the classic roast pork since 1930, they top it with provolone cheese and the “greens”. I retreat with my foil wrapped prize to one of the outdoor tables (there is no interior seating), and unwrap the hefty offering. While the John’s location has more of a nostalgic, blue collar feel – the sandwich doesn’t quite measure up to Dinic’s. The bread turns soggy and disintegrates into a mushy mess, and the pork, while nice and moist, lacks true “porky” flavor and eats rather bland.

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Overall winner: Dinic’s.

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Once I saunter over to Lincoln Financial and grab a quick ticket for twenty bucks, the game itself is a soggy, depressing affair. The rain pours the entire time, and wind whips through the stadium pelting my face in misty gusts. Temple lists the official attendance as 22,130, but if there were more than 2,000 fans there then I’ll wear a Dallas Cowboys to the next Eagles game. It’s a shame, however, that more of the Owls faithful didn’t turn out for the contest because the Pirates were easily the biggest home game match up of the year. Sporting a 6-1 record and lofty #23 ranking, the East Carolina Pirates were the juggernauts of the American Athletic conference, and had their sights set on climbing further up the ranks. But the Owls won’t be pushed around in their backyard. They take it to the Pirates, jumping out to an early lead and never look back, capitalizing on five turnovers from the sloppy East Carolina squad. Temple runs away with a 20-10 victory, and their first victory over a ranked opponent since 1998! The biggest Temple win in 16 years, and I just happened to be there for it – you’re welcome Owls fans….

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Fill Clickthrough Gallery Below:

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Cincinnati vs Purdue – Bearcats bury the Boilermakers…

It’s an early wakeup call in Nashville. My iphone starts a frenzied dance at 5:30 and I rub my eyes trying to fight off a few extra cocktails with Dave and Merritt the night before.  It’s a four hour ride into Cincinnati from Nashville, and I lose an hour to the time zone shift.  With a noon kickoff looming, I’m on the road by 6am, with slim margin for error.

The roads are quiet on Saturday morning, a few errant truckers are the only ones out this early.  I cruise effortlessly up Interstate 65 north, right through the heart of Kentucky Bourbon country.  For a moment, I consider ditching the Bearcats game entirely, instead spending the afternoon nursing a few caramel filled drams of Buffalo Trace, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve whiskeys.  But that’s another trip for later this year, and the exotic allure of southern Ohio beckons me northward.

After a few more hours, I finally cross the Ohio River into Cincinnati and zip towards Nippert Stadium.  Skirting the western edge of the sprawling campus, I flow past the fraternities lining Clifton Avenue.  Hundreds of students are crammed onto the lawns playing beer pong in the morning sun, and a hand painted sign reads “Honk and we’ll do a shot”.  I salute their spirit, and lay on the feeble Volkswagen horn as I drive by.  Scouring the side streets for free parking, I eventually rub a few bumpers shoehorning into a tiny space on Riddell Road.  With kickoff looming only thirty minutes away, I have to hustle over to campus and find a ticket.

Unsurprisingly, a ticket proves easy to find and I snap one up for $15 and press into the packed stadium.  Built in 1924, Nippert is one of the older venues in college football, but sits in stark contrast to the ultra modern architecture surrounding the field.  The Cincinnati campus at large is a fascinating dichotomy of design.  Home to dozens of traditional Georgian style brick facades, these buildings are now flanked by ultra modern, sleek steel structures – a cause championed by their well renowned Architecture & Design School.  In fact, much of the newer construction on campus is a who’s who of contemporary “starchitects”, including commissions by notables such as Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi and Michael Graves.

Entering the stadium, however, it’s quickly evident that somewhere along the line I missed the memo about the game being a “white out”, where all the fans have chosen to wear white to support their team.  Donned in a black polo shirt (a traditional color for Cincinnati), I now find that I blend in closer with the Purdue fans in attendance.  Certainly never a good look.

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As the game kicks off under the scorching afternoon sun, the Bearcats go to work on the Boilermakers.  After the teams trade a few initial interceptions, Cincinnati dual threat quarterback Munchie Legaux, among the better names in college football, starts carving up the Purdue defense.

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The mercury is touching 95 degrees, and I retreat to the shade underneath the grandstands and watch the game from a standing room only section on the concourse.  With a City Barbecue tent nearby, I decide to put their “Texans are jealous” slogan to the test.  After a few bites of the $8.50 pulled pork sandwich,  it’s surprisingly passable cue’ for stadium fare, but I can assure you that nobody from Texas is actually jealous.  A draft Yuengling from a nearby concession, however, is an oasis on a hot day, and I gulp the ice cold lager down heartily.  Cincinnati now joins the elite ranks of three universities I have visited that sell beer in the stands (West Virginia and Louisville being the other two).

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As the second half winds on, the Bearcats extend their lead.  After the third frame, they sit comfortably in command at 28-7, and some of the sunburnt crowd starts filing out of the furnace for cooler environs.  I find a cushioned seat under the shade of the grandstands, and watch the remainder of the contest as the Bearcats cruise to a lopsided 42-7 victory.  Nursing a cool Yuengling and watching Purdue get stomped proves a satisfying way to spend the afternoon.

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Full Clickthrough gallery below:

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