Pigskin Pursuit

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

Tag: Conference USA

North Texas vs UTEP – Eagles grounded by the Miners…

I have no excuse for taking this long to see a game at North Texas. It’s shameful, really. During my four yearlong Dallas tenure, I was preoccupied with speeding across the expansive Texas plains to exotic destinations like College Station and Lubbock. I had also made a bevy of far flung road trips to schools in nearby Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, logging up to eight hours behind the wheel in the wild and intemperate youth of the PigskinPursuit. Even within the DFW Metro area itself, the soaring TCU program was one of the hottest tickets in the sport, and the Cotton Bowl slobber knocker between Texas and Oklahoma ranks as one of the biggest annual matchups in the NCAA. The North Texas Eagles, located only twenty minutes up the road from Dallas in nearby Denton, Texas had, quite simply, slipped below my radar.

Excuses aside, this weekend, that omission would finally change.

But the weather gods in Denton would make me pay for my tardiness. While I had specifically chosen southern destinations for my late November pursuits to find agreeable t-shirt weather, the wild tempest of North Texas called for something more sinister. Freezing rain and howling winds were forecasted all weekend, with bitter temperatures hovering just above freezing. This would not be a day for tailgating, or exploring sprawling campus lawns under sunny skies. In fact, having packed light for the preceding games in Florida and Georgia, I’d have to borrow a jacket from one of my Texas friends just to survive the afternoon in Denton. As such, my trip to the North Texas Mean Green Football Machine would be an abbreviated one.

Located just off I-35E in Denton, access to the stadium is a breeze, and I find easy free parking on the north side of the highway right next to Fouts Field, the former home of Mean Green Football. From there, it’s an easy walk over I-35 across a pedestrian footbridge that connects with the grounds surrounding Apogee Stadium. Opened in 2011, Apogee’s defining feature is a giant V-shaped grandstand that looms over its surroundings like a pair of great aluminum Eagle wings. This unique feature gives the stadium a distinct look to any other that I have visited, and its signature is easily visible to the thousands of motorists speeding by on 35 every day. With a stated attendance of nearly 30,000 fans, however, the stadium is hardly bigger than some of the colossal high school venues in North Texas like Allen’s Eagle Stadium (18,500) or Toyota Stadium in Frisco (20,000).

IMG_5423 IMG_5424

But what it lacks in capacity, Apogee Makes up for in its sensitive environmental impact. The stadium is the only one in the country to achieve a LEED Platinum certification (a certification system for green building techniques), and encompasses such green features as runoff water retention systems, permeable paving, and three 120 foot wind turbines used to capture the howling prairie winds for power.

I collect an easy free ticket, a fancy plastic club level seat, from a member of the UNT Alumni Club who is standing outside the Alumni Pavilion with fistfuls of them in his gloved hands. Entering the stadium, I’m greeted on the concourse by a bright green Model A Ford, accented with a decal of a flying eagle. Similar to the “Wramblin’ Wreck” car at Georgia Tech, UNT has their own “Mean Green Machine” – a fully restored 1931 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan that serves as the pride of North Texas Mean Green athletics.

IMG_5431 IMG_5447

Portending a miserable day ahead, I grab a bucket of hot chocolate from the concession stands, pull out a fistful of napkins to wipe down the aluminum bleachers, and settle into a wide open swath on the 40 yard line. It’s senior day today, so before the game begins each of the graduating players are announced individually on the PA. They run through a gauntlet of their teammates lined up on the field, greeting their loved ones at the end, embracing in tearful hugs with the mothers. I feel bad for the players. It’s a miserable day and a lackluster crowd because of it. Only a few muffled cheers are mustered for each of the departing seniors, the crowd so mummified in blankets they can barely rise. Hardly an appropriate send off for four years of sacrifice and dedication. The game kicks off a few moments after, when the remaining underclass members of the Mean Green football team storm from the gates on the south end zone, sprinting onto the frigid turf.

IMG_5436

IMG_5433 IMG_5435

The foul weather in the stands would magnify on the field, and with neither team remotely close to bowl contention, the effort between the lines is noticeably subdued. Neither team in North Texas wanted the football on this drizzly afternoon. There would be seven turnovers in all, the UTEP Miners owning five of those in fumbles alone. Aside from the frenzy of a few fumbles dancing across the slick turf, the first half is a snooze fest of sloppy play. The only scoring in the entire frame is a meager chip shot field goal by the Mean Green.

IMG_5437 IMG_5438 IMG_5439 IMG_5440 IMG_5441 IMG_5448 IMG_5449 IMG_5451IMG_5452

Things pick up a bit in the second half, when we see nearly every kind of touchdown that a team can score without their offense actually touching the ball. In the third quarter alone, there is a punt return touchdown, and interception return touchdown, and a fumble recovery touchdown; all of them within a span of five minutes. The on field antics breathe a little life into the listless crowd, a few fans even manage to unfurl their blanket cocoons long enough to stand and cheer for a few fleeting moments in the sleet. But whatever hope the Mean Green Machine had for their second win of the season was dashed early in the fourth quarter, when the Miners punched in a touchdown to take the lead 20-17. With an offense that hadn’t moved the football all day, to the tune of only 205 yards of total offense, North Texas fate was all but sealed once they dropped behind. They would go on to lose 17-20, sending their seniors out even more unceremoniously after a dismal 1-11 season.

IMG_5467 IMG_5456IMG_5460 IMG_5465 IMG_5466 IMG_5471

Naturally, after the game I adjourn to my second home in Dallas; Pecan Lodge BBQ. Because nothing lifts the spirits after a frigid, dreary afternoon like the kiss of mesquite smoke across an unctuous beef short rib. An appropriate final meal for the close of the 2015 season.

IMG_5477

IMG_5454

Full Clickthrough Gallery Below:

Drugs are sumptuous, and definite people cannot get the medicaments they need. Certain drugs are mostly used to treat varied types of contagion caused by definite types of bacteria, such as tonsillitis and infections of the throat. If you’re concerned about sexual problem, you probably know about http://isviagraoverthecounter.com/Male-Enhancement-Pills.html. What are side effects of Cialis? There are different drugs for male impotence cure. Very likely Male Enhancement Pills Over the Counter is a very complicated topic. More information about Cialis available at best male enhancement pills over the counter. While the generic is credited with improving nausea, it may also kill the mood in bedroom. All kinds of medications, from those that are considered ‘all natural’ to those that are chemically produced in a laboratory, may cause some kind of aftereffects.

Share this post:

Charlotte vs Presbyterian – 49ers Show No Love For Dem’ Hose…

Breakfast is served at Zada Jane’s Café in Charlotte, North Carolina. Heavy tattoos creep below his shirt sleeves as the nonchalant waiter plonks my omelet down, trotting off in an identical pair of grey Chuck Taylors that all the servers wear. The eclectic walls are painted bright canary yellow, accented with purple ductwork, and a few shuffleboard courts flank the patio outside. In addition to the usual breakfast favorites, the menu also features an array of vegetarian, free range, hormone free (pick your toxin to avoid) fare. Most of the items sport uber hip names like the “blazing saddles” omelet or the “bunny rancheros” eggs, and a full bar starts serving at 11am. This quirky little diner would be perfectly at home in cities like Austin or Portland, but in a conservative town like Charlotte, it’s a stand out.

While a hipster joint like this might not be my usual artery clogging greasy spoon, the recommendation came highly endorsed by my Irish cohort Ron, who assured me it was one of the best breakfast haunts in town. True enough, the biscuits are fresh baked and fluffy, served warm with an array of local preserves waiting to adorn them. A satisfactory chorizo omelet fills the belly, crowned with a side of locally sourced bacon and a helping of home fried potatoes; I’m topped up for an afternoon of football in the Queen City.

IMG_4356 IMG_4354

I’m in town to see the Charlotte 49ers, the newest member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. The game on this Saturday would be their first foray into the torrid world of big time college football, having made the jump up from the FCS ranks at the start of the 2015 season. I’d also be bringing a newcomer with me on the pursuit – Kristina – who, appropriately, would be attending her first ever college football game. A college football newbie and an FBS rookie both making their debut on the same day. These two, mixed together with a swampish September game in the South, promised for an interesting afternoon.

In addition to the jump into the FBS ranks this year, nearly everything else about the ‘Niners program is squeaky new. The school has only fielded a football team at all for two years, kicking off their first season in 2013 after the student body began petitioning for a squad in 2006. Similarly, the mortar is still drying between the bricks of Jerry Richardson stadium, an intimate 15,000 seat venue that first opened its gates in 2013. Fresh concrete sidewalks surround the stadium, flanked by young tree saplings and recent landscaping. Everywhere you look, the facilities are new. Remarkably, for many Charlotte fans, they have dogs older than the football program itself.

IMG_4393 IMG_4365

Yet, beautifully, the spirit of college football sprouts proudly in the Charlotte program. Fans line the sidewalks around campus, buzzing on an early Saturday morning. Shaded by green 49ers tents and matching chairs they set their tailgate spreads out in the parking lots, the snap of footballs and squawking kids ringing in the air. A massive alumni tent greets returning visitors, many of whom may be experiencing football on their campus for the first time. There are even a few custom tailgating wagons to be found, ramshackle vehicles that fans outfit in team colors and regalia, driven to each home game for Saturday festivities.

IMG_4364 IMG_4359 IMG_4360

For their part, the school tries to indoctrinate the students into the spirit of the fledgling program. They provide a sprawling green lawn adjacent to the stadium dedicated solely to student tailgating. The manicured green spills over with a few thousand revelers, beer cases are stacked beneath the tents (kegs are banned), and some pop tunes crackle over the loudspeakers. The bustling village comes complete with University supplied tents and tables, which the student body then claims with various flags or fraternity letters. While there are a few rules against excessive drinking (beer pong is banned), it’s a deft move by the Charlotte administration to foster this kind of student spirit, the lifeblood of any successful football program.

IMG_4361 IMG_4362

One of the most magnetic aspects of college football for me, is unearthing all of the pageantry and traditions that make each school so unique. In the case of Charlotte, it’s fascinating to literally watch them nurture and develop those traditions in real time…

We scan the grounds for ticket resellers, but there are none to be found. Evidently the scalpers haven’t found a market in the Charlotte program yet, and I’m forced to ply my trade at the stadium box office. For thirty bucks apiece, I grab a pair of tickets on the fifty yard line, one row in front of the swelling Charlotte student section – all of them decked out in monochromatic green T-shirts. Delightfully sitting in front of the most vociferous mob in Jerry Richardson Stadium, I’ll be able to get a first hand feel for the true energy these college football neophytes can muster. Kristina shifts nervously as the rabble behind us continues to swell…

IMG_4368

Before the final pre-game festivities kick off, the PA announcer requests a moment of silence over the loudspeakers for departed offensive line coach Phil Ratliff. Ratliff, a two time all American on the offensive line at Marshall, died at age 44 of heart complications only three weeks before the start of the 49ers 2015 season. Beloved by his players for the intensity he brought to the program, he also routinely held barbecues at his home in nearby Harrisburg to instill comradery amongst the young squad. His presence clearly left an impact on the early foundations of the Charlotte program.

As the visiting team takes snaps in front of us, I get an up close look at the opponent on the day – the “Blue Hose” from Presbyterian University in Clinton, South Carolina. Sneakily sporting what might be the funniest mascot name in college athletics, the “Blue Hose” moniker was coined by sportswriters in the early 20th century when referring to the blue socks or “hose” that the athletic teams wore. Proud as the Presbyterian program may be, on this day they were scheduled as cannon fodder for the 49ers inaugural FBS contest.

As a shower of green fireworks explodes into an overcast afternoon sky, the Charlotte squad comes streaming out of the tunnel beneath the fresh brick archway of the Judy Rose Football Center, named after the current, and 25 year tenured, Athletic Director that brought the program to UNCC. The Niners’ soon make quick work of the visiting Blue Hose. Decidedly overmatched for their southern foes, the Charlotte squad runs down the field unabated, putting on a show for the 16,631 that showed up at Richardson Stadium (an attendance figure I might question given the blocks of empty seats). Meanwhile, lackadaisical freshman still amble into the stands throughout the first quarter. Something they’ll have to remedy when a bigger opponent marches into town.

IMG_4370 IMG_4373

IMG_4374 IMG_4375

In the end, the 49ers have their way with the hapless Blue Hose. Junior wide receiver Austin Duke is the standout on the day for Charlotte, amassing 166 yards and a touchdown catch on the afternoon. With a comfortable 34-0 lead after three quarters, head coach Brad Lambert takes his foot off the gas, and the Niners’ skate away with a comfortable 34-10 victory that was never in question. But as they enter the teeth of their Conference USA schedule in the coming weeks, things are going to get decidedly more challenging for the young squad. Welcome to the FBS Charlotte…

IMG_4384 IMG_4377 IMG_4386 IMG_4387

IMG_4372 IMG_4394

IMG_4379 IMG_4385

After the game we pull into the South 21 Drive-In for a throwback slice of Americana. The classic car hop is a time warp back to the 1950’s, and remains nearly unchanged since they first opened their doors in

1955. An original red neon sign out front touts their “curb service”, a perfectly preserved homage to the golden age of 1950’s roadside decor. More neon accents the bright red and white color scheme that lines the flat roofed car ports spreading out from the tiny brick cook shack in the middle. A few patrons precariously squeeze their lumbering SUV’s into tight parking spaces between the white painted columns of the structure. With parking dimensions originally designed to comfortably house the smaller family cars of the 1950’s; the South 21 Drive-In is ill equipped to deal with today’s soccer mom and her hulking suburban school bus.

IMG_4402 IMG_4399

I order their signature “Super Boy” burger, shouting my order into the galvanized metal speaker box that swivels out from the menu board. Paired with a chocolate shake and a portion of crisp golden onion rings, the entire feast costs about ten bucks. While roller skates would be more appropriate, the waiter hustles the order out to my car window on foot a few minutes later, setting it down on the rotating stainless steel tray while we square up the bill.

IMG_4397

The Super Boy is a simple, no frills burger – two thin patties, fully dressed with all the condiments, sandwiched between a soft, white sesame seed bun. It’s a delightful throwback to the times when just a modest, fire grilled, 100% American beef burger was enough for a man. Before the days of elaborate chipotle turkey burgers garnished with exotic cheeses, slathered in frilly aioli’s or foie gras, and capped with all other manner of hipster adornment. Simple food that never falls out of fashion.

Your grandfather ate this burger. And he probably washed it down with a quart of Old Crow whiskey before driving his entire family home without seatbelts. You should too.

IMG_4408

And that’s representative of exactly what a football weekend in Charlotte is all about. The old, and the new. The delicate balance of honoring the old world of pageantry and tradition that underpins the fabric of the game, yet intelligently blending it with the new world, as a fledgling program rises to carve out its own niche and create tradition within the modern landscape of the sport.

Special thanks to Kristina for a positive attitude and vociferous cheering during her first college football experience!

IMG_4382

Full Clickthrough Gallery Below:

Drugs are sumptuous, and specific men cannot get the medicaments they need. Certain drugs are as a rule used to treat varied types of infection caused by definite types of bacteria, such as tonsillitis and infections of the throat. If you’re concerned about sexual problem, you probably know about http://isviagraoverthecounter.com/Male-Enhancement-Pills.html. What are side effects of Cialis? There are various drugs for male impotence cure. Very likely Male Enhancement Pills Over the Counter is a very complicated topic. More information about Cialis available at best male enhancement pills over the counter. While the generic is credited with improving nausea, it may also kill the mood in bedroom. All kinds of medications, from those that are considered ‘all natural’ to those that are chemically produced in a laboratory, may cause some kind of aftereffects.

Share this post:

Marshall vs Western Kentucky – Herd drop a heartbreaker to Hilltopper Heroics…


It’s Friday morning in Huntington, West Virginia, the day after Thanksgiving.  I flew into Columbus, Ohio last night, and made the two and a half hour jaunt down winding farm roads of southern Ohio; watching the flat expanse of the Midwest transform into the undulating foothills of the Appalachians. Crossing over the Ohio River into Huntington, billowing clouds of steam emerge from the river valley, towering, rust colored smokestacks of Steel of West Virginia rising into the orange dusk sky. The proud river once formed the backbone of the U.S. steel industry; railroad tracks, bridges, and barges stretching from Pittsburgh to Illinois all forged in those same roaring furnaces.

IMG_2745
An exceedingly difficult place to get to, I’m in town to see the unbeaten Thundering Herd of Marshall University.  Their record sitting at a sterling 11-0 as one of only two undefeated teams in the country (the other being Florida State), the “Herd” fields one of the most explosive offenses in the game under the tutelage of aptly named head coach Doc Holliday.  While the formidable squad had climbed to #24 in the rankings, the equally high flying Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were in town for a Conference USA matchup that was sure to light up the scoreboard. With the pursuit of perfection comes the allure of an automatic bid to a major bowl game, and, should they win, the Thundering Herd could find themselves in the prestigious Peach, Cotton or Fiesta bowls – and the big prize money therein. As far as games in Huntington go, they don’t get much bigger than this…

 
I take a quick breakfast at Tudor’s Biscuit World, a chain to be sure, but a West Virginia staple with most of their fifty plus locations scattered about the Mountain State. They have about twenty different sandwich options on the menu, all served between one of their flaky, buttermilk biscuits. I order the signature “Thundering Herd” which comes stuffed with sausage, egg, cheese and a crispy hashbrown. The delightfully savory sandwich comes wrapped in yellow wax paper, turning translucent as it soaks up grease while I retreat to an open table to make short work of it.

IMG_2742
From there, it’s a quick drive up the road to Kenova, WV to knock out another long standing local favorite – Griffith and Feil Drugstore. Occupying the same location on Chestnut Street since 1892, the little 122 year old pharmacy provides all the conveniences of modern medicine, coupled with the old fashioned nostalgia of a main street pharmacy doling out hand mixed soda’s and cherry topped sundaes. I opt for a chocolate shake myself, watching gleefully as the counterwoman pumps syrup into the stainless steel mixing cup before plonking the decadent affair in front of me in a “Coca Cola” branded Styrofoam cup.

IMG_2752 IMG_2755 IMG_2756
Before heading over to campus, I pay my respects at the Marshall plane crash site. Unfortunately, no mention of the Marshall Football program comes without the memory of the tragic plane crash that took place on November 14th, 1970 claiming the lives of 75 players, coaches, fans and crew. Tucked off the side of an abandoned stretch of Old State Highway 75 due west of Huntington Tri State Airport, the site is marked with a small plaque, American flag and a few Marshall University mementos. Certainly one of the most somber moments in athletic history, the Marshall story projects an uplifting tone – a story about rebirth, and the power of sport to comfort a small community like Huntington in the face of such tragedy.

IMG_2751 IMG_2746
Driving into campus, the town gown juxtaposition is an interesting one. The sprawling greens of the college lawns are flanked to the North by an enormous Steel of West Virginia complex that stretches nearly the entire length of campus, the imposing weathered steel structures a constant reminder of the proud heavy industry that supported Huntington (and other towns along the Ohio River valley) for decades.

 
The streets already coming alive with kelly green garbed fans, I slide into a parking space on the corners of 17th Street and 6th Avenue while a few bloodshot eyes stagger out of the ramshackle student houses nearby. Dusted with an overnight blanket of snow, the tidy campus is anchored by “Old Main” an impressive gothic inspired brick building featuring four castellated towers, a structure which serves as the icon of Marshall University. Pressing further into the heart of campus stands the bronze mass of Memorial Fountain, dedicated to the memory of the 1970 crash victims. The fountain on this day runs dry, for each year on November 14th the water is turned off for the winter season, and a memorial service is held to remember those that were lost.

IMG_2762 IMG_2763
Finding my way over to Joan C. Edwards stadium, named after the philanthropist donor that gave over sixty five million dollars to the university, I raise a finger in the air and wander through the expanse of green tents parked in front of the stadium. Despite being the biggest contest of the year for the unblemished Thundering Herd, I track down a choice seat on the fifty yard line for twenty bucks. Shortly after finding my seat, white smoke billows from the green inflatable tunnel at the North end of the stadium, as the crowd rises to its feet. The Thundering Herd squad bounds onto the field, trotting behind the roar of a Harley Davidson motorcycle costumed with a buffalo head and hide – one of the stranger mascots (?) that I’ve encountered…

IMG_2765 IMG_2771IMG_2769
The contest on the field lives up to its explosive billing. In fact, the word “explosive” is a complete understatement as a handful of FBS records are eclipsed on the day. In the first quarter alone, 49 points are scored, each team sprinting down the field unabated by any semblance of defense. The Hilltoppers, domed with gleaming chrome helmets, run wild in “The Joan” as the Marshall crowd hushes in disbelief when the ‘Toppers run out to a 42-21 lead early in the second quarter.

IMG_2774 IMG_2775
The Thundering Herd’s breakneck offense sputters. Led by standout senior quarterback Rakeem Cato, one of the most accomplished passers in Marshall history, he uncharacteristically fires three interceptions in the first half alone (4 total), to hamstring The Herd. Despite the initial adversity, however, they persevere, bringing the score to within a touchdown before halftime. At the end of the first half, the scoreboard reads an astonishing 49-42, all of the points coming from 13 combined touchdowns and nearly ½ mile of total offense (832 yards).

IMG_2779 IMG_2780
In the second half, the game slows into a more traditional pace. Each team trades drives, but the defenses adjust, and the punters finally make a few rare appearances. As the contest presses on, the Marshall crowd roars back to life, exchanging alternating chants of “We are!”…..”Marshall!” Finally, deep into the 4th quarter the Thundering Herd stage their final drive trailing only by a touchdown. Cato redeems himself, leading a methodical 12 play, 82 yard touchdown drive that knots the score at 59 -59 with only a few ticks left on the clock. A WKU interception shortly after the ensuing kickoff cements the tie, and the rollercoaster contest heads into overtime.

IMG_2784 IMG_2778
Marshall wins the coin flip in the extra frame, and in two quick plays Cato fires a 25 yard touchdown pass to assert control – their first lead of the entire game. The Thundering Herd faithful, all of them on their feet, roar with delight, visions of the prominent Fiesta, Peach or Cotton Bowls (and their lucrative pay days) are in their grasp. A perfect 12-0 season and a sunny bowl destination only a few plays away. But the Hilltoppers have a spoiler in mind, and they promptly respond with a two play, 25 yard touchdown of their own as the green crowd shrieks.

 
But then, WKU head coach Jeff Brohm makes one of the gutsiest calls any coach can make – in lieu of safely booting the extra point for a second overtime, he signals his squad for a two point conversion. The contest, and Marshall’s perfect hopes and dreams, will be decided by the next play. Hilltopper quarterback Brandon Doughty rolls out after the snap, the entire play unfolding in slow motion as 23,576 fans collectively hold their breath. Doughty finds wide receiver Willie McNeil alone in the corner of the end zone, unfettered by the Marshall defense and before he even releases the ball the crowd sees it too. A few Herd fans next to me bow their heads while the ball is released, they already know the outcome. McNeil gathers in the soft pass easily, tapping two feet assuredly in the back corner of the endzone to complete the two point conversion before erupting in celebration as his teammates swarm him. The Hilltoppers just pulled off an incredible 67-66 overtime win in one of the most electric games I’ve ever witnessed.

IMG_2796
After the game I file into Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti House for a warm post game meal. Located on 5th Avenue in downtown Huntington, the red neon marquis jutting out over the sidewalk beckons pedestrians inside. A city staple since 1938, Jim’s is a delightfully preserved holdover from the era of great American diners. Not much has changed here since JFK once sat down during a campaign trail in 1960, his charismatic, toothy grin enshrined on the wall above the booth in a black and white photo. Stainless steel sparkles behind the linoleum countertops, swiveling stools and plush booths upholstered in green leather line the floral wallpapered walls, while an old timer gently nurses a cup of unpretentious black coffee from a ceramic diner mug. The place is closed on Sundays, they don’t take plastic, and the waitresses still wear uniforms – crisply pressed white skirts accented with matching green aprons, their hair neatly pinned up in buns.

IMG_2791 IMG_2792
My paper placemat reads “smile” in big green letters, while I observe a steady stream of customers piling into Jim’s for to-go orders. Some of them are greeted by name, before greedily sniffing their take out bags and backing out the door as a bell chimes overhead. I browse over the laminated menu briefly, before settling on a namesake platter of spaghetti. While a plate of pasta isn’t my usual carnivorous fare, when everyone in Huntington urges you to get the spaghetti at Jim’s, I kindly oblige. It comes in three sizes; small, medium or large, and is topped with a heaping portion of chunky meat sauce and accompanied by a basket of soft Italian bread. I finish the meal off with one of their signature house made pies – chocolate, naturally, dressed with a healthy layer of genuine whipped cream.

IMG_2795 IMG_2798
It’s comfort food in a comfortable place, a perfect wind down from the afternoon frenzy of an adrenaline filled college football shootout. Now it’s time to jump on a plane to the next barnburner – Statesboro, Georgia – to see if the Georgia Southern Eagles can lay claim to the Sun Belt Championship crown in their inaugural FBS season…

IMG_2788

Full Clickthrough Gallery Below:

Drugs are sumptuous, and definite people cannot get the medicaments they need. Certain drugs are ordinarily used to treat varied types of infection caused by certain types of bacteria, such as tonsillitis and infections of the throat. If you’re concerned about sexual problem, you probably know about http://isviagraoverthecounter.com/Male-Enhancement-Pills.html. What are side effects of Cialis? There are different drugs for male emasculation cure. Very likely Male Enhancement Pills Over the Counter is a very complicated topic. More information about Cialis available at best male enhancement pills over the counter. While the generic is credited with improving nausea, it may also kill the mood in bedroom. All kinds of medications, from those that are considered ‘all natural’ to those that are chemically produced in a laboratory, may cause some kind of aftereffects.

Share this post:

Rice vs UTEP – Owls bury the Miners…

Friday afternoon I set out on the road from San Marcos towards Houston, opting for the rolling backroads of Central Texas in lieu of I-10. Cruising smooth ribbons of asphalt along State Highway 71, I zip through iconic Texas towns like Bastrop and Brenham bypassing hordes of Dairy Queens that mark each little downtown.

I stop only once, for lunch, at Zimmerhanzels BBQ in Smithville. Tucked inside the innocuous orange steel building lies some of the finest BBQ in Texas, along with an equally impressive collection of deer mounts. An old timer hobbles in line in front of me, dressed in crisp blue Dickies and a check pattern shirt, his deep wrinkled face bearing eons of work in the sun. An obvious regular, the counter girl recognizes him and offers a cheery “your usual chopped sandwich Jim?” Without a word the man nods, and the spunky girl drops his sandwich on the orange plastic cafeteria tray as he shuffles on down the line. Not a word spoken and the man gets a spread of some of Texas’ finest BBQ….impressive.

IMG_2664 IMG_2670

I opt for a combo of their brisket and sausage, arranged neatly behind glass display cases, waiting as the counter girl carves the meat to order. I pay cash at the end of the line (they take no plastic in these parts) then retreat to an arrangement of small school tables they have for dine-in customers. A few minutes later, the lunch rush pours in from an armada of heavy duty pickup trucks parked outside, wrangler jeans and muddy work boots spilling into the doorway – always a good sign.

IMG_2671

Pressing further east into Brenham, the wheel of the rental car swerves into the parking lot of the Blue Bell ice cream factory in a screeching cloud of dust. No stranger to a scoop, I saunter in for a few samples from the Texas ice cream staple. They have a few seasonal items on the menu, and I’m tempted into a couple modest cups of the chocolate cherry and spiced pumpkin pecan, generously doled out by the counter girl for a buck apeice. A few pints for the road look tempting, but against a few hours of hot Texas sun in the car, they stand no chance.

IMG_2674 IMG_2672

A few hours later, after braving the afternoon traffic on the outskirts of Houston, I meet up with my friend Brian. The same friend of Georgia fame from last year, when we’d witnessed the Dawgs vs LSU nail biter in Athens after pre-gaming between the hedges. While a pair of games at Rice and Houston didn’t have quite the same appeal as a duo of SEC juggernauts, he agreed to come along anyway and even offered to put a roof over my head for the weekend.

After a quick handshake, he guides me into the gated garage of his upscale apartment complex where I carefully squeeze my shitbox rental into a numbered parking space between a couple of exotic import cars. A Whole Foods Market is connected to the same building, and a few other high end shops dot the neighborhood. After being hosted by a handful of different friends this year in nicer parts of town, clearly I’ve become accustomed to some of the finer things. A college football bon vivant, if you will…

While the apartment might be swanky, my tastes remain humble, and we pop the caps of a few Shiners – that delightful Texas nectar – to get the night underway. I stuff a sack full of rain gear between sips, as the forecast for the entire weekend predicts nearly continuous bouts of rain. After a couple of brews, we order a car through Uber, a far more palatable alternative than the nightmarish traffic and parking in Houston – a city which simply grew too fast for its infrastructure. But the ride proves anything but easy, as the clueless driver struggles with the complex nuances of voice navigated, turn by turn GPS, and I’m forced to bark out instructions from the back seat.

We circle Rice Stadium for a few minutes, the parking lots all but vacant on a drizzly Friday night. With a stated capacity of 47,000, the stadium is far bigger than expected for the Owls program, and the hulking concrete grandstands towering overhead as stadium lights glow in the mist. We mill around for a few minutes until I spot what I’m looking for, a pair of free tickets from a kind woman in a navy blue Rice hoodie. Entering the stadium, we bypass the first deck, however, opting instead to hike up to the second level on the elusive myth of beer sales. A few amber colored, draught Ziegenbocks confirm the rumor, and we settle into the open grandstands as the Owls storm onto the field through an inflatable blue tunnel in front of a meager audience.

IMG_2678

IMG_2680 IMG_2681

With the field a bit greasy, the contest starts slowly as both teams struggle for position in the first quarter. The game picks up in the second frame, however, as the Owls finally start moving the ball on a pair of nice drives. Serviceable Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson connects with his favorite target, a speedy wide receiver named Mario Hull, who tallies up 150 yards on the night and a touchdown catch. While the Owls had several chances to close out the Miners, they keep the sloppy contest interesting before finally closing out the orange clad foes from the with a final score of Rice 31 UTEP 13. With the win, the Rice Owls have secured bowl eligibility and a trip to the post season!

IMG_2683 IMG_2684 IMG_2694 IMG_2695 IMG_2696 IMG_2697 IMG_2699 IMG_2700

During a break in the action, I climb a few rows up the stands to meet up with Jarrett and Al; a couple of college football fanatics that I’d located through their blog www.collegefootballquest.com. They’re easy enough to spot, as Jarrett is garbed in a signature blue Florida Gators cap, and the aluminum bleachers are all but empty. On a quest to see a game in every college stadium in the country, the dynamic duo has made it to about 27 venues so far and they keep an impressive running list of favorite spots and commentary on their website.

IMG_2691

Averaging about 5-6 games a year, the “Questers” take a more methodical approach than my exhausting weekly blitzkrieg. Slow and steady is the name of their race, and they anticipate completing the goal around 2030, no small feat when trying to coordinate schedules around two sets of wives, children and careers. Located on Long Island, Al and Jarrett share a similar logistical challenge as I in getting to games from the college football vacuum of the northeast and their woes of airline travel ring all too familiar. We spend a few minutes chatting, swapping stories about shared adventures and future plans, some of which may overlap in the pacific Northwest in the near future. It’s yet another incredibly rare opportunity to connect with some of the few other people in the world as fanatical about exploring the sport as I am.

IMG_2688

IMG_2685

Special thanks to my friend Brian (pictured) for hosting me for the weekend, and agreeing to come along to a few games that a lot of other folks might pass up. Can’t wait to hit a few more with you next year man!

Thanks to the College Football Quest crew for finally getting to say hello in person and being as devoted to their journey as I am. Also, thanks for tipping me off about the early Houston kickoff time the next day. Can’t wait for our paths to cross again fellas!
Full Clickthrough Gallery Below:

Drugs are sumptuous, and specific men cannot get the medicaments they need. Certain drugs are mostly used to treat varied types of infection caused by certain types of bacteria, such as tonsillitis and infections of the throat. If you’re concerned about sexual problem, you probably know about http://isviagraoverthecounter.com/Male-Enhancement-Pills.html. What are side effects of Cialis? There are different drugs for male impotence cure. Very likely Male Enhancement Pills Over the Counter is a very complicated topic. More information about Cialis available at best male enhancement pills over the counter. While the generic is credited with improving nausea, it may also kill the mood in bedroom. All kinds of medications, from those that are elaborate ‘all natural’ to those that are chemically produced in a laboratory, may cause some kind of aftereffects.

Share this post:

© 2019 Pigskin Pursuit

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑