Sept. 6, 2009
Natalie England, Texas Media Relations
ULM linebacker Josh Thomas remembers playing in special college football environments before. Kansas wasn’t too bad, he recalls, and Alabama is always an experience.
But nothing prepared the Warhawks for what they absorbed on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, where a near-capacity crowd of 101,096 became the largest to ever watch a football game in the state of Texas.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our young men,” ULM head coach Charlie Weatherbie said. “What a great atmosphere to get to play college football.”
It marked the second-largest crowd that ULM has ever played before, but it’s becoming the norm for the Longhorns. With a traditional burnt-orange swath always raising the decibels, UT has come to enjoy a distinct home-field advantage.
The Longhorns have gone 35-4 at home since 2003, and that winning percentage ranks fifth nationally. Under head coach Mack Brown, UT has outscored its opponent by an average of 43-16 on Joe Jamail Field.
Weatherbie thinks there’s a definite reason why.
“It’s a great crowd,” he said. “I thought they did a great job making noise, and doing the things they needed to do to be the 12th person.”
While the back-and-forth chanting of “Texas Fight” and game-ending stadium serenade of “The Eyes of Texas” are traditional game day mainstays, some new traditions have been introduced for the 2009 season that add to the flavor.
For instance, the Longhorns Band creates a rally line and plays as the Longhorns return to the field to start the second half, and the glowing orange Tower is immediately displayed on the stadium’s video board after victories.
On Saturday, that visual provided a poignant conclusion to the Longhorns’ 59-20 season-opening triumph, but the electricity also provided something poignant for the Warhawks.
“It’s what you come to college for. It’s why you sign those letters of intent,” ULM running back Frank Goodin said. “It’s an experience of a lifetime.”