Deep In The Heart of Texas’ DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium

Last weekend, Eyes Of TX had the opportunity to make it back to Austin with contributor BigBopper for the Texas Longhorns / Colorado Buffaloes scruff at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. As always, the gameday atmosphere was hair-raising – albeit cold for Austin in early October – and the stadium continues to put fans like ourselves (and likely opposing teams) in awe week after week.

While the outcome of the game was a Longhorn victory, 38-14, to move the team to 5-0 on the year, there were some highlights and lowlights worth mentioning based on the game experience. From two die-hard Texas fans, here’s the take:

The Atmosphere
If you haven’t been to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin since the various remodels over the last three years, it’s time to make the trek. Capacity is now over 100k, and more than 101,152 fans braved the cold – in their winter jackets and gloves – to take in the CU game.

The North End Zone, named after none other than Austin’s version of a T. Boone Pickens magnate – Mr. Red McCombs – looks fantastic, and adds to the element of crowd noise. On several occasions, the “crowd factor” did cause the Buffs to have several false start penalties – and that’s what it’s all about…creating a home-field advantage.

The Godzillatron continues to be a feat of amazing proportions, although the Dallas Cowboys’ “JerryWorld” in Arlington now takes the cake as the biggest HD TV in Texas. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas. The video introduction for the team during pre-game is spectacular, and the crowd went nuts for any image of former players Vince Young and Ricky Williams. Surprisingly, one ad that played during a timeout – a TV commercial which follows the various roads in downtown Austin and ends on the UT Tower as it is lit all orange, and the voiceover of former Longhorn Walter Cronkite saying “Get your Horns up!” – made the crowd erupt and sent shivers down the spines of all 101k fans. Very cool moment.

Finally, the field turf looks fantastic and fast. Admittedly, Eyes Of TX is a fan of grass – it just seems like that is where the game should be played – but the UT staff did a great job and the players seem to relish it.

Team Performance
All in all, the ‘Horns would have gotten a C+ from a grade school teacher for their performance last Saturday. There were highs and lows, and they came out with the win, but it wasn’t pretty getting there. Is that the testament of a good team – being able to win when they’re not at the top of their game – or a sign of a troubling end to the season? That’s why they play the games. On Saturday, the Texas offense only scored 14 points. That’d be a tie game if not for the defensive effort.

The Texas running game was absolutely horrific against one of the worst run defenses in the entire Big 12 Conference. The ‘Horns – who had the 21st-best rushing offense in the country coming in to the game, believe it or not – were only able to put up a meager 46 yards on the ground. Not only that, but both Vondrell McGee (shoulder) and Tre Newton (mild concussion) were knocked out of the game. Both remain day-to-day for the game this weekend against oklahoma, and Fozzy “Fragile” Whittaker and Cody Johnson are listed as co-starters for the Red River Rivalry game and face a determined and legit ou defensive front seven. While the coaches always say they’re working on the rushing attack, fans have yet to see the results and its becoming an old complaint. Something needs to change: the offensive line needs to get some fire in their bellies to drive off their blocks and control the line of scrimmage, or offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to stop running the zone read when the defense is in the backfield by the time the RBs get the ball in their hands. Is it a coaching problem or a player problem? Can’t Texas find other ways to get their star running backs in the open field – stretch runs, screen passes, something? The zone read is also effective when the QB takes the ball and runs with it from time-to-time. When was the last time Colt McCoy saw the defensive end crashing down and took off the other way? Colt’s legs – a legitimate threat – have gotten lost on the coach’s box floor.

On the contrary, WR Jordan Shipley looks like he could be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. It’s been years – in fact, since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 – since any player other than a quarterback or running back has taken home the trophy. Between his stellar hands, on-field speed, and vision in the kick return game – not to mention a bit of Colt’s favoritism to find him on the field – he could end the season by breaking Kwame Cavil’s single-season record for catches (100) by a Texas wide out. His 11 catches for 147 yards on Saturday were fantastic, and that doesn’t even count his punt return for a TD – his second of the year (and he almost had another, if not for a penalty on his blockers). As for the rest of the wide receivers? Were there any others out on the field last Saturday?

On defense, the ‘Horns continued to dominate. Outside of the Buffs opening 66-yard TD drive, Will Muschamp’s soldiers held CU to just 61 yards the rest of the game – 127 yards total, and the turnovers continued to fall the ‘Horns way, as both Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon had INTs, of which Thomas’ was returned 92 yards for TD.

When they special teams, they do mean special. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s bad. Fans saw a bit of both on Saturday – the defense blocked a punt and had a punt return both for TDs, but they also gave up a blocked FG. They lack consistency from game-to-game, and Justin Tucker’s rugby-style punts were absolutely awful, although the wind was a factor – but, one punt went about 3 yards and in to the stands, which is a feat inandofitself at DKR.

The Texas Family
Here’s a suggestion – get tickets to your next Longhorns game on the 50-yard line, east side, about 7 rows up (which is where we enjoyed the game from) and you’ll have the privilege of sitting amongst all of the Texas athletic recruits, just down from Jordan Shipley’s entourage of family and friends, and within earshot of Colt McCoy’s parents and girlfriend.

It was interesting to see the various Texas recruits attending the game – how much they paid attention to the game, what they had to say to family, friends and teammates attending the game with them, and simply to see who was on hand. Pflugerville Hendrickson running back Kenny Williams (known as “K-Weezy” on his letter jacket) was right in front of us and if the size of his calves are any indication of his speed and ability he’ll be a phenom if he ends up in burnt orange; Shipley’s younger brother and standout high school WR Jaxon was just down the row; and, rumor has it stud LB recruit Jordan Hicks from Ohio was in the house too – he’s teetering on offers from just about every college in the country, with Texas and Ohio State near the top of his list.

Most enjoyable, though, had to be relishing in the excitement that Shipley and McCoy’s families had for each of them when they were successful on the field on Saturday. McCoy’s girlfriend just smiled when she saw him on the Godzillatron (probably thinking, “Yep, that’s my boyfriend!”) and she was in to the game as much as any die-hard fan in the stands, and this blogger is happy to report that Colt’s dad is just a superstitious as I am – changing his gameday apparel to help bring some better luck to the team – as he switched hats at halftime. And, when Shipley returned that punt for TD, his DKR section-sized family went absolutely crazy. It was awesome to share in the excitement with them.

All in all, it was a gameday to remember and one that Eyes Of TX and BigBopper will both never forget. For more on our Texas v. Colorado experience, check out some pictures below. Hook ‘em!

Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium; east side, 50-yard line, 7th row.

Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium; east side, 50-yard line, 7th row.

DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium; looking at the North End Zone against Colorado in 2009. Final score, 38-14 'Horns.

DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium; looking at the North End Zone against Colorado in 2009. Final score, 38-14 'Horns.

Eyes Of TX and BigBopper taking in the Texas v. Colorado game in 2009.

Eyes Of TX and BigBopper taking in the Texas v. Colorado game in 2009.

Post-game, outside the east side of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Post-game, outside the east side of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

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