|Trip Dates||10/22/2021 – 10/24/2021|
|School||Texas A&M University|
|Visiting Team||South Carolina Gamecocks
Pre-game Record: 4-3
|Home Team||#17 Texas A&M Aggies
Pre-game Record: 5-2
|Game Time (ET)||7:30 PM Eastern / 6:30 PM Local|
|Weather||75 & Sunny|
|Attendees||Jarrett & Al|
|Jarrett’s Pick||Texas A&M Aggies
(35 and 18 record)
|Al’s Pick||Texas A&M Aggies
(29 and 24 record)
|Length of Game||3:08|
|Seat Location||10 Yard Line, Row 23|
|Photo Album||Click here for the Texas A&M Photo Album|
Ever since our visit to Baton Rouge in 2014, a visit to College Station became a top priority for the folks at Quest HQ. I should refer you to the trip report for Game #25 which was Ole Miss at LSU, but I will simply state that LSU was the loudest environment we had been to, but we were told, by a few people, that Texas A&M was even louder. Since then, the mandate has been, get to Texas A&M as soon as possible. It has taken us 7 years and cost numerous people at Quest HQ their jobs, but that trip has finally arrived.
It was our usual early flight on Friday morning, this time a 7am flight from LaGuardia to Houston. Today it was from the Delta terminal which appears to be half complete with the new upgrades. We departed from the new D gates, so it was quite nice with a few decent food options. The flight to Houston was uneventful which is always a good thing. We arrived and picked up the rental car all without incident. Then hit the road for the 90 minute drive to College Station or is it Bryan College Station?
Here is where the travel gets a bit dicey and if your favorite questers end up in a Texas jail cell in a few weeks, this will be why. As an aside, I have begun to travel with my NY E-ZPass tag because it is now being accepted in more states (including Florida) and can avoid the unnecessary rental car fees for using their toll tags. But in states where E-ZPass is not accepted, the rental car tag will have to suffice. Now back to Texas. At some point on this drive, I read the decal and logos and saw that E-ZPass was listed, but then realized the plates were Florida plates. So the toll tags on this car are probably Florida tags. Normally that would mean just drive through the tolls and the rental car company will get a bill and then they will pass that along with a surcharge. However, the roads we were on in Texas said EZTAG only; some said pay by mail was not accepted and some even said violators will be prosecuted. Al searched online and could not find what this means in a rental vehicle. But I guess we are going to find out. I tried to log in online, because I know in some states you can do this after the fact when you missed a toll, but the website says if you were in a rental vehicle to contact your rental car company. I guess this will all sort itself out, or it won’t. They really should be more clear about this. We tried to do the right thing, but they really made it hard. Some Texas ranger is going to get a trip to NY out of this to escort us to a Texas supermax facility. Or not. I have no idea. I lack the mens rea to commit this crime, that used to mean something.
The last thing I will say about the drive and I am sure I have said this before, Texas has a lot of flat land.
Texas A&M Campus
We arrived on the Texas A&M campus and hit lunch and the bookstore. But before we get there, I must comment on the parking garage. Yes, I said it, the parking garage. Real time update of the number of parking spots available and the location in the garage of those spots with arrows. And if that is not enough, there are red and green lights above each space so you can see if that space is open as you are driving up and down the aisles. This was the most high tech garage I have seen. Updated in real time. Very nice. This is either very smart, or Texas knows its’ “clientele”.
Anyway, Al and I did our usual damage in the school bookstore. I even bought myself an Al shirt on this trip. Some of you (hi Beth) might even know what this means. But there are clearly different types of t-shirts and Al gravitates towards one kind and I typically towards another. But this trip I went in a different direction. The term “Al Shirt” has copyright and patent implications.
After lunch and shopping it was a typical Starbucks stop before heading out for a tour of Kyle Field. Someday @starbucks will realize they should sponsor us.
Kyle Field Tour
We met up with Megan who would be our tour guide of Kyle Field. The first stop was the upper deck. We were on the lower landing level of the upper deck and I will say that it was high. And there was still the entire upper deck to climb if your seats were in that level. It was also steep. But an excellent view of the field. In my opinion, a better view than down low as you get a much better perspective and can see more. But that’s just my opinion.
Next stop was to walk down the tunnel that the Aggies run out onto the field from. And a good view of the light system in the tunnel put into place by Jimbo Fisher when he arrived at Texas A&M. Then onto the field, which was quite imposing even without the 102,000 fans that would be in place tomorrow and at all home games.
The last stop was the Hall of Champions. On display in the Hall is the 1939 National Championship Trophy along with varsity sport recognition and a hall of fame.
We then had a chance to briefly catch up with Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork who longtime quest followers will recall we first met way back in 2011 when he was the AD at Western Kentucky. We’ve all come so far.
And with that, our tour of Kyle Field came to an end. We thank Megan and the staff at Texas A&M for showing us around.
Texas A&M Campus Redux
We then had a chance to walk the campus a bit more. Texas A&M is a very nice campus and quite flat. And for those of you wondering, it does have a clock tower, and no Al did not climb it but not for lack of trying. But I will say that his attempts are getting much weaker with age. I mean c’mon, we are already going to a Texas prison, what’s another charge added on. Al emphasizes that “You are going to prison, I was an accessory.”
Given the early wake up, we headed to the hotel to check in and get a bit of rest given the fact that we were headed for a late night. Us writers call that foreshadowing. Al calls that normal bedtime.
After some difficulty, we managed to get a reservation at The Republic, a College Station steakhouse that was highly recommended. There were no tables to be had, but while lounging around the hotel, one reservation did open up on Open Table, so I grabbed it. It was a good move.
This was one of the better meals of the Quest (see the rankings page). I am glad that I have split our rankings page into steakhouses and non-steakhouses, as I am sure The Reserve will find itself on the Steakhouse rankings page. And since I do half the rankings, I am confident in that assertion at least as I write this.
I started with the Char-Grilled Oysters which were served with chimichurri bacon butter. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. The flavor of the oysters came through and was thoroughly enhanced by the chimichurri bacon butter. Absolutely fantastic! Al had the lobster bisque special, it was delightful.
Next, was a bone in ribeye which is my go to steak. I had it served au poivre style which was done a bit differently at The Republic. Instead of it being a sauce, the steak was rolled in crushed peppercorns. It became clear why this was done, as all the steaks were served with four house made sauces. The steak was cooked perfectly, rare, and melted in your mouth. Al is boring and always gets the filet medium rare…also delicious.
On the side, we had creamed spinach along with bacon and onion gold potatoes. Both were excellent and more than sufficient for two people.
There was no room for dessert. But this was truly a fabulous meal. I would have been disappointed if a place in Texas did not do steak right, but I can be a very tough critic especially when it comes to steak, so it was very pleasing to see this done very well. My only note would be to step up your bread game. A place that does everything else so well, deserves a better house bread. The waiter was very good as well, it was good service once at the table.
After dinner, we headed back to Kyle Field for Midnight Yell. If you have not heard of Midnight Yell at Texas A&M, I suggest you google it. At a school that is rich with tradition, this might be the king of traditions. Texas A&M does not have cheerleaders, they have Yell Leaders. The night before each game the yell leaders lead the band and crowd in various yells, The Aggie War Hymn, and other antics mocking the weekly opponent to hype the crowd for the game the following day. This is regularly attended by over 25,000 people.
I will say that on this night, I doubt there were 25,000 people, but the crowd did stretch well into the second deck. And I will note that many, many schools can’t get this many people to a game, let alone a midnight yell practice that lasts all of 30 minutes. This is impressive. And did I mention that midnight yells do in fact take place at midnight. Not 11:50 or 10:00, but midnight on the dot.
Texas A&M is clearly a school of tradition. This is something to be taken seriously and honored. The rituals and honors are something to be seen. It is a sight.
As for the midnight yell itself, it is funny to see. I can’t say I understood everything that was said or sung, but it did not matter. The crowd had fun, the yell leaders had fun, and we had fun. I do not know that we have seen anything like this anywhere else. If you are a college football fan, this is something you should experience.
George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
Saturday morning came and after yet another stop at yet another Starbucks, we headed out for the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. Long time Quest followers will note that we have a fondness for state capitols and presidential libraries. I think this is our third or fourth presidential library. This might be more of my thing than Al’s, but he is a good sport about it.
The Bush Presidential Library was quite interesting. It was odd to be in a Presidential Library depicting events that we actually lived through. Of course that was the case for the other Bush library, but what was interesting here was that so recently after Colin Powell’s death, some events in this library have been particularly newsworthy.
After touring the library, you have the opportunity to visit the grave site of President Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, and their infant daughter who died of leukemia at four years old. The grounds were quite nice and serene. I still do not know what President Bush’s ties to College Station were, but this is his final resting place and the spot for his library.
After the library, we headed to downtown Bryan for lunch. Lunch was at All The King’s Men BBQ. It was a very good BBQ spot right in the heart of downtown Bryan. The pulled pork was a tad salty but otherwise very good. I opted for a plate of pulled pork, brisket, and mac and cheese. Al went with the pulled pork sandwich and potato salad. After watching Kansas almost upset Oklahoma and a terrible lack of forward progress being stopped call, we headed out to wander downtown Bryan.
Bryan is one of those old timey downtowns; very walkable, lots of storefronts, makes you feel like you have stepped back in time, and old fashioned soda shops. The only downside seems to be the low occupancy rate. We stopped into an old fashioned general store, but the ice cream machine was not working so ice cream was not available.
With a bit of time before we could get into the stadium, we decided to tailgate at the World of Beer. Yes Jody, they have beer. Al traveled all the way to College Station to end up at the World of Beer, which has an extensive beer list, to have a beer from, wait for it, New York. Nice! I opted for a local Texas beer. We killed some time and then headed out for Kyle Field.
Actually, we did not head for Kyle Field, but for Lot 37/49. Early Saturday morning when looking up where we could park, I discovered that you needed a prepaid parking permit, which it turned out did not appear to be the case in reality. So, after much debate on which lot we should reserve, we settled on Lot 37/49. So that is where we headed.
As an aside to parkmobile and Texas A&M University, it is not an epermit if you have to print it out. I purchased the parking permit on my phone and fully intended to just show my phone at the lot. But all indications on the permit were that you needed a hard copy. This is odd given the move by the University to be all digital in its ticketing. But this set off a scramble at the hotel to print the permit. And when we arrived at the lot, it appeared as if a digital copy would have been fine. Some more clarity on this entire process would be helpful. And again, don’t call it an epermit, if you need a hard copy!
So we then had about a mile walk to Kyle Field, in which I learned that Al has an irrational fear of walking alongside an active railroad track.
After a brief pit stop at the student union for use of the facilities, we arrived in time to see the Corps of Cadets, including the band and Reveille, march along Houston Street and into the Stadium. We followed along and entered Kyle Field.
Pre game notes:
- The Corps of Cadets including the cavalry is quite something to see
- The traditions at Texas A&M rival any school and might be second only to the service academies (so I guess that makes it actually fourth but shut up)
- Carrying the shovels behind the cavalry might be the worst job out there
- For the life of me, I do not understand why every school does not enter the field to an intro/hype video like almost every school in the SEC
- I am most definitely a dog person…more than a people person. Did I say that aloud?
The final score was 44-14 and it was 44-0 at one point. So a game recap is not necessary. This was a rout. Total yards 477 to 185 and South Carolina had 16 yards in the 1H and a -1 in the 3Q. I am also fairly certain that South Carolina did not have a single first down in the 2Q and 3Q and only 2 in the 1Q. Halftime score was 31-0. Texas A&M scored a TD on South Carolina’s first punt. That would be the game right there. Not much more needs to be said.
I will focus this space on the half time band. Yup, you read that right. The performance by the Texas A&M band was something to see and I do not say that lightly because I am not a band guy. The maneuvers they performed were exceptional and required the precision that only a military operation could perform. Words can not do this justice and I wished I filmed it but who films a half time band. Wait, I think Al did. And the crowd was into it. Noone left their seats. Everyone stayed to watch the band. I could not figure out why, until I witnessed it. Kudos.
I suggest you stop by and see this. In fact, if you are into the traditions and pageantry of college football, Texas A&M could possibly be the mecca. It is too bad we were not there for a premiere game as I would have liked to test out the volume of the crowd. We heard this was one of the loudest venues in college football. That was not our experience. But that was because of the opponent. That is the downside of this quest sometimes. It is all in the game we picked and some of that is random. We did not expect South Carolina to be this bad. We thought Texas A&M would be good, but thought this would be a better game. Unfortunately, we will not get another chance to hear this crowd at its peak, but hopefully we got enough of everything else. For those college football fans looking for a must stop, Texas A&M is on that list.
Post game food was necessary. Unfortunately not much was open by our hotel. We ended up at DoubleDave’s Pizzaworks close to closing time. It was ok. It certainly did the job at 11pm in post game mode but was nothing exceptional.
Sunday morning we head out to campus to get our usual sign picture. We really need to do a better job of remembering to get this on Friday or Saturday. But at least Texas A&M has good signs for us to use.
Then we head off back to Houston and the confusing violations of the toll roads back to the airport. The rental car return is uneventful because in this Covid world, rental car agencies have stopped having a live person there to process the return. So you just leave the car and keys and hope they process the return at some point.
We killed some time at a Mexican restaurant watching some dreadful NFL games and had an uneventful trip back to LaGuardia.
And with that, trip #54 is in the books.
South Carolina finished 6-6, 3-5 in the SEC East which was good enough for a tie for fourth place. The Gamecocks earned a Duke’s Mayo Bowl berth where they beat North Carolina 38-21.
Texas A&M finished the year 8-4, 4-4 in the SEC West, but was the only team to beat Alabama in the regular season and Jimbo Fisher became the first Saban assistant to beat Nick Saban. The Aggies earned a Gator Bowl berth but were unable to participate, pulling out of the bowl a full week in advance of the game.
For our Texas A&M photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.