Republic Square hosted UT's season opener with free food and drinks courtesy of LHN
I started Saturday evening cursing the Longhorn Network, but ended the night wearing an LHN cap. Since I don't have U-verse (long story, bro), I planned to watch the Texas vs. Wyoming football game at El Arroyo, but it was jam-packed, so I ended up at Republic Square Park, where LHN put on a viewing party for the public with a big screen in the park.
Before I arrived, I missed quite a bit of drama, a friend told me. The jumbo screen was dark, as techs scrambled to get a signal, so hundreds of fans in burnt orange were freaking out. Can't miss the season opener! A couple of minutes before kickoff, a guy with a walkie-talkie and clipboard calmed the crowd somewhat by announcing that all the beer and food was free from then on, including the food trucks ringing the Downtown square. Plus, fans could line up to get a free ticket to a future Longhorn home game.
A minute later, the game popped on, but LHN kept to the free-for-all deal. The almighty ESPN owns the LHN – they've got the dough – and partying on their dime felt like redeeming frequent viewer miles. Street drunks showed up for the free beer like ants to a dropped popsicle. It was a blast with a breeze, though the jittery Horns kept it from getting too festive early on. On the first two WYO possessions, the vaunted Texas D gave up a field goal and an 82-yard touchdown pass, when tackling dummies Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom of "DBU" flunked out and knocked each other off the receiver.
The play of the game was Kenny Vaccaro's full-stride interception in the second half, with Wyoming leading 9-7 and headed into Texas territory again. That pick turned it around for a 37-17 Texas win, with both Malcolm "X's and O's" Brown and Joe Bergeron gaining more than 100 yards on the ground.
Usually, I hate watching football in public, and the woman shrieking "run, baby, run!" whenever a Longhorn had the ball was hard to take. But generally it was a fun time at RS and even guffaw-ful, as when DB Mykkele Thompson made the bonehead play of the game with a pass interference penalty that would've been ruled a flagrant foul in the NBA. Unfamiliar with his No. 2, someone deadpanned "Who farted?"
In the heat of battle it's sometimes hard to remember that, although Coach Mack Brown made about $800,000 per win the past two seasons, college football players get paid in homework. Happy to say Thompson, Byndom, and Phillips each redeemed themselves with a key fourth-down stop, an interception, and a pass breakup in the end zone, respectively.
Next on the schedule is the Loss Lobos of New Mexico, who have already matched last season's win total with a 66-21 victory over Southern University in the opener. (Jesus, even N.M. could find a season-opening patsy on Cupcake Saturday!) The Lobos' first-year coach is Bob Davie, who's made a career of following Lou Holtz, first at Notre Dame and then in the announcer's booth. Next stop: insufferability?
The Longhorn Network is hosting another party at Republic Square, at Fourth and Guadalupe streets, on Saturday for the New Mexico game (7pm kickoff). But bring money. It's only free the first time.