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Gameday at A&M – Step 2 of a Texas Two-Step

Aggies deal Halloween treats to fans

The Home of the 12th Man

The Home of the 12th Man

Step 2 – I woke up early Friday morning in Ft. Worth Texas after watching the TCU Horned Frogs dismantle West Virginia the night before.  My plan was to make the trip quick, about three hours down to College Station by early afternoon.  But it started to rain, and it was looking rather ominous to the south.  Shortly thereafter, mother nature unleashed her fury.  Rain and wind pelted the car, and it seemed I was forced to crawl down the interstate.  I finally had to pull over at a rest area and was advised of flooding.  I choose and alternate route, and eventually found the ideal pit stop, a tiny roadside BBQ joint.   Good grub and a chance for the rain to subside, which it finally did.   I had finally reached my destination hotel around 6 p.m.  I was told it was worse for people heading up from Houston.

College Station is a sprawling college town that sits about an hour north of Houston.   This would be the second time to see a game at Kyle Field.   I was there in 2013 to see the final home game of the legendary Johnny Manziel.    I was eager to get back to Kyle Field to see the new addition to the stadium, as well as to see what the student body would have in store for Halloween.

imageI awoke to a cloudy, grey morning and made my way to the stadium.    The early 11 a.m. start time and the gloomy weather, really put a damper on the tailgating scene.   Kyle Field is like a monument in this town.  The renovation enclosed the entire stadium, and capacity was bumped to 102,733.

DANA BIBLE AND THE 12TH MAN

Texas A&M first fielded a football team in 1894, under the direction of head coach F. D. Perkins.   That season ended with a 1-1 record.   Dana Bible was introduced as the head coach in 1919.   Bible came to A&M from LSU.    In his ten-year tenure as coach, he led the Aggies to a 72-19-9 record.   In his first season he led the Aggies to a National Championship.    That squad went undefeated and untied.    They outscored their opponents 275-0.   A truly remarkable accomplishment!    In the 1922 Dixie Classic, Bible made his most visible and lasting impression in his A&M career when he began the Twelfth Man Tradition.    Bible had a roster of only eighteen players, who had to play both offense and defense against the heavily favored Centre College. He lost three players to injuries early in the game, but the Aggies took the lead. Fearing more injuries and a possibility of having to forfeit the game for lack of men, Bible called upon a reserve halfback, E. King Gill, who was in the press box running stats for the team, to suit up and be ready if needed. The Aggies wouldn’t need Gill’s help to win, but since then A&M students stand throughout football games to show their willingness to play if needed.

The 12th Man is Everywhere in College Station

The 12th Man is Everywhere in College Station

R.C. SLOCUM ERA

Slocum was hired to be the head coach in 1988, stepping up from his position as defensive coordinator.    In 14 years as head coach he led the Aggies to a 123-47-2 record, making him the winningest coach in team history.   Slocum’s teams were dominant.     During his career, Slocum never had a losing season and won four conference championships.    He led the Aggies to become the first school in Southwest Conference history, to post three consecutive perfect league seasons and actually went four consecutive seasons without a conference loss. Slocum reached 100 wins faster than any other active coach.    Slocum was named SWC Coach of the Year three times during his tenure as head coach. A&M’s “Wrecking Crew” defense led the Southwest Conference in four statistical categories from 1991 through 1993 and led the nation in total defense in 1991.

Aggie Grads

Aggie Grads

BEAR BRYANT MAKES IMPACT.

In 1954, Bryant was hired away from Kentucky and paid $15,000.    In his first season the Aggies struggled through a 1-9 season.   That season began in the infamous training camp in Junction, Texas.   During the camp, many of the players quit the team.   The survivors of the team were given the nickname “The Junction Boys”.   Two years later, Bryant led the team to the Southwest Conference championship with a 34–21 victory over Texas.   Bryant attempted to integrate the all-white Texas A&M squad. “We’ll be the last football team in the Southwest Conference to integrate,” he was told by a Texas A&M official. “Well,” Bryant replied, “then that’s where we’re going to finish in football.   Bryant, left A&M after the 1957 season to take the head coaching position at Alabama.   

FUN FACTS ABOUT AGGIE FOOTBALL

  • Gene Stallings was hired in 1965 to be the head coach.    Stallings was a member of the infamous “Junction Boys”.
  • Jackie Sherrill was hired in 1982.   He was given a then record sic year contract for $1.7 million.
  • In 1988, Texas A&M was put under probation by the NCAA for a period of two years. Violations included improper employment, extra benefits, unethical conduct and lack of institutional control.
  • The Aggies have won three National Championships.
  • The Aggies have won or shared 18 conference titles.
  • The 1921 game between Texas A&M and Texas was the first ever live, play-by-play broadcast of a college football game.   Play-by-play was relayed by telegraph to a local amateur radio station.
  • Only 6 teams in NCAA history have been placed on probation for rules violations more often than Texas A&M, which has been placed on probation for a total of 9 seasons.
  • The Aggies have two players that have won the Heisman Trophy.   They are running back John David Crow (57) and Johnny Manziel (12).
  • Ten Aggies are in the College Football Hall of Fame,   they include notables, Ray Childress, Jack Pardee, Dave Elmendorf, Gene Stallings and Crow
  • The student section during home games, is widely considered the largest in the nation.   It is estimated that as many as 20,00 students attend each game.
10,000 at Midnight Yell on a rainy Friday night

10,000 at Midnight Yell on a rainy Friday night

AGGIES HEAVY ON TRADITION

One of the things I really enjoy about Texas A&M is the tradition that surrounds the university and football program.   The following are some of the deepest, richest traditions in college football.    I talked about the beginning of the 12th man earlier,.   That is truly the calling card of Aggie football.   However several other traditions are a big part of Aggieland!

THE BONFIRE

The Aggie Bonfire was a long-standing tradition at Texas A&M University as part of a college rivalry with the Texas Longhorns.    For 90 years, Aggie students built and burned a large bonfire on campus each fall. Known within the Aggie community simply as Bonfire, the annual fall event symbolized the students’ “burning desire to beat the hell outta t.u.”The bonfire was traditionally lit around Thanksgiving in conjunction with the festivities surrounding the annual game between the schools.

The first on-campus Aggie Bonfire burned in 1909, and the tradition continued for the next 90 years. For almost two decades, Bonfire was constructed from debris and pieces of wood that Aggies “found,” including lumber intended for a dormitory that students appropriated in 1912. The event became school-sanctioned in 1936, and, for the first time, students were provided with axes, saws, and trucks and pointed towards a grove of dead trees on the edge of town. In the following years the Bonfire became more elaborate, and in 1967 the flames could be seen 25 miles (40 km) away. In 1969, the stack set the world record at 111 feet high.

In 1978, Bonfire shifted to a wedding-cake style, in which upper stacks of logs were wedged on top of lower stacks. The structure was built around a fortified center pole, made from two telephone poles. Although tradition stated that if Bonfire burned through midnight A&M would win the game the next day.  With the introduction of the wedding cake design, Bonfire began to fall very quickly, sometimes burning for only 30 or 45 minutes.

At 2:42 am on November 18, 1999, the partially completed Aggie Bonfire, standing 40 feet (10 m) tall and consisting of about 5000 logs, collapsed during construction.  Of the 58 students and former students working on the stack, 12 were killed and 27 others were injured. On November 25, 1999, the date that Bonfire would have burned, Aggies instead held a vigil and remembrance ceremony. Over 40,000 people, including former president George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara, and then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and his wife Laura,  lit candles and observed up to two hours of silence at the site of the Bonfire collapse. The bonfire memorial was officially dedicated on November 18, 2004.   This tragedy forced the University to eliminate Bonfire on campus, due to insurance liability issues. Since 2002 the bonfire has become a non-university sanctioned event and has burned annually since. Known as Student Bonfire, the off-campus event draws between 8,000 and 15,000 fans. Student Bonfire has many changes strictly for safety purposes.

THE AGGIE BAND

The Fightin’ Texas Aggie band marches in several formations during halftime at Kyle Field. The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band (also known as The Noble Men of Kyle or the Aggie Band) is the official marching band of Texas A&M University. Composed of over 400 men and women from the school’s Corps of Cadets, it is the largest military marching band in the world. The complex straight-line maneuvers, performed exclusively to traditional marches, are so complicated and precise that computer marching simulations say they cannot be performed.

Since its inception in 1894, its members eat together, sleep in the same dormitories, and practice up to forty hours per week, on top of a full academic schedule. The Aggie Band performs at all home football games, some away games, and university and Corps functions throughout the year. Other events in which the band has participated include inauguration parades for several Presidents of the United States and governors of  Texas, major annual parades across the country, and the dedication ceremony for the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.

PRACTICE YELLING

Midnight Yell Practice is a pep rally usually held the night before a football game. If the football game is to be held at Kyle Field, midnight yell takes place the day of the football game at 12:00 am If the football game is an away game, a yell is held on the Thursday night before at the Corps Arches on the Texas A&M campus, and Midnight Yell will be held in the city the game is being played.

MASCOT

Reveille is the official mascot of the Aggies.   Students adopted the first Reveille, a mixed-breed dog in 1931. The cadets raised $100 during World War II to make Reveille a general, as part of a fundraiser for the K-9 Corps.[1]Reveille is the highest-ranking member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.   Eight years after the first Reveille died, a graduate of the university donated a Shetland Sheepdog to be the second official Aggie mascot, Reveille II. The third Reveille was the first to be a purebred Collie.  

South Carolina made its first-ever trip to College Station

South Carolina made its first-ever trip to College Station

THE GAME

Highly touted true freshman quarterback Kyler Murray looked at ease in his first start as Texas A&M’s quarterback with big runs and sharp decisions throwing the ball.   Murray, a dual-threat quarterback ran for 156 yards, and passed for another 233 yards.   The biggest thing that I thought he did was not force the game, and not force things and let the game come to him,” said head coach Kevin Sumlin.   “He guessed a little bit early on some of the quarterback read stuff. Once he settled down and actually started to read things out, he was effective”.

Running back Tra Carson helped ease the transition of the quarterback change by rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown.    With the score deadlocked at 21-21 at the half, the Aggies went to work.   Donovan Wilson picked off an errant Perry Orth pass, and rambled 60 yards for a score, that followed a Murray 1 yard touchdown run.    The 14 point explosion, in just under two minutes, put the game out of reach for the visiting Gamecocks.   The win moved the Aggies to 6-2 on the season, and broke a two-game losing streak.

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