Final Score: Bears 62 – Mountaineers 38, Attendance: 45,370
Weather: Beautiful 75; Ticket Price: $30 Parking: Free shuttle from downtown Waco.
“The Bear Necessity” by Tree
McLane Stadium resides on the bucolic banks of the Brazos River and is one of the rare sites in college football where you can tailgate from your boat. The stadium is located on the picturesque campus of Baylor University. Baylor is located in Waco, Texas and is a Baptist University which is odd given that “Baptists are Methodists who can’t read*”. Given the strong religious affiliation, one would expect the tailgating is a little less subdued. I was unable to see it first-hand but I heard it was reasonably good down by the river. The stadium is new, constructed in 2014. It is of medium size, seating 45,140. It has one large video scoreboard and a video ribbon circling the stadium. The scoreboard and ribbon are both effectively managed, providing game stats and college football scores from around the nation. The stadium has free WiFi and a custom app to accompany the action on the field. Underneath the scoreboard is a family friendly grassy hill for general admission seating. The remainder of the stadium is a combination of benches and seatbacks. The tops of the upper deck are covered and worth considering given the hot Texas sun early in the season. I got to the game just before kickoff and struggled to find any scalpers around the stadium. It turns out that scalping is illegal on campus so I had walk to end of the stadium parking lots where I found a few scalpers. With some shrewd negotiating I scored a club level seat near the 40 yard line for $30. I say shrewd because the guy next to me paid $50 for his from the same scalper. Or course, the guy next to me who had sold the tickets only got $15 each from the scalper so shrewd is a relative term.
Being new, the stadium facilities are top notch and the concessions offer a nice variety. However, their execution leaves something to be desired. I ordered some BBQ sliders and I, along with a dozen Baylor fans, was forced to wait a half hour to get them and this was in advance of the half-time rush. It was a surprisingly unprepared food service staff that tainted an otherwise excellent experience. The fans were active throughout the game, often doing their symbolic bear claw swipe with accompanying “Sic ‘Em” yell for big plays. The student body participation was strong and I saw my fair share of cowboy boots on both men and women. There were also a large number of families attending the game.
I drove up to Waco from Houston and it is an easy drive. The game was an 11:00am start which is nice if you live in Waco, not so much if you have to drive three hours or more to get there. The early start made it pretty difficult to get their early enough to tailgate. I had done some research and knew that you could drive in “downtown” Waco and park for free and take a shuttle over. Unfortunately I arrived about 15 minutes before kickoff and the parking close to the shuttle was already full and signage on where else to park was pretty much non-existent. I had to drive around until I could find a lot to park in. Fortunately it was still free and given the how small downtown is, it remained an easy walk to the shuttle spot.
Baylor is in a renaissance right now and brings a high-powered offense every week. They can score virtually from any spot and at any time on the field. WVU is similar in design so I was hoping that the Mountaineers could keep it close. It was a back and forth affair in the first half with the score Baylor 27 and WVU 17 at halftime. In that span, there were drives of 0:58, 1:17, 2:38, 1:36 and the longest drive was 5:46. The Big 12 is certainly not going to be confused with three yards and a cloud of dust. If there was little defense in the first half, there was none in the second half when the two teams combined for another 56 points. However, most of it came from Baylor as they had the game put away by the end of 3rd quarter with a 24 point lead.
With the game starting at 11:00am, I knew I had a chance to catch a second game by swinging down to College Station to watch the Aggies host the Crimson Tide for a 2:30 game. I left the Baylor game at the end of the third quarter but probably should have left earlier in the second half because I didn’t approach College Station until the end of their first half. I was listening to the game on the radio and as I approached A&M finally started to chip away at a big ‘Bama lead. After the Aggies punched it in to start the third quarter, I parked the car about a mile away from Kyle Field and walked over to the stadium. Alas, all the scalpers were gone and security was not about to let me sneak in for free. So I had to resort to watching the game on a TV in one of tailgater tents outside the stadium. It was not a bad result but I would much rather have been preferred to watch the game live in the stands. It was my third visit to Kyle Field and the most noticeable thing was the attire of many of the A&M coeds. It ranged from cocktail dresses to club wear and was a big change from the relatively conservative attire I was used to at A&M. Maybe it was because ESPN’s College Game Day was there, but it was like night and day when compared to Baylor earlier in the day.
Baylor is pleasant enough environment to watch a game and if you love nothing but offense, you will love it under the present Bear’s coaching regime. I, however, prefer to see a little more balance in my football so it was only mildly entertaining. That being said, the fans are friendly, the venue is clean and bright and great for kids. The Baylor campus is nice and I really like how the stadium is right on the river. For that reason if you happened to be near Waco, Texas, you could do worse to things with your time on a Saturday. It is not a must see on the college football circuit, but if your team is playing there, it is worth considering the trip.
*Credit to the film “A River Runs Through It”