Southern Mississippi Eagles vs UTSA Road Runners, 10/7/2017, 6pm
Final Score: So. Miss 31 – UTSA 29; Attendance: 23,517
Weather: Warm, slight breeze; Ticket: $34; Parking: $65
Review: “Remember the Alamodome*” by Tree
The Roadrunners play in the Alamodome. My general dissatisfaction of professional venues for college football teams is well documented. However, with a few adjustments, a professional stadium can be a worthy host. By and large, the Alamodome has made those adjustments, with one big asterisk. The dome obviously eliminates the impact of weather. They smartly only sell the tickets up to the club level. UTSA football is very young with 2011 being the first season. A full Alamodome has a capacity of 72,000 and the Roadrunner fan base is going to have to grow for some time before it can reach that number. Even with the reduced capacity, I found tickets plentiful both on the internet and through the University. We had a group of five so we bought direct from the UTSA. By calling, we avoided about $13 per ticket instead of buying the tickets online through Ticketmaster (the UTSA online vendor). There was not a vibrant scalper market, likely due to the limited demand. We ended up paying $34 all in, but there were plenty of end zone and corner seats for ~$12. The only rub was that it took three tries to find the Will Call window. If I had prepped a little more on their website, I am sure it would have been easier to find. The website itself was generally clean and easy to navigate.
Inside, the stadium has two video scoreboards that are essentially visible for everyone. There are some sections that could get some overhead view blockage, but it looked limited. I think just about any seat is going to give you a good view. The concessions are of standard fare but they do sell beer. I was surprised to find they offered a souvenir cup with free refills and it was a pretty good looking cup too. The restrooms were adequate with no troughs in sight. UTSA has clearly read the small school venue handbook. There were tons of bits with the fans throughout the game to keep it interesting during timeouts. They had sack races, footballs tosses and one of the worst attempts at a 20 yard field goal I have ever seen. This was followed by the Wattaburger onion ring toss where neither participant managed to get an “onion” ring over the human soda cup. It was all narrated by a jovial host who managed to make the sideshows entertaining. The band was good while doing a Billy Joel medley, highlighted by a rousing rendition of Uptown Girl.
Despite the infancy of the program, the Roadrunners have a number traditions. They chant “UT – SA”, have a fourth quarter “come and take it” banner display, and wave their hand sign which admittedly looks very much like the “hang loose” sign from Hawaii. However, they have a great first down bit. Whenever they Roadrunners make a first down, it is followed by the distinctive “beep-beep, zip-tang” of the Warner Brothers roadrunner. Easily the most creative first down cheer I have heard.
I drove to San Antonio from Houston. It is a very easy drive – flat and fast. San Antonio itself offers more than enough to do for a long weekend, highlighted by the scenic Riverwalk. My friends stayed downtown and the Alamodome was a short walk away. The parking, more specifically the tailgating, at UTSA was the issue. Only season ticket holders may purchase parking lot passes. Accordingly, if you want to get a pass you have to go to the secondary online market to buy one. We were planning to tailgate and I had been told that there were other options outside of the stadium lots. As I drove around the stadium, I saw other parking but there wasn’t any tailgating going on. However, inside the Alamodome lots the tailgating scene was vibrant and fairly well attended. It took all my scalping skills to get a pass which I did, at a premium of $75 (along with two more tickets I didn’t need). We did have a great time tailgating so I highly recommend getting a pass if you want to join in. The flip side is that the lot I was in was not full and let’s be honest, UTSA is not Texas A&M. It hardly seems reasonable that tailgating should be the sole domain of season ticket holders and large groups. If you want to build a reputation as a great stadium to visit, being exclusionary to visitors isn’t the way to do it.
The Roadrunners were 3-0 coming into the game and the visiting Golden Eagles were 2-2. They both had beaten up on Southern University. Southern Mississippi had lost to Kentucky in a close game while UTSA had beaten Baylor. I gave the edge to the Roadrunners. It turned out to be a great game. The Roadrunners kicked a field goal on their first possession and the Golden Eagles answered with a quick four play drive for a touchdown. UTSA then had a three and out series. When So. Miss took over they ripped off a 39 yard run but an aggressive UTSA tackler forced a fumble at the tail end that was recovered by the Birds. UTSA pretty much took over from there running to a 13-7 halftime lead. Southern Mississippi came out in 3rd quarter and drove down the field only to miss a 32 yard field goal. It was then when it appeared that UTSA was going to put the game away. Instead of a touchdown, they saw their drive end with an interception in the end zone which was returned 61 yards to the UTSA 39. The Golden Eagles then scored three touchdowns in a row. The last being a seemingly back breaking 89 yard touchdown run by Ito Smith, their star running back. He terrorized the Roadrunners all night, gaining 178 yards in the win.
While there was a nearly full quarter to go, it felt like the Southern Mississippi lead of 28 – 13 was insurmountable. I thought otherwise as the Roadrunners had moved the ball well all game. They did not let me down. They scored a touchdown and field goal to cut the lead to 28 – 23. It was then the Golden Eagles turn as they cranked out a clock eating drive ending with a 24 yard field goal and an eight point lead. It left the Roadrunners with slightly less than 2 minutes to drive the length of the field. Fortunately the drive started with a 46 yard kickoff return. It took the Roadrunners slightly over a minute to score a touchdown and turn the Alamodome into bedlam. Unfortunately, the two point conversion failed and the onside kick, while nearly recovered by the Roadrunners, went out of bounds. The Golden Eagles then ran the victory formation to seal the win. It was a disappointing finish, but did not take the luster off of a very entertaining game.
I was joined by my friend Andy and his family for this game. They are from the UK and this was their first college football game. They were duly impressed with the UTSA environment and our next lot tailgaters, the Birdcage group, helped fill in the gaps on the Roadrunner traditions.Their friendliness and team spirit helped turn my mood around.
I must admit the UTSA experience had not started off well. As I mentioned, parking spots in the Alamodome’s lots were not accessible to the general public. To be fair, a group ticket purchase of 20 tickets entitled the group one parking pass for $20. Since that was not an option, I was monitoring Stubhub, Seatgeek, and Craigslist for parking passes. By Thursday, the market had settled down and I negotiated a pass on Craigslist for $35 with a local San Antonian (Antonioite?). As far as parking lot passes go, it was a pretty steep price to pay, but it would take off all the pressure off for Saturday. I arrived at my office on Friday comfortable in knowing we were all set for the game. My mood was quickly spoiled when I received a text from the seller who said he was going to sell the parking pass to someone else. I could hear in my head the notable voice of TV patriarch Mike Brady teaching Greg the concept of caveat emptor. I had no recourse and all the previous available parking passes were now gone. I even went to the extent of calling the UTSA sports marketing department and begging them to sell me a parking pass. I came up emptier than a Scottish pay toilet. All I could do was put up a “parking pass wanted” post on Craigslist and hope for the best. Alas, by the time I got on the road Saturday morning, I was still pass-less and already thinking what a terrible review I was going to give UTSA.
It made for a stressful drive as I was monitoring my phone for parking pass texts. Eventually, I got an offer for two tickets and parking pass for $75. I told the seller I only needed the parking pass, but he wouldn’t bite. At that point, I figured I would rely on the UTSA ticket rep’s guidance that there were other tailgating spots besides the Alamodome lots. As I drove around the dome, it became clear that while there was plenty of private parking lots, no one was tailgating there. One look over at the hopping tailgating scene in the Alamodome lots made it clear that was the place to be. So, I bit the bullet and texted the guy with the package deal in hopes he still had it. Fortunately, he did and ten minutes later I was pulling into the “C” lot ready to eat, drink and be merry.
My move improved considerably from that point on and I was actually able to sell one of the tickets for $10 to recoup some of parking pass cost. Andy also chipped in some extra dough so things were improving. After some food, beer and good game of catch with Andy’s very athletic daughter Freya, we were ready to catch the game. Unfortunately we did miss the national anthem (apologies to Hazel for that) as we searched for the elusive Will Call. While we watched the game, Andy’s son Joe helped me find the Roadrunner mascot, Rowdy on the field. They bolted after the start of the fourth quarter when it looked like Southern Miss had salted the game away. I stayed put and was rewarded with the very exciting, if not slightly disappointing, finish.
In the end, UTSA acquitted itself nicely. The ticket prices are cheap, the venue is much improved, and the tailgating is very strong for a small school (note that lot “B” appeared to be the rowdiest of the three lots). While a very young program, they have already built a nice set of traditions that are both unique and fitting for the University. I can’t say it is a must see stadium, but I would give it a strong recommendation, particularly if your school is ever playing the Roadrunners. Beep-Beep Zip Tang!