Last weekend I took Kirby up to Denton to see the Houston play North Texas in the inaugural game at Apogee Stadium. The $78 million stadium is a sorely-needed replacement for Fouts Field, which was built in 1951 and which was where I watched many a Mean Green football game when I lived in Denton.
As the University of Houston continues to move towards constructing a replacement for aging Robertson Stadium, there are definitely a lot of lessons they can learn from Apogee's design. The sightlines were good and the concession areas were well-planned. I especially liked the width between the seating rows, which made it possible to walk past people without bumping into their knees.
The Mean Green were clearly pumped up to be playing their very first game in their new stadium and gave the slow-starting Coogs all they could handle in the first half. Mean Green quarterback Derrick Thompson, pictured above, completed 21 of 33 passes for 172 yards and ran for another 41 yards. The Cougars did a decent job keying in on UNT's most potent weapon, holding Mean Green running back Lance Dunbar to 62 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Cougars clung toa 20-17 lead at halftime, but took over the game in the second half by scoring 28 unanswered points. In the picture above, Case Keenum stands in the shotgun flanked by running backs Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall. Keenum had an impressive outing, completing 26 of 41 passes for 458 yards and five touchdowns. Hayes led the rushing attack with 13 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Kirby had a dilemma: he could either cheer for his father's undergraduate alma mater or his mother's graduate alma mater. At first he cheered for the Mean Green, but as the Cougars began to pull away he appeared to switch loyalties... The Cougars won handily, 48-23.
The Green Brigade performs at halftime (due to budgetary limitations, Houston did not bring a band or even cheerleaders in spite of the relatively short distance between Houston and Denton). The "home" side of Apogee Stadium features a nice provision of club seating and luxury boxes that simply didn't exist at Fouts Field and will hopefully generate income for the program.
A rather unique view of the stadium can be seen in this cool "gigapan" photograph. A decent contingent of UH fans were on hand for the game, as the photo shows. (Kirby and I are in the photograph, if you zoom in to the lower right side of the stadium and look carefully...)
I had expected this to be a tough game, given the circumstances, so the fact that the final score wasn't a "blowout" does not surprise or concern me. The Mean Green, meanwhile, are a team in rebuilding mode but played admirably. They will improve, and Apogee Stadium is one of the reasons why. The new stadium is attractive to fans as well as recruits and, with a seating capacity of about 31,000, is well-suited to the program's current needs. The 28,075 in attendance, in fact, is the third-largest crowd in Mean Green football history.
Kirby and I spent the night in Denton. It was a bit eerie waking up the following morning of September 11th, because Denton was where Kirby's mother and I were living when it all happened ten years ago.