The Bullet Points
- If you’re surprised that Nevada didn’t completely embarrass themselves on Saturday — even playing the part of a major spoilsport for one tantalizing moment in the fourth quarter — you aren’t alone. And seriously, how great was that kick recovery? The Pack’s first visit to SEC country is now in the books, and the worst-case scenarios of yours truly and many others never fully materialized. Florida State 2: Boat Race Boogaloo this was not. While never possessing an edge in talent, game planning, play calling or a host of other factors, the Pack nevertheless stayed within shouting distance of Texas A&M for most of an oppressively hot Saturday morning and afternoon. Indeed, the good guys connected on a few solid blows of their own (one courtesy of Hasaan Henderson's Impossible Hands), and made some new fans among the people I spoke with after the game. Even my preseason score prediction of 48-27 Aggies turned out to be pretty damn close. And although there were precious few possible ways Nevada could’ve escaped College Station with a win, the team put itself in position to change the course of the game several times. Players and coaches were genuinely frustrated at their inability to capitalize on some of the openings the Aggies presented them, and it wasn’t just naive optimism. In a parallel universe where Nevada’s offensive line was bigger and more experienced, and its quarterback play something closer to truly elite, they may well have won.
- Shifting away from the field, pretty much everything you’ve heard about the Texas A&M game day experience is true:
- Even when not as well-attended as other weeks, Midnight Yell Practice is must-see spectacle. It’s part pep rally, part comedy roast of that week’s opponent with 30,000+ in attendance (just temper your expectations a little on the comedy part).
- The scene around the stadium on game day is massive, with RVs and pop-up tents filling up every feasible space of an already sprawling campus. If Mackay Stadium’s tailgate scene is a solar system, Kyle Field’s is a galaxy.
- We tailgated at the spot reserved by Silver and Blue Outfitters on Simpson Drill Field. The nearby Albritton Tower continually chimed all manner of Aggie songs from 8:30 in the morning to the moment we departed for the stadium. Extremely pleasant.
- Speaking of the stadium, the new Kyle Field defies conventional attempts to describe it, with the closest I can come to achieving it simply repeating the word “obscene.” Everything was brick and glass and concrete and steel and beveled lettering and the aforementioned crickets and more money than is healthy to think about. Really, there was only one knock I can think of: no chicken-fried hot dogs anywhere in the south end zone. My arteries breathe a sigh of relief, but my inner fat kid demands an explanation for this treachery!
- The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is one of the two best college marching bands I’ve seen perform live, the other being that of Grambling State. The Tigers arrange infectious renditions of pop, R&B, soul, rap and hip-hop, and dance with unrestrained enthusiasm. The Aggies, by contrast, are entirely restrained, and march with (of course) military precision to much older standards in complex formations that demand perfect execution. They’re completely different — but somehow equally impressive — bands to watch.
- The fans are frequently gregarious and welcoming, usually eager to answer questions and explain a tradition or twelve that will inevitably perplex an outsider. It’s no exaggeration to say my Dad and I were not heckled once the entire weekend. My one regret of the trip was not going out to Northgate before Midnight Yell (blame a long day of traveling and Houston’s my-life-just-flashed-before-my-eyes rush hour traffic for that). Within hours of posting a link to my previous column on a Texas A&M message board, my Dad and I were invited to an Aggie family’s tailgate and given an extensive, multi-page rundown of what to see and expect on game day. The gentleman who reached out to me and sent me all of that later modestly claimed he was “pressed for time.” Where else would this ever conceivably happen but an SEC college town?
- The entire experience is wholly unique, and literally unlike anything else you will ever see. Before the trip, I envied Kyle Field and the money required to completely renovate it while shaking my head at the relative mole hills Nevada presently struggles to climb. After the trip, I envy the institutionalized, rigidly upheld positive game day culture that only gets stronger with each generation it’s passed down to. It’s that framework of tradition — much more so than seat licenses or private donations — that enabled Kyle Field to be torn down and nearly completely rebuilt on a whim. Any attempts by Nevada to implement its own game day culture have to begin at the top and filter down through all levels of support for decades to come.
- Briefly returning to the last game and the next game, a loss is still a loss, and is not a reason in and of itself to fully buy into a team’s hype. It can, however, signify progress, and build confidence inside and outside of the locker room. While the defense still gave up far too many chunk plays and didn’t put nearly enough pressure on Aggie quarterbacks, the offense put up more points than the Sun Devils did against an SEC defense chock full of night terror-inducing, wet-your-pants linemen. That’s not nothing. The improvement from Arizona to A&M was evident, and it’s imperative that it must continue against a Buffalo team comparable to Nevada. Until we know more about where the team stands, nearly any chance the Pack has of returning to a bowl game depends on it. If they stop or slow down the Bulls’ run game enough to get them off the field, Nevada can win it. If not… Preseason prediction: Nevada 35, Buffalo 24. Revised prediction: Nevada 32, Buffalo 30.
- Lastly, if you’re not excited for what Eric Musselman is starting to build at Nevada…HOW?! Get off your butt and show the man some respect in the form of some purchased tickets.
Ommegang Rare Vos Amber Ale (Cooperstown, New York) ~ Brewery Ommegang in upstate New York specializes in Belgian-style ales, and is perhaps best-known for a series of limited-run beers tied in with HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Rare Vos is one of the brewery’s year-round offerings, named after a famous cafe near Brussels, and modeled after the types of smooth beers popular there and in other Belgian cafes. Its name means “sly fox” in Flemish, and like those inspirations, the beer has a copper color, and starts off with a massively foamy head that takes awhile to dissipate. It smells of orange peel and coriander, with mild spice from grains of paradise. That same spiciness persists in the taste, along with caramel malt, some elements of dried fruit, and a light, Belgian-inspired yeast unique to Ommegang. Overall, it’s medium-bodied, and finishes comfortably dry. Some of the best import beers I’ve tried have come from Belgium, and Ommegang does this particular style proud. So if you’re already a fan of actual Belgian beers, here’s at least one American imitation that’s worth your time. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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