Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Baton Rouge (page 1 of 2)

LSU vs Texas A&M – Johnny Football swamped in Death Valley…

People often ask me about the best college football destination in the country. I’m usually reticent to answer because there are so many variables to that question, and, depending on the circumstances, there are a handful of places across the country that could be considered the “best” on any given week. Invariably, however, I always list LSU as one of the most sublime places in the country to spend a college football Saturday. Having caught a few games here before, I can personally attest that between the Cajun food, ample drink, authentic hospitality, a rabid fan base, ear splitting 93,000 seat stadium and smash mouth SEC football, LSU is one of the premiere destinations in the land.

So when my friend, and Texas A&M ring bearing alumni, Federico texted me over the summer about the November 23rd matchup in Baton Rouge, I immediately circled my calendar. While he had done the circuit of Big 12 destinations back in the Aggies long forgotten past, with their move to the SEC conference came a whole new list of road destinations for him to experience. Appropriately, LSU was at the top of that list.

I fly in to New Orleans early on Friday morning to give myself a day of exploration in the city. Despite the breadth of my travels, I had never actually visited NOLA before. While the allure of the infamous French Quarter and a few giant Hurricane drinks has a certain croc wearing, touristy appeal, I opt to spend the day a bit more tastefully. I pull into the National WWII Museum on Magazine Street as the doors are opening for the day, and shell out eight dollars for parking. An avid WWII history buff, I’ve traveled to sites of historical significance all over the world, but this museum in New Orleans is reputed to be among the best.

It costs me $32 for an all access pass for the day, which grants admittance to all the features spread throughout the several buildings on campus. Up first is the 4D movie “Beyond all Boundaries”, a 40 minute historical overview of both the European and Pacific campaigns that was produced and narrated by Tom Hanks. As the film plays on the screen, guard towers and gun turrets rise out of the stage, and later smoke fills the entire theater as a bomber fuselage is lowered from the ceiling as part of the “4D” effects. I spend the rest of the afternoon casually wandering the extensive displays and historical artifacts spread throughout the galleries. In addition to some of the smaller pieces, the museum boasts an impressive collection of recovered machinery. In the US Freedom Pavilion alone, a Sherman tank sits proudly on the floor while a collection of old warbirds hang from the ceiling; including a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell and the seductive, sweeping lines of a P-51 Mustang, among others.

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I break only for lunch, and take a quick stroll down the street to Cochon Butcher – a casual lunch offshoot of the infamous Cochon Restaurant. Translated literally “Cochon” means “Pig” and, accordingly, the small café features a bevy of house made charcuterie offerings available plain, or stacked into well crafted sandwiches. Naturally, I opt for both; the ever popular pork belly sandwich and a personal charcuterie sample platter. The rich belly sandwich is served with mint and cucumber, the crisp flavors offsetting the unctuous, fat laced pork into a perfect balance. The charcuterie sampler features a range of their daily specials, neatly arranged on a wooden tray: duck liver mousse, country terrine, soprasseta, duck pastrami and coppa di testa. It’s a carnivores dream come true.

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After my WWII touring is done for the afternoon, I brave the rush hour traffic in New Orleans to pick Federico up at the airport, as a log jam of cars flows out of the terminal. From there, we hustle west an hour along I-10 and pull into the overstuffed parking lot of Mike Andersons in Baton Rouge. Evidently, we aren’t the only ones with the same idea, as the Cajun seafood joint is jammed for the big game, and it’s an hour and a half wait for a table and oyster po’boy. The A&M faithful have come out in droves, and when the Aggie War Hymn pipes in over the loudspeakers, more than half the restaurant collectively rises to their feet, locking arms and swaying while they confidently belt out the chorus. From there, we enjoy a few nightcaps at The Chimes pub on the outskirts of the LSU campus, edging past a few collar popped frat boys squabbling on the sidewalk. I work my way through a handful of the flowing Chimes taps, opting for a selection of the local Abita seasonal brews while Federico samples from their equally impressive whiskey selection.

As the gameday morning rises, the weather turns foul and an ominous mist hangs in the sky like smoke. We slip into some free parking on Lake Shore Drive, and shuffle over to campus, passing by Mike the Tiger’s plush habitat as hordes of onlookers try to snap a photo of the LSU mascot. It’s there that we meet up with my friend Mandy, the same host from my visit back in 2010 and a die hard LSU fan. Soon after we shake hands, we’re corralled onto the median of the street as the crowd parts for the LSU player walk (which like every other SEC school, LSU claims to have invented). Blue lights flash and police sirens whale away as two busses pull up, the doors swaying open as the crowd roars. Head coach Les Miles steps off first with a police escort, followed by two single file lines of players from each bus – offensive players on the right, defensive players on the left. Garbed in neat coat and ties, the players walk purposefully towards the stadium but stop for the occasional high five and handshake with kids. The famed, and highly talented, LSU Golden Girl squad follows after the players. Teeth chattering as they promenade, their scantily cut leotards do little to allay the drizzle.

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Following the player procession, we meet up with Mandy’s aunt Karen, host of the infamous Van Geaux tailgating rig. If there is such a thing as professional tailgating, Karen would rank among the best, and she welcomes us with the same gracious hospitality I enjoyed back in 2010. Their converted DHL truck overflows with provisions, and I make several raids on an overflowing tray of incredible home made tamales. Soon, the weather grows angry, and ask the sky turns fowl and we’re forced to find shelter and take refuge under a bus shelter as an afternoon of blissful LSU tailgating is ruined.

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We file into Tiger Stadium early to escape the deluge, huddling into the crowded concrete concourse as it’s mobbed by thousands of others retreating from the rain. Fed buys a flimsy plastic poncho for $8, and I hunt down the boudin vendor for a tube of the Cajun meat delicacy. It’s a safe bet that Tiger Stadium is the only college football stadium in the country that offers fresh boudin and jumbalaya among its food vendors. Waiting until only a few minutes before kickoff, we finally emerge from the tunnel and are blasted by an icy wind that whips the drizzle in sideways. Fed’s cheap poncho is immediately tattered, revealing his crimson Aggie shirt to bare in a sea of purple and yellow slickers – Louisiana natives all better prepared for the elements. As the ball slides out of receivers hands during the final minutes of warmup, the greasy weather portends a miserable afternoon. Fed and I shiver in the mist, an unseasonably cold fall afternoon in the giant belly of Death Valley.

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True to form, the game proves a tough one for the visiting Aggies. Already nursing a hand injury, electric Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel is stifled by the misty weather. He sails errant passes over the heads of his receivers, the ball fluttering in the mist as he completes only 16 of 41 attempts. On the ground his feet slip on the grime, failing the normally surefooted and elusive captain, and he is stuffed into the turf repeatedly by the dogged LSU pass rush. It’s one of the worst performances in the Heisman winner’s short two year career, as he tosses two interceptions against only 224 yards, and the imposing confines of Tiger Stadium lay claim to yet another victim.

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The LSU offense proves better built for the elements. Pounding the ball on the ground relentlessly, the Tigers amass 324 yards of rushing offense. Senior running back Terrence Magee chews up 149 yards alone, averaging over 11 yards per carry as he streaks through the porous Aggie defense. Quarterback Zac Mettenberger plays a serviceable, mistake free game – flipping short passes to his receivers who break free of the flimsy Aggie arm tackles for extra yards. In the end, LSU walks away with a confident 34-10 victory, eliminating any last hope for a Johnny Manziel appearance in a BCS bowl game.

Thank you to Mandy and Karen for their always gracious hospitality and incredible setup!  Hope to see y’all again next year, and folks like you are the reason LSU is such a special place!!!

Special thanks to my friend Federico for making the trip down to Baton Rouge.  Can’t wait to hit another game with you next year man!

Tiger Stadium Wide

Full Clickthrough Gallery Below:

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Hold That Tiger! LSU vs Tennessee

I love Louisiana.

 

Yes, I said it.

 

Like other great states (I’m looking at you Massachusetts and Texas), Louisiana has a robust identity. When you are in Louisiana, you know you are in Louisiana. It has a culture, heritage and identity completely unique to itself and it permeates all aspects of life there. The food, music, topography and language are all distinctive to the state and ingrained through generations into the social fabric. Furthermore, Louisianans are proud of this heritage, and like few other places I have been there is a shared solidarity among them that celebrates it. Whether it be kindness or “southern” hospitality, Louisianans take every opportunity to share that pride with you, and welcome you into their homes.

 

 

Nowhere was this hospitality more evident than with our host for the weekend, and proud fifth generation Louisianan (Louisianite?), Mandy. More appropriately, Mandy, and an assortment of her extended family that graciously welcomed us into all aspects of LSU and the broader Louisiana experience.

 

If it’s one place that people know how to tailgate, it’s LSU.Tiger fans have elevated tailgating to an art form in Baton Rouge.Sprawled among the campus under towering live oaks, you’ll find some of the most elaborate spreads and mouth watering Cajun fare simmering away beneath a sea of purple and yellow tents.

 

Starting our own festivities for the day, was one such pre game tailgate with Ron and Karen along with their famed “Van Geaux” tailgating machine. A reclaimed DHL delivery truck, Van Geaux housed the most welcoming tailgate setup we have attended in our all of our trips thus far. After wrestling our overflowing cooler of adult beverages over, we were greeted by a fantastic setup ranging from cookies and sausage balls to a coffin sized crock pot full of home made chicken and Andouille Gumbo. Better than all of that, however, were the dozens of other friends and family members that welcomed us with open arms and never let a cup go empty regardless of the colors some in our party were wearing. It was truly remarkable hospitality that almost made going into the game an afterthought.

 

However, I glanced down at our tickets that yet another of Mandy’s uncles had procured for us and noticed they were in the fourth row, so with a little corralling into the game we eagerly filed and settled into some of the best seats in the Tiger Stadium.

 

LSU versus Tennessee proved to be one of the more interesting games I have ever witnessed. With the exception of a field goal, the Tigers scored exactly twice on the day: on the first play of the game and the last play of the game. In between was an offense that sputtered to establish any momentum, and couldn’t sustain a drive all afternoon. The final series has been rehashed on TV all week, as the Vols thought they had the game won when LSU botched a shotgun snap on the final play. A hailstorm of debris came raining down from the LSU student section in protest of the botched ending, making me glad I had opted for LSU yellow.
 

Unfortunately, the temporary Tennessee victors forgot that you aren’t allowed to throw a bakers dozen jerseys out there on defense, and the yellow flag on the field would give LSU one final play.The Tigers took advantage of this fortunate second chance and crashed into the endzone for the win.Lost in the fact that LSU won, however, was how poorly head coach Les Miles managed the clock during the final two minutes of the game.I’m sure the fickle fans in Baton Rouge will not be too quick to let that get swept under the carpet.

 

 

This is our second time back to Tiger Stadium for a game, and I can assure you that LSU is an absolutely phenomenal experience.

 

The festivities weren’t over after the game however as more of Mandy’s ever gracious family invited all of us over to “visit” after the game. What followed was one of the more simplest yet delicious feasts that I have sunk my teeth into anywhere in our College Football travels. Jay was a master chef for the evening as fresh caught gulf shrimp were deftly battered in a homemade breading recipe and fried up Cajun style in the backyard. Eager open faced rolls awaited these golden nuggets from heaven along with all the fixin’s, and what followed was one of the shortest lived Po’Boys in the history of Louisiana. Deep fried sweet potato hush puppies accompanied the Po’Boys, the mix for which was acquired through Jay’s elusive connections to a local proprietor. These sweet potato hush puppies were absolutely sublime. On the scale of addictiveness they ranked somewhere between heroin and raw nicotine.

 

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the feast in Kenny and Sandy’s backyard as I was a bit preoccupied with gorging myself into an early triple bypass. Some things are better left to the imagination anyway.

 

In the end, in case you haven’t realized it yet, LSU versus Tennessee was the perfect College Football weekend. It blended the perfect mixture of amazing friends (both old and new), welcoming family, unique culture, native foods, tailgating, gameday atmosphere and an incredible, competitive game. It’s the best of what College Football represents and an experience we won’t soon forget.

 

 

Special thanks to Bryce and Kate for coming along with us, especially all the planning that Kate put into making this weekend special. Sorry again about the Vols.

Thanks again to Mandy and Jake for making us part of their family, and all the incredible work that Mandy did into making this such a memorable experience. We hope to get you to Texas sometime.

And of course, thank you to all of Mandy’s family members, Karen, Ronald, Kenny, Sandy, Jay and a host of other incredibly kind and generous folks that opened their homes and tailgates to us.

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Tiger Bait!!! – LSU vs Florida…

Wow.

LSU prides itself on being one of the preeminent gameday experiences in college football.Tiger fans take immense pride in their tailgating prowess and boast one of the loudest stadiums in college football. Throw in a night tilt against a conference rival in arguably the biggest regular season game of the year, and you have all the ingredients for an unforgettable college football experience.

LSU vs. Florida in Baton Rouge lived up to all of these lofty expectations and vaults itself into the top handful of games I have ever experienced.

The tailgating atmosphere is a spectacle to behold.Nearly all of the action takes place in a well known area called Dalrymple, where legions of purple and gold adorned Tiger fans start claiming spots on Friday night before the Saturday festivities. Once Saturday rolls around, they spend their day blissfully gorging and guzzling themselves into a well lubricated stupor under the embracing arms of impressive towering oaks and manicured lawns.Purple and Gold shirts flood the landscape as far as the eye can see, and I can only imagine the horror of Florida fans being taunted by crowds of Cajuns rhythmically chanting and pointing “Tiger Bait….Tiger Bait…”

After our pit stop at Chimes to fuel up, we spent the next hour or so wandering around the Dalrymple area, taking in the vaunted gameday atmosphere.A quick glance at the watch told us it was time to head to the stadium and begin the arduous task of finding affordable tickets. (stay tuned for more to come on the student tickets we scored in another post)

The stadium atmosphere in Death Valley fully lives up to its well deserved reputation.90,000+ fans belting out “Callin Baton Rouge” in unison during the pregame was a joy to experience. Tiger Stadium is unequivocally (as difficult as this is for me to say), the loudest stadium I have ever been to.So loud in fact, that you cannot even hear your own voice screaming among the cheers of the raucous crowd.Given the record numbers in attendance on Saturday night (93,129 attendance), one could reasonably assume that we witnessed the loudest game in LSU history.I simply can’t imagine trying to quarterback a football team amongst this deafening roar, but as a fan it was a pleasure to be a part of the pandemonium.

Mike the Tiger being paraded around in his cage before kickoff.

Gearing up for kickoff…

We had the rare fortune of sitting (well standing) in the student section for the entire game (12 yard line Row 9).Like most big football schools, the student section at LSU is the heart and soul of the stadium and bar none the best place to sit (despite the fact that we somehow managed to end up in front of four Big Ten alums).The spirit, enthusiasm and fervor among the student crowd can draw even the most passive of fans into the frenzy surrounding a big play.Before the game even started, we had already screamed and sung ourselves hoarse ardently cheering alongside our newfound Tigerhood brethren.Given the choice, I would sit in the student section in every game I go to, what an unforgettable night

On the field, the Bayou Bengals simply couldn’t put it together on this night.Florida lived up to its’ reputation as the number one defense in the country, and it was painful watching LSU flounder to move the ball. The stagnant offense could only muster a field goal by the nights end. Adding to the Tigers woes, they managed a handsome job of shooting themselves in the foot with a multitude of offensive false starts and defensive offside penalties during key stretches of the game.At any point, they could have played themselves into the lead with a big play or two, but they could just never quite put it together

Final score: LSU 3 – Florida 13

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The Chimes

Ask anybody where to go for food or drink on gameday in Baton Rouge, and the inevitable response will be “The Chimes”.There were a handful of other places mentioned, but The Chimes was unanimously at the top of the list.So on Saturday afternoon before the game, to the Chimes we went

http://www.thechimes.com/overview.cfm

The Chimes is an LSU campus staple, but could aptly be described as slightly more upscale than your typical college beer sling.On gameday it is expectedly packed, and given the hour plus wait for a table, we opted to elbow our way into some bar seats. (Next to the impressive lineup of taps)

The beer menu is the runaway winner at the Chimes and they boast over 60 beers from 20 countries.I obviously opted for the darkest local beer they had on tap, which proved to be Turbo Dog from Abita Brewing company (a dark brown ale).Abita is a Louisiana brewery located in Abita Springs, LA, and I was favorably impressed enough to bring a six pack back to Texas with me.

http://www.abita.com/

As promised we sampled the fried gator tail.Which of course, resembled and tasted like chicken, and in a blind taste test I would be hard pressed to tell the difference.This of course adds more credence to my theory that all deep fried foods essentially taste the same.You could deep fry a rusty screwdriver and it would still taste like chicken

The one fault I found at Chimes had less to do with the Chimes itself, and more to do with the concept of the “Po’Boy”.As a born yankee, I was quite eager to sample my first Po’boy and I promptly ordered up a shrimp version of the Louisiana staple.In my head I had mistakenly built it up to be a unique Louisiana take on the sandwich (something akin to a Philly Cheesesteak or a Primanti Bros. sandwich)

Instead, I was slightly chagrined to find that it’s simply a sandwich, and a rather boring one at that.Shrimp, lettuce, tomato, bun.These things make a Subway footlong look like a nine course epicurean tasting menu.

The offending “sandwich” with the fried gator in back.

It’s time to drop this deceptive “Po’Boy” nomenclature, and call it for what it is: just a sandwich.

In all though, The Chimes is a pregame must do, and the beer menu alone is worth the visit

http://www.thechimes.com/beermenu.cfm

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