Pigskin Pursuit

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

Tag: Dallas Texas

Notre Dame vs Arizona State: Irish shock the Sun Devils in Dallas…

Having lived in Dallas for several years and attending a handful of games at the soaring monstrosity of new Cowboy Stadium, the trip to the Big D was more about catching up with friends than exploring a new corner of the college football world.  With Notre Dame playing Arizona State in one of their annual “Shamrock Series” neutral site contests, a special event that grants leeway for the crack design team at Adidas to make some deplorable changes to the traditional Fighting Irish uniforms, this trip was a great opportunity to reconnect with a few of my Irish cohorts that were also making the journey into town.  But with #22 Arizona State fresh off a blowout victory over the USC Trojans, this game would be anything but a walk in the park for the decidedly pedestrian Irish squad thus far this year.   Of course the allure of some proper Texas barbecue would offset any anxieties that I shared about the tenuous Irish matchup…(See my review of Pecan Lodge from last year here)

Saturday morning we rise early and load up Bryce’s truck with a payload of tailgating provisions.  Coolers are stuffed to the gills with refreshment, and shopping bags ripple with snacks.  We rendezvous with a handful of friends in the parking lot of a Bone Daddy’s restaurant in Grapevine, a Hooters restaurant clone known for their, ahem, “alluring” fare.  From there we convoy south into Arlington with surprising ease, and then enter the asphalt expanse surrounding the new Cowboy Stadium.  We have a hangtag parking pass for Lot 12, a privilege that Jerry Jones charges $50 apiece for.  Judging by the wide open swaths of parking that never fill up, the contest will be far from a sellout.

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As our tailgate is unfurled in the cool overcast morning air, our numbers swell as visitors stop by and meet up.  Bryce sets up a slick Beats By Dre portable radio with some Texas Country pumping, while Kate lays out an impressive spread on a foldout table. I take this opportunity to crack into my first Shiner of the day.  My friends Larry and Luke had followed us in and parked alongside.  Both friends from my Notre Dame years, they were in town for a doubleheader of the Irish contest on Saturday, and then an NFL Cowboys game the next day.   Seasoned tailgating veterans in South Bend, they were both familiar with my tailgating antics, and we spend the morning working our way through an impressive list of microbrews that Bryce toted along.  As always, a few hours tailgating with great friends flies by like seconds, and as the sun starts to dip into the horizon, it signals the end of our festivities.  We stuff our pockets with a few walking beers and head towards the giant alien spacecraft that is Jerryworld.

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Walking towards the stadium, tickets are for sale everywhere.  People stand on corners with fistfuls of them in hand, asking as low as $5 apiece for the tickets which the university had the gall to put a $110 face value price tag on.  There simply isn’t enough demand for what amounts to a neutral site game between two lackluster teams that are each nearly 1,000 miles from their respective campuses.  Security procedures as we enter the giant dome include a metal detector and possible pat down.  If it’s one thing I always appreciate – it’s invasive, superfluous and ineffective security procedures that cause a choke point to enter the stadium and offer little more than an illusion of safety.  Fortunately, the “security” goons aren’t wise enough for my ruse, and I breeze through with a full can of Shiner Bock cleverly concealed by years of experience (send me an email if you want the technique)…

For those that haven’t been, Cowboy Stadium (recently redubbed “AT&T Stadium”, which I will ignore) is an impressive space, a befitting monument to football in the Lonestar State.  It’s sparkling new and clean, has generously wide concourses that are easy to navigate and a plethora of concessions that sport everything from nachos to sushi.  The retractable roof soars nearly 300 feet over the field, supported by a pair of massive 35’ deep box trusses that span the entire 1200’ length of the stadium.  The gaudy centerpiece of the structure is the infamous Mitsubishi Jumbotron, a 160’ high definition TV screen that continuously flashes replays and advertisements, the largest of its kind in the world.  Stretching from one 25 yard line to the other, the epilepsy inducing behemoth is so obtrusive, that you find yourself accidentally watching the game on the screen instead of the actual action on the field.

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While it’s impossible not to be impressed by the sheer size and spectacle of the structure, and it’s a fine venue for the climate controlled, banal professionalism of the NFL; I find Jerryworld completely unfit for a college football game.  College football is quite simply meant to be played outdoors, under the elements, in the splendor of a fervent college campus bursting with foliage on a crisp fall afternoon.

But despite my purist protestations, beer flows freely at the concession stands, and Larry, Luke and I intend to take advantage of this break from typical NCAA Puritanism.  Given the frustrating play of the Irish thus far this season, we’ll clearly need it, and we alternate a few rounds while the countdown clock winds down.  Although billed as a neutral site contest, looking around the audience is anything but an even split.  The Irish fan base probably outnumbers the Sun Devils 3:1, and the massive jumbotron plays exclusively Irish promotional videos and messages.  After a few pre game announcements, the contest kicks off with as much roar as the 2/3 capacity crowd can muster as helmets begin popping on the artificial turf below.

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After a scoreless first quarter, what follows is a surprisingly competitive, seesaw battle that delivers for all four quarters.  Irish running back and Texas native Cam McDaniel batters the ASU defense on the ground, while QB Tommy Rees has a serviceable day in the air with three touchdowns against one (albeit costly) interception.  After trading a few quick touchdowns in the second quarter, the score at halftime is 14-13 in favor of the Irish.

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In the third frame, as Rees finds some rhythm, the Irish jump out to a comfortable 24-13 lead after successful touchdown drive and impressive 53 yard field goal boot by place kicker Kyle Brindza.  But the explosive Sun Devil squad will not be pinned down in the 4th quarter, as they return a Tommy Rees gaffe for a six point interception, and later punch in a touchdown with eight minutes remaining to knot the score at 27.  After an ensuing Irish field goal drive (30-27), the key play of the game occurs as Arizona State assumes the ball deep in their own territory with 1:16 remaining.  Skilled ASU QB Taylor Kelly, facing a 4th and 13 conversion to keep his teams hopes alive, fires an interception into the outstretched arms of ND linebacker Dan Fox.  Fox returns the interception for a touchdown, effectively icing the game as the Irish assume a 37-27 lead with only a minute remaining.  Final score ND 37 ASU 34.

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Special thanks to my friends Bryce and Kate for their incredible Texas hospitality as always, and can’t wait to see what games we meet up for next year!

Thanks to my friends Larry and Luke, it was awesome to catch up with you guys in Dallas, and lets lock down ASU in Arizona next year!!!

 

Full clickable gallery below:

 

 

 

 

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Pecan Lodge – Finding Real BBQ in Dallas…

Staying in Fort Worth for the epic Notre Dame vs Oklahoma tilt, I needed my routine fix of proper Texas barbecue.  Traditionally this entailed an exhausting three hour (one way) jaunt down to Austin, such are the levels of my depravity.  Since bursting onto the Dallas BBQ scene three years ago, however, Pecan Lodge has been dishing out epic smoked meats that rival anything Central Texas has to offer.  Initially bestowed with an elusive 5 star rating on Full Custom Gospel BBQ, the frenzy around the tiny storefront in the Dallas Farmers Market exploded following a visit from Guy Fieri on the Food Network hit Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. Waiting times for a few morsels of their BBQ have swelled proportionally. Stretching up to 2 hours during peak times, my father, friend Bryce and I brave the lines for a Friday afternoon lunch with eager appetites.

After exchanging a few tweets, the man himself, the BBQ Snob of Full Custom Gospel BBQ fame, agrees to join us for lunch, greeting our crew at one of the rickety metal tables.  I had lured him from his brisket fortress of solitude with the promise of a massive Pecan Lodge beef rib, and irresistible offering for anyone, much less a BBQ fanatic.  The ruse works, he surveys our formidable tray discerningly, an epic offering of brisket, pork ribs, sausage, and beef ribs.  An eyebrow noticeably rises above his rimless glasses, a most subtle gesture of praise.  He approves of the hefty meat pile, and settles into a chair.

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Though he refers to himself as the BBQ “Snob”, in person Daniel is anything but.  The conversation is amicable, and despite the notoriety that he has garnered over the past couple of years while personally surveying over 500 different BBQ joints, he remains notably humble and approachable. From even a few minutes of conversation, it’s clear he is far more than a critic.  BBQ is his passion.  He lives it.  To boot, his knowledge on the subject matter is remarkable.  Beyond chatting about a few of our favorite joints, he drops terms like “phenols” and “nitrogen dioxide”, expounding on the science of great barbecue down to the molecular level.  He even offers a few tips for the group, as we discuss the particulars of our amateur BBQ attempts on Big Green Egg smokers.    I learn more about barbecue in fifteen minutes with Daniel, than most people would in a year.  It even turns out he’ll be attending the same Oklahoma vs Notre Dame fiasco tomorrow too, though the table collectively grumbles when it’s revealed he’ll be garbed in crimson and cream.

As his belt busting tales of Texas BBQ road trips can attest, the man can eat.  Like an epic clash of titans we exchange blows, each of us grabbing fistfuls of smoked goodness, waiting for the other to show even the slightest flinch of appetite.  Neither does.  After fifteen minutes our pristine tray of red ribboned beef is ransacked. Picked over like a pack of wild hyenas, the flimsy plastic tray itself is lucky to survive unscathed, and sits disheveled, heaped with stacks of bones and greasy butcher paper. It’s complete carnage.

If you’re wondering, the food at Pecan Lodge is, quite simply, remarkable.

I’ll spare the hyperbole.  This is best BBQ in Dallas.  Period.  And second place isn’t even close.  It rivals anything to be found in Central Texas.

The brisket is silky, pull apart tender, enveloped in a jet black bark and laced with robust notes of mesquite smoke.

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*Smoking over mesquite is one area Pecan Lodge differentiates itself, as most traditional Texas BBQ joints espouse post oak

**On even more elusive days, Pecan Lodge features smoked Waygu (American Kobe) beef brisket, which, although expensive at $25lb, might be the single greatest thing you could ever put in your mouth.

Beef ribs are massive, quivering mountains of velvet beef.  Perfectly broken down until tender, a thick red smoke ring belies their time and attention in the smoker.  While these aren’t an everyday item from what I understand, if they have them – buy them.

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A bright red sausage features a coarse grind with a good snap and peppery building heat.  Perfectly smoked to juicy perfection, it’s also house made, a refreshing departure from the Sysco crap that pervades so many menus.

The pork ribs, well smoked and lightly sauce glazed, are probably the fourth best thing on the menu.  Which is saying something, because they would be the best thing on the menu anywhere else in the DFW Metroplex.

Even the sides here are good, not that anyone should care.  But still, the attention to detail is nice.

If you find yourself in the DFW Metroplex in the near future, your lunch time decision just became an easy one: Pecan Lodge.  The food is second to none, and you might just get to break brisket with a BBQ legend…or snob….

www.pecanlodge.com

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Big 12 Championship – Horns vs. Huskers

After the conclusion of our regular season, our ravenous appetite for college football had yet to be satiated.Fortunately one of the benefits of living in the heart of Big 12 country is the Big 12 Conference Championship game rolling into town a week after the end of the season.Both of us were anxious to see if the undefeated Texas Longhorns could overcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers to secure their spot in the National Championship game.I was also rather excited to be witness my first football game in the newly christened Cowboy Stadium, without having to suffer the indignity of actually watching the Cowboys play.

Coming into the contest, the Texas offensive juggernaut had run unchecked through Big 12 opposition all season, posting an average of 43 points per game, good for the #3 offense in the country.Behind the winningest QB in college football history and Heisman candidate Colt McCoy, the Longhorns were on the cusp of clinching their second National Championship berth in the last five years.

Standing ominously in their path on the other side of scrimmage, however, was the heralded Bo Pelini Nebraska defense.Nebraska boasted the stingiest scoring defense in the country, allowing an anemic 10.4 points per game. The Husker’s featured man child defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who, in addition to being named the defensive player of the year, had the rare honor being a defensive player mentioned in the Heisman conversation.Clearly, this was going to be a contest of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object.

Texas vs. Nebraska lived up to this hype, and proved to be the most exciting game that we witnessed all year.The Nebraska defense locked the Horns’ attack down all day long.Limited to a paltry 202 yards of total offense, the Texas attack was forced to punt nine times on the evening, and managed a lone touchdown.Despite a praiseworthy performance against Texas A&M the week before, Colt McCoy’s Heisman stock plummeted amidst his lackluster 184 yards and three interceptions.In fact Colt was picking himself up off the carpet for the better part of the day after being sacked nine times, including four of them by Ndamukong Suh.Suh was all over the place during the game, raking in 12 tackles alone and anchoring the Nebraska defense that kept the Huskers within a score the entire game (fortunate considering their offense barely managed over 100 yards all day).


The game got extremely nerve wracking for the burnt orange crowd with about 1:44 left to play when Nebraska kicker Alex Henery booted one through the uprights to give the Huskers a 12-10 lead.It seemed Texas would have to go nearly the length of field against the stalwart Husker defense to claim their spot in Pasadena…..or would they? The Nebraska kicker promptly booted the kickoff out of bounds, spotting Texas at the 40 yard line.At nearly midfield, McCoy then connected with his favorite receiver Jordan Shipley for 19 yards. The well disciplined, self aware Nebraska squad decided this would be an opportune time for a personal foul, so they spotted Texas yet another 15 yards on the end of the play.After a sack and a stuffed run, Colt McCoy then rolled out on a 3rd down passing play with :08 on the clock.Taking his sweet time surveying the field (and evidently unconcerned with the clock), McCoy then lazily lobbed the ball out of bounds as the final seconds ticked off.Instantly, the Nebraska bench rushed the field in victory, as throngs of red clad Husker fans erupted in celebration in the stands.A hard fought victory, and a salute to the old adage of “defense wins championships”.

But wait a minute…..”the previous play is under review”….With a collective sigh of relief for the burnt orange, the Huskers were corralled off the field to await the results of the replay trolls.76,211 stood in hushed silence, and after an agonizing five minute review, plus the requisite allowance for some atmosphere killing TV commercials, the officials determined that there was in fact :01 left on the clock.With that one second, the Longhorns BCS Championship dreams were still alive, and exclamation points would live on in facebook status updates for eternity.After a tenuous 46 yard kick by Hunter Lawrence that just eeked inside the uprights, the Longhorns were the ones celebrating under the ticker tape.Their next stop would be a trip to Pasadena to cap off a perfect season and play for the Big Crystal Football.

I somehow managed to capture the winning kick in mid air…

What a game…

Hook Em’ Horns!

Special thanks again to our friends Jared and Kimberly for helping us out with tickets to the game, and tailgating festivities.College Football is meant to be enjoyed in the company of good friends, and it is always a pleasure to hoist a few with some of our favorite ‘Horns fans.

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