UTSA’s inaugural football game was nothing short of spectacular. After years of hard work and a solid year of publicity build-up, the University delivered a game day that fans will be talking about for decades.
The pre-game activities were as big as anything I’ve seen in Austin, even though we Roadrunners are a bit inexperienced with hard-core tailgating. Our crazy campus geography, with the main campus, downtown campus, and Alamodome (VERY close to UTSA’s Institute for Texas Cultures) would seem to be a recipe for commuting disaster. Instead, with support from VIA’s ruthlessly efficient bus service, we have three areas for pregame festivities, and we used them all. Tip to Downtown Campus organizers: more water!
Pre-game at the Dome did not disappoint. While thousands rocked out to live music and goofy games in the Rowdy Zone outdoors, we headed inside to check out the venue. The Alamodome is The Bomb for a college game. I’ve broiled at dozens of UT games, crammed into concrete bleachers with nothing but a hat and a cheap cushion. Here in the River City, it’s a reserved seat–with arms and a back–in a balmy 72° of air-conditioned bliss. Plus easy access–wide and short aisles–to restrooms and concessions. Heck, the BEER GUY–yes, beer at a college game, with appropriate ID–was practically a fixture in our section. Getting out after the game should have been a gridlocked mob scene, but it wasn’t. Just a nice steady walk–with FREE HEB promo drinks–down to the bus stop, and on our way.
UTSA marching band, dancers and cheerleaders pulled out all the stops. Who knew about the band? The shiny new “Spirit of San Antonio”(how’s that for an in-your-face name, Texas colleges?), some 160+ strong, marched onto the field in classic orange, blue, and cream uniforms every bit as corny as the Longhorn Band, but with a more classic look that won’t become campy or dated. My first thought was “old-time Mexican Army” and then I realized that it’s a perfect look for San Antonio. Nice crisp marching, solid playing–although “China Grove” was a bit of a reach–and when they get their wind we might be able to hear them a bit better in the cavernous dome.
Dance Team was looking good in midnight blue sequins, and did a great halftime routine. Cheerleaders! Cheerleaders came out in some seriously athletic outfits and dazzled the student end zone with some heart-stopping aerials and gymnastics. A faculty colleague in our group–who heretofore considered cheerleading a frivolous activity–converted to a fan on the spot; she’ll come to future games just to watch the cheerleaders!
The game? The Game. Many of us Roadrunners were worried, with a brand-new, very inexperienced team going up against the NE State Riverhawks, who had notched a 43-0 victory the previous week. Forget that. A year of hard training paid off with a first quarter that looked like a highlight reel, with UTSA scoring 21 points in 3 possessions. Quarterback Eric Soza’s run for the first-ever UTSA touchdown, got the house up and screaming, and guaranteed him lifetime bragging rights (and free drinks) anywhere in San Antonio.
Both offense and defense played ferociously; if a Roadrunner defender could even touch the ball carrier, that guy went DOWN–none of that sad crap where the defense almost grabs the guy, and allows 10 or 20 yards. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when Coach Coker decided to start blooding the bench, that NE State made any yardage at all. Had they played their third quarter as aggressively as their fourth, they might have scored more than a single field goal.
The fans were delightful. Just to look at them, you would have thought that big-time college football had been in San Antonio for decades. The student section was a sea of Roadrunner Orange (nothing “burnt” here), with every kind of wacky outfit, facepaint, bodypaint, noisemaker, and homemade sign you’d see on a nationally televised game. Better yet, the fans were well-behaved and downright nice. After four years of Longhorn football, I’ve been very discouraged with Texas fans. In Austin, far too many fans are rude, drunken, foul-mouthed louts who act out before, during, and after the game. In fact, I didn’t know how nice fans could be until I attended the LSU-Southern U. Bayou Classic a few years back; those are some happy, fun-loving, and downright sweet folks. Roadrunner fans turn out to be a class act. Oh, they melodramatically booed the Riverhawks when they came on the field, but there was no cursing or rude catcalls, and calls from the officials were greeted with cheers or sighs, not streams of drunken invective. Let’s hope we’ve set a standard and started a tradition for Roadrunner fan behavior.
After the game could have been a traffic nightmare, but again VIA dazzled us with some efficient bus service. The ride from the Alamodome to the Downtown campus had its crazy moments: the driver nearly took the exit to the 1604 campus (add a half-hour to the trip) and then had to circle a big block to navigate traffic at our destination. But heck, it was 102° outside and we were on an air-conditioned bus, so what’s an extra block? A short drive around the same block got our group to Pico de Gallo for dinner, just ahead of the crowd. I suspect downtown restaurants were flooded with fans, and there’ll be some great post-game specials in the future. Two margaritas later, it was time to head home and collapse after a great day of football.