Facebook Twitter

A&M stadium roars to life on game day

CBS.SportsLine votes it the most daunting place to play

SHARE A&M stadium roars to life on game day
Texas A\\\\&M fans fill the first tier of stands during the Maroon and White scrimmage last spring at College Station, Texas.

Texas A\\\\&M fans fill the first tier of stands during the Maroon and White scrimmage last spring at College Station, Texas.

Butch Ireland, Associated Press

Over the years, Utah's football team has played reasonably well at places like Oregon, considered one of the louder college stadiums in the country, and Michigan's Big House, largest of on-campus stadiums.

Saturday night at 6 MDT, the Utes get their first-ever look at a place that could be the equivalent of Michigan and Oregon put together.

Texas A&M's heritage-laden, 82,600-capacity Kyle Field has been termed the most daunting place to play in America, a place where the home team has won 87 percent of its games over the last 18 years.

It was named the No. 1 stadium in the country this summer by Dan Dodd of CBS.SportsLine.com, who ranked the top 25 places to play for their atmosphere, tradition, history, architecture and fans. He gave A&M 48 out of 50 possible points. Notre Dame ranked second with 47 points, and Tennessee was third with 46.

After attending midnight yell practice the night before by the tens of thousands (only 15,000 show up the night before the spring game, but some 40,000 come during the regular season), Aggie fans stand for the entire game and sway so much the pressbox rocks.

They have their own peculiar favorite calls, such as "gig-em," and the students have a proper stance for making their shouts heard — bending over with hands resting just above the knees. It's called "humping," and it is considered the way to make the loudest shouts.

Former mascots (collies known as "Reville" who hold the rank of five-star general over the corps of ROTC cadets) are all buried within sight of Kyle Field, and cadets are often stationed near their graves with radios on game day so that the deceased can keep up with the action.

And Dodd forgot to mention in his survey the sweltering heat and humidity that usually accompany early Aggie home games and make teams from dryland states like Utah sweat just thinking about it.

Utah tailback Brandon Warfield, who's from Crockett, Texas, some 90 minutes away from College Station, got the first start of his NCAA career in the intimidating atmosphere of Michigan Stadium last year in front of a crowd of 109,734.

He said that experience makes him more comfortable now. "It really didn't affect me at all.

"That's why I know I can get through this game and deal with it because the Michigan crowd is way bigger than an A&M crowd, so it won't be a big deal for me. The crowd didn't even get to me in Michigan, so I don't think it will get to me this time," said Utah's top rusher for the past nine games.

In his debut as a starter at Michigan, Warfield gained just 18 yards on 10 carries, but that was 5 net yards more than the whole Ute team totaled. Warfield went on to make the All-Mountain West second team.

He is the co-MWC offensive player of the week for starting his senior season with 173 yards against those other Aggies, the ones from Logan, last Thursday.

"I feel confident about it," said Ute starting quarterback Brett Elliott, who did not play at Oregon or Michigan but was on the field last year and grew up near Portland watching Ducks games. "We've been there, done that."

The Texas Aggies, like the Utes, are 1-0 this season. They won 26-11 over visiting Arkansas State last week before a home-opener stadium-record crowd of 75,804 that turned out to see the dawn of the Dennis Franchione coaching era. A&M this week is ranked 30th by the coaches' poll and 33rd on the AP media poll.

It does not seem to matter that A&M has disappointed its fans the last few years, 21-15 over the last three. The tradition and frenzy overcome all that for a school that sells No. 12 football jerseys that signify not a player but those who stand in the stands — known collectively as the 12th man and respond to "yell" leaders rather than "cheer" leaders.

Warfield guesses maybe 1,000 fans from Crockett will be there to yell for him and fellow Texan and former Kilgore College teammate Thomas Herrion of Fort Worth. Herrion is Utah's starting left guard.

"I'm ready for this game," Warfield said, adding he almost wished it was over early this week as he scrambled to get enough tickets to fill the requests he'd received.

Both Utes have had some experience with A&M. "I was watching on TV and seeing the environment and how they get involved and get pumped up," said Warfield, who briefly thought of being an Aggie but grew more toward Texas as he got older. "Those were things that I think one day I wanted to play in, but as I grew up, I didn't want to play for A&M anymore. Gig-em don't mean nothing to me," he said.

Herrion visited Kyle Field when he was about 10 with a Boys & Girls Club group. He hadn't yet played much football because his mother wouldn't let him, but by then, he was starting to realize it would be a game for him. "I remember some way-out crazy people going on around the joint. I was like, 'Wow.' I couldn't wait to play college football.

"It was something that I like to do. I like to be associated with some of that type of atmosphere," said Herrion, who found some last Thursday with the nearly full and boisterous student section at the Utah-Utah State game in Rice-Eccles Stadium. He hopes the Utes can build on that tradition.

Warfield and Herrion say they'll be ready for the heat and humidity of their home state and hope teammates will be able to adjust.

Coach Urban Meyer said the Utes really began preparing for Saturday with their summer workout regimen that has returnees and some newcomers in excellent physical shape. The training staff warned the team to stay away from caffeine and beer all week and to begin taking electrolytes and fluids by mid-week. Also, there will be top-brand misters on the sidelines and ice towels to help with the expected heat. To prepare for the noise, the Utes have been practicing to blaring music — "I can't stand it," said Meyer — and screaming coaches.

Meyer has played against A&M only once in his career, as a graduate assistant with Ohio State in the 1987 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, but he's aware of Kyle Field's "great pageantry" and said his friend and former Notre Dame boss Bob Davie calls it "the most difficult arena to play in."

E-mail: lham@desnews.com