Review: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs versus Texas A&M Aggies, 9/23/2006, 7pm
Final Score: La Tech 14, Texas A&M 45, Attendance: 68,563
Weather: Thunderstorms, 80’s down to 70’s
“Traditions abound” by Tree with selective editing by Kurt the Aggie
Texas A&M University is located in College Station which is about an hour and half northwest of Houston. The Aggies play on Kyle Field which is located on campus. This was not my first game at A&M. My buddy Kurt is an Aggie and, like all Aggies, he couldn’t wait to show this Yankee how Texas does big time football. We went to see Pitt play Texas A&M back in 2003. The Panthers got the best of A&M that day, and my western PA (the cradle of quarterbacks) football “cred” was validated again.
However, Kurt was a gracious host and explained the numerous Texas A&M traditions as only an alumnus can. He walked me through the rigors of Yell practice and explained how all the students stand the whole game. Kurt: Yell practice is midnight before game day. They are also held after we are outscored, so you may have seen it after the Pitt game. He was adamant that peer pressure alone would keep the Aggies students up and cheering all day. Alas, the Texas heat was too much for some students and I saw several wither by halftime. But to be fair, most of them did stand the entire game. Kurt: Impressive, keeping in mind this was 2006 and the Aggies were in the midst of a historic gridiron dry spell and their opponent was not exactly college football royalty. The tradition of standing throughout the game stems from two sources, (1) E. King Gill left the stands and suited up for the Aggies at halftime of a game in 1922 when the team was undermanned due to injuries. He did not get in, but stood ready on the sidelines, hence the birth of the 12th man. (2) Aggies determined the greatest volume can be generated when one stands hunched over with hands on the knees. Supposedly as the theory goes, the raucous fans are so loud that it is like having a 12th man on the field. Kurt: The fans are certainly supportive and with choreographed cheers, they are noticeable. The One can only imagine the effect when the stadium renovations, currently underway and include the largest video screen in college athletics, increase seating to 106,000. The same, however, could be said for several other schools’ fan base. This combined with A&M’s constant (Kurt adds – successful) litigious claims to defend their trademark as the one and only home of the 12th man, makes the whole thing a bit tiresome. Kurt:…still, it is fun depositing the annual checks sent from the Seahawks for licensing.
We were too late to come in and see the Corp of Cadets march through campus. However, we did get to see the Fighting Aggies Marching Band perform and they did not disappoint. Marching with military precision, the band lived up to their proud reputation. The Aggies War Hymn (fight song) mocks UT often and as such scores very high in my book. Anytime a whole stadium insults their rival in chorus, it should be admired. Kurt – It is also nice that the War Hymn is played after the first and third quarters, increasing the likelihood Longhorn fans would hear it back when UT agreed to play A&M. There is a reason Texas resorted to printed up T shirts reading, “Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late”, but I digress. There is also a choreographed routine to go with the catchy ditty and by the end of the game, I found myself swaying arm in arm with the Aggie fans. The team mascot is Reveille, a sharp looking collie that struts around the stadium.
My second visit to A&M was with my two sons when they were young teenagers. We arrived to the game about a half hour before kickoff. We had just got into the stadium when the sky turned black and massive thunderstorm rolled in. The seats were cleared and we were ushered into the concourses. Despite the rain, it was still hot, muggy and miserable sitting inside the stadium hallways. A sweat shop in Calcutta would have been only slightly more uncomfortable. Luckily we happened to be next to the Aggie Alumni Hall of Fame (or something like that). They opened the doors and let the fans come sit in the carpeted room that was blasting AC. We happily high-fived each other and scored one for Aggie hospitality. After about an hour, the storm dissipated and the game finally started. My kids enjoyed the environment, but the oldest was already in disdainful teenager mode and didn’t exactly like putting his arm around the sweat soaked Aggie alum sitting next to him. I am pretty sure that A&M fell off his list that day.
Getting into the stadium was simple. A&M is really the only show in town so College Station handles the weekly mobs easily. Parking was plentiful and well-marked.
La Tech kept the game close for about a half as they were aided by sloppy A&M play and managing to win the field position game. However by half-time A&M was up by 7 and they poured it on with 21 points in the 3rd quarter to salt the game away. This left the Aggies at 4-0 but with a cream puff schedule up to that point and a squeaker against Army the weekend before, the jury was still out on how good they really were. As it turned out, they were only slightly better than average that year, finishing 9-4. This got them an invite to the Holiday Bowl, where Cal smoked ‘em like a brisket, 45 – 10.
I like Texas A&M and their college football pedigree is unquestionable. The great Bear Bryant coached the Aggies and between their numerous traditions and success on the field, the program has earned its place in the top tier. I wouldn’t go as far to say A&M is a cult but I wouldn’t join them on weekend retreat to drink Kool Aid either. They, however, are very genuine and disarming unlike the T-Sips (UT alumni) who can be nearly as obnoxious as Notre Dame Alumni. Alas, it is a symptom of Texans who in general seem to think everything starts and ends in their great state. Those of us who have traveled even a little bit know that’s just not true. Fortunately, a trip to Kyle Field is the rare case where the reality does match the Texas hype. And for that, a trip to College Station should be on the agenda for every serious college football fan.