Alamo Bowl - Game Day
As I trudged through the mud puddles toward the 281 bridge on my way to the Alamo Bowl, I was struck by the number of Iowa fans that had turned out for the game. They seemed much more optimistic than Texas - every time a group of yellow-clad Hawkeyes sauntered by one another, much high-fiving and cheering commenced. I had no idea that Iowa fans traveled so well.
The much larger sea of burnt orange offered nowhere near the level of empathetic excitement that the Iowa fans had brought to San Antonio. If the the Longhorns could not match this level of intensity, I knew it would be a long game. The San-Antonio Express News had provided ready made signs to hold up - one side said "Go Horns!" the Other side said "Go Hawks!" The Iowa folks grabbed these by the handful, while I saw many Horns fans passing them by.
About one-fourth of the stadium was a solid yellow mass of Iowans behind one of the goalposts. The four marching bands in attendance filled up the best seats in the house, while we were stuck in the upper deck along the back wall, at the absolute highest point in the dome. I felt like Greg Davis getting ready to make another inexplicable play call.
The UT defense was listless and allowed two scores in the first eight minutes, which quieted down the crowd very quickly. Drew Tate rocked along for the first quarter before being pulled briefly on a hard takedown.
This was practically a home game for UT, so the crowd provided some wonderful noise shortly afterwards to drown out the umpteenth rendition of "Purple Haze", courtesy of the Hawkeye band.
Aaron Ross's interception in the second quarter caused some fans around us to try their damnedest to get a good wave going, but the east side of the stadium would have none of it. Iowa's touchdown that was wiped out due to a penalty proved to be the momentum changer, and Jamaal Charles's 72 yard touchdown pass vindicated him for a season where he was upset over shared playing time with Selvin Young.
The Horns proved the naysayers wrong by playing a strong second half, finishing the game with a 26-24 win. While not the "Instant Classic" as the Express-News headline breathlessly put it, it was most definitely an exciting game. This was the third bowl game in a row for UT that ended on the last play of the game. As much as I enjoy close games, it would nice to see a complete and utter rout over the opponent one year. A 6-6 Iowa team should have been a pushover for the Horns.
So the Horns close out 2006 with another ten win season, and Colt McCoy taking home the offensive player of the game trophy. As Mack Brown said in the Statesman today:
"This team was really under a lot of pressure," Brown said. "Because a lot of people thought we didn't want to be here.. . . We continued with a legacy of 10 wins. That's really something to get excited about for the fall."
Despite the losses to close out the Horns season, it is easy to get excited for next year. Now, what can Mack's recruiting machine turn up come February?