So after about eight hours en route to Houston and after taking in an Astros game downtown, I had enough time to grab a quick bite and head to my first ever US college football game. This was something I wanted to experience, not just because I’m a football fan, but because I’ve always thought that it would be a unique slice of American culture. So, in Texas where football is a religion like hockey is in Canada, I walked into the stadium at the University of Houston for a Saturday night game between the hometown Cougars and Texas State on a perfect night for football:
From inside the beautiful stadium I could still smell the tailgating barbecues outside and wished I had cozied up to a group out there for a feast before going through the gates. With about an hour before kickoff, I picked up a cold craft beer and made my way around the stadium. I stood for a moment behind where the University of Houston band would later take up their place to watch the QBs work on their footwork with their coaches:
On the other side of the stadium was the Texas State band who spent most of the pregame practicing. I loved that throughout the game one band or the other would be playing their hearts out over the crowd noise.
There was a great cross section of fans – students from both schools and a whole lot of alumni from UH. Having attended a few Canadian universities and now having worked at one for five years, it was remarkable to see the spirit and connection to their university that these folks had. Not that we don’t have school spirit in Canada, but I’ve never seen or felt anything quite like what I experienced at this football game.
No surprise that the craziest fans in the place were sitting in the student section behind one of the end zones. These folks arrived super early, well lubricated, and ready to cheer on their team all night long. This mass of humanity was dancing and singing most of the night even well before most others had made their way inside:
Having done a walk around the very beautiful stadium, I made my way up to the second level to find my seat. I was pretty happy with what $27 got me – a seat on the 35 yard line. I don’t think $27 even got me a beer and and a barbecue sandwich the next day when I took in an NFL game.
The UH marching band took to the field before the opening kick for a few numbers. They sounded great, but clearly, weren’t enough of a draw to bring people in from their tailgating yet. The stadium which holds about 40,000 would fill up quite well once the first quarter was about half done which is a testament to just how good that tailgating barbecue must have been.
The game was a complete blast to watch as both teams drove the ball up and down the field. On the first UH possession, the Cougars lined up at midfield and on this play broke a big run off tackle to the left:
A few moments later, here’s the crowd reaction to a 32 yard touchdown pass that put UH up 7-0. After a score, they ring a bell for each point scored so far in the game and the mascot has to do a push up for each ring of the bell. By the end of the game, I think I actually could see where the mascot’s biceps had grown from all the pushups.
It was a great game to watch if you love offence. UH ended up piling up 689 yards offence (which is pretty insane) while Texas State put up over 400 yards themselves. UH won 59-14 which sent everyone home very, very happy, and sent this one Canadian back to his hotel feeling like he had a real Texas cultural experience.