By mark rogers
January 10, 2010

I was informed that I was headed to the Rose Bowl to watch Texas and Alabama play in the BCS Championship over Christmas Break.

After juggling some things around in my work schedule, I decided the only way I could attend is if I flew out of Abilene on Thursday morning and arrive home on Friday night.

The earliest I could make it to LA was 1 PM. Game starts at 7:30 PM...plenty of time. I booked the tickets.

A week later (and about two days before the game) my brother-in-law called to inform me of something that he just thought of...that the game starts at 7:30 PM CENTRAL time...5:30 PM Pacific.


It's 30 miles from LAX to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. If I'm delayed at all or miss a connection...I'm history.

And not only that - I have the tickets...and Ryan (my brother-in-law) is already in LA.

Not good. And to top it all off, the Abilene area was expecting arctic winds and below freezing temperatures on Thursday morning (game day) so any precipitation would mean no Rose Bowl for me.

Alas, the moisture never came and I made it to Dallas on time. There were what seemed like hundreds of Texas and Bama fans at my gate. And one other vaguely familiar face that happened to catch me eye.

Is it? Could it be? Yes...Nastia Liukin, the Olympic Gold Medalist from the 2008 Summer games. Sitting all by herself. She was headed to LA to attend a Lakers game and visit a friend.

I took the seat next to her. Got an autograph for my mom and wife and took a picture. Cool way to start the trip.

The plane touched down in LA about twenty minutes early. I walked out of LAX with my back pack, tickets and autographed pictures of Nastia Liukin, and Ryan pulled up in the Chrysler rental.

I hopped in, and we were on the road.

Traffic wasn't too bad and we made it to the stadium in about 90 minutes. Three hours to kickoff.

OK...where do we park?

Nearby residents were selling parking spaces in their driveways for 150 dollars...there were four of us...that's too much.

We drove around looking for parking until we slowly inched past on older couple holding a sign. It said $50. We pulled in. Paid the man and started our walk to the stadium.

Some friends of Ryan had some friends who had some friends and we ended up at a pretty big tailgate party that was ensconced in the middle of a golf course about a half-mile from the stadium.

My brush with celebrities continued as I got pictures with Texas Rangers Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden (my picture with Teagarden was taken by Chris Davis himself...ha).

We made our rounds, took some pics and headed to the stadium.

It was a mass of burnt orange and crimson. Reminded me of a Texas/OU game on steroids.

Our seats were directly behind the Texas endzone about halfway up the stadium.

A stadium with more history than any other football stadium in the world:
The first post season football game ever - 1902 (Stamford vs Michigan)
OJ Simpson
Jim Plunkett
National Championships
Vince Young
Ron Dayne
and on and on and on...

We watched pregame warmups and stared, wide-eyed as the national anthem was performed followed by an earth-shattering fly over of some really powerful looking and loud airplanes.

We all know what happened on the first drive. Colt goes down...#3 Garrett Gilbert goes in.

At first, no one really knew what was going on.

Colt got his bell rung? Garrett in for just a few plays is all...Colt will be fine. No worries.

Then as people began checking their phones, word began to spread.

"Concussion? He doesn't know where he is...It's a stinger. Separated shoulder. He's questionable. Headed to the locker room? Oh great...his dad was called out of the stands? Gilbert's going the distance???"

It was mass confusion in the stands. But when it became official the Colt was done, Texas was only up 6-0 after some very opportunistic plays and the Crimson Tide was just warming up.

The metaphor that came to mind was two prize fighters in the ring, equally matched. One fighter takes an initial swing and really connects one...right in the kisser.

But the punch breaks the fighter's knuckle in the process rendering his right fist useless.

All he can do is sit back and wait for the sleeping giant to attack...and there will be nothing the injured fighter can do but try to protect himself and get in a few shots here and there if he's stills standing before the bell rings.

I know Texas made it close in the end (3 down with 3 minutes to go). But, in my opinion, Bama had just eased up its mental edge for about 15 game minutes since they had such a big and cushy lead.

It was all over when Marcel Dareus hit Colt McCoy on the right shoulder, effectively ending his career at UT.

Dareus should have been given the game's MVP because he also returned an INT for a TD with 15 seconds to go in the half. And THAT was the real nail in the coffin.

Nobody in the stands said it, but we all were thinking soon as news spread that Colt was out for good, our chances of winning went right out the window.

There was a change in the atmosphere in the stands. You could see a change on either sideline. You could see a change on the field. Everything changed.

And mad props to Garrett Gilbert who heroically came in and nearly pulled off the unthinkable. He started gaining some confidence and swagger about 10 minutes too late. I'm excited about what that experience will mean for his progression as a starter next year. He's some kind of poised and collected player...anyway.

After Longhorn nation's hopes were slightly and shortly picked off the mat for two seconds, we watched Bama storm away with the win and all quietly exited the stadium.

And I don't think Nick Saban was wrong for scoring that final TD. He didn't run anything fancy or tricky. Straight ahead. Power football. If you're UT, you WANT them to do that so you have a chance to get a fumble or some other type of momentum swinging play.

If they kneel right there, sure you only lost by 10, but there were still about two minutes left and I've seen A LOT of crazy stuff happen in the last two minutes of the game.

I've always thought, if you don't want them to score...don't let them score.

So we headed back out to the car and drove back to our hotel in Hollywood. We went upstairs to get cleaned up and go cruising around LA, but we all ended up falling asleep and never left the room.

I left the hotel at 530 AM the next morning and finally made it back to the house in Abilene at 8 PM...that was a long two days. Made to feel especially longer after what happened in the first five minutes of the game I traveled thousands of miles to see.

Oh was a great experience. I'm glad I got to go. I wonder if I'll ever go to another college football championship game as long as I live. I sure hope so...but you never know.


This site does not necessarily agree with comments posted below.

T. Mrozek on January 10, 2010 4:56 PM

Great stuff Mark.

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