It’s been a while since I’ve had enough time to enjoy something enough to write about it, but this weekend I happened to make it out to the University of Houston to catch the Bayou Bucket rivalry game between the Cougars and cross-town rivals Rice Owls. The game was in Robertson Stadium on UH’s University Campus, which is also home to the Houston Dynamo of the MLS.
As this was a last second decision, I didn’t really get to try much of the tailgating atmosphere, but it didn’t seem like it was too much of a miss. I took 4 out of my 12 pack of Abita Beer Party Pack (of which I’ll suggest their Amber and Restoration Pale Ale), drove up to the university, and started drinking. We walked through the above pictured fraternity tailgates, which were quite different than any other school I’ve ever been to.
Houston is very much a commuter campus, and there isn’t really any student housing anywhere close to the stadium, much less actual houses owned by students in the immediate area. Cullen and the area around UH is some of the really bad parts of town, with the university acting as a lone bright spot on the freeway.
It seemed like most of the area was filled by party buses and speakers all trying to drown out their neighbors. It was pretty annoying and seemed like more of a headache than it would be worth. We walked through really quickly and moved on to the gate.
It turned out to be a great idea to buy my tickets at the gate rather than online. The guy at the ticket booth charged my friends and I all the student price without showing any ideas, so we all got tickets for $10 instead of the ~$25 it would had been otherwise. It was a great deal.
After we got inside, I was really unimpressed by the inner workings of the stadium. The building is obviously old and the concession stands weren’t much more than wood frame boxes up against the wall. Before I walk even 5 feet into the stadium, I notice something glorious, they sell beer and margaritas in the stadium. Oh glory day.
After grabbing a couple beers, I made it to the first seating entrance I could for pictures. The stadium is obviously very small, with record capacity of just over 32,100, but it has a very cool look to it. The stadium is divided into four stands, two going along the sideline and two sets of bleacher seating in each endzone. A pair of palm trees are situated in each corner separating each set of stands.
The Cougar Band was pretty weak on the field. Between the pregame and half time shows, they never did anything but march up and down the field, no movement. What they lacked with on field prowess was made up for in the stands. The piped in RAWK MUSIK was cut as soon as the teams lined up for the opening kickoff. From that point on, it was the band playing (along with a siren for scores and a Penn State-like cougar roar). The band also played the Hokey-Pokey, which was awesome.
On a band related note, Rice’s approximately 40 band members made the trip across town and marched during half time. They did youtube memes, but nearly all of the jokes were the PA voice and not songs played. They did Numa Numa and Keyboard Cat, but that was about it.
There weren’t a whole lot of particularly special traditions at UH games. The team enters the field in a cloud of smoke (and promptly left the Owls alleged defense in just as much of a haze), and there’s plenty of cougar claws (or shockers) flying around.
On kickoffs, the stands beat as people stomp in a slow clap-like build up with the cougar claws swaying back and forth as the fans stomp. On first downs, the fans point with the cougar claw, when the school song is played, the cougar claw points to the sky, and when a guy bangs his girl in the restroom, there’s a cougar claw for that, too (I didn’t see it, but I wouldn’t doubt it).
The crowd at the game was packed and loud. While it didn’t match the sound levels of Michigan, that was only due to the lack of population. If you had 100,000 cougar fans, they’d be insanely loud. And they’d stay loud, even on 3rd downs in the 3rd quarter when they lead by over 50 points. I was really impressed with their dedication. Most teams I’ve seen play would have a nearly empty house when your team leads 52-0 at the half. The Cougars stayed and cheered on the team.
As for the game, there wasn’t much to say. Houston returned the opening kick for a touchdown (top two pictures below), forced a 3 and out, scored on the next drive that took just over a minute, then scored again on a pick-6 on Rice’s next series. It was that kind of a route.
They scored on this drive. They scored on every drive…
Case Keenum looked pretty good, but I think he might have had an off night despite the results. He didn’t play in the second half that I noticed, but I stopped really focusing in the 3rd quarter when I figured out that I couldn’t SuperSim to the end of the game. It was like watching a video game being played live. It just got boring after a certain point.
It really got annoying after scores as well. The Cougars have a buzzer/siren that goes off after each score followed by the fans counting the points. It was cute in the first quarter, but by the time we were counting into the 60s, it just became a pain in the ass.
I ended up leaving at the end of the 3rd quarter. Rice scored 14 points in the 3rd, but that was all against UH’s backups.
One side note to the whole game was the half time honors bestowed upon Houston’s 1989 team. That year was a huge one for Houston as Andre Ware won the Heisman and UH toppled a highly ranked Texas Longhorn team. Ware, who flew in after calling a game on ESPN earlier in the day, had his Heisman on the field with him, and the entire team rallied on the field with honorary captain for the game, and UH alum Jim Nance of CBS Sports. It was really cool as Andre talked about his team, his school, and his hopes to see Keenum in New York for this year’s Heisman Award Ceremony. All really cool.
On the whole, I feel like the game reinforced the notion of Cougar High for me. Many local sports fans call UH “Cougar High” due to it’s very high school football feel and large number of local high school students who go there. This was one of the few stadiums that I’ve seen with dance drill teams that you see in high school, a stadium of less than half the size of most college stadiums, and a high school style band (doesn’t march well and plays a lot of “southern rhythm” between plays). It wasn’t a bad thing, it just had a somewhat high school feel to it. That and there were a TON of kids at the game.
Still, it was a fun time, and definitely worth the cost, even if it was $20.
Oh, and Dick Post: