Twelve years ago, I played at North Texas’ brand new football stadium, then known as Apogee Stadium, in a high school playoff game. I finally returned to the stadium, now known as DATCU Stadium, to take in one of the best new rivalries in the Lone Star State.
UTSA and UNT spent the last two seasons competing for the Conference USA championship. Now, both have made the shift over to the American. This heated matchup has long occupied a place on my list of games to attend and so I made my way from Denton up to Houston to take in the contest – another entry into the Tailgate Chronicles series.
Admittedly, my tailgating effort in Denton was a bit subdued. I spent the previous night exploring the offerings of downtown Denton, an underrated college town. Though I steered clear of the college bars on Fry Street, LSA Burger and East Side Denton both did their fair share of damage and led to a bit of a hangover the next morning.
The Blue Lot and the Hill both featured ample tailgating festivities with plenty of folks pregaming the rivalry contest. I mostly ambled around as I didn’t find a tailgate ahead of time and didn’t particularly feel like making an unannounced appearance. With that being said, I loved the setup North Texas had. As mentioned above, plenty of folks had tailgates going in the lots but closer to the stadium had almost a town square feel – complete with a live band playing music (shout out to Extended PLAY).
As was the case earlier in the year at Houston, UTSA also turned out on the road in force. The folks at their alumni tailgate do a fantastic job of setting up wherever they are and the Roadrunners made their presence known both at the tailgate and at the game.
I mentioned above that my previous experience with UNT’s stadium was a high school playoff game. That game didn’t end particularly well but I did enjoy the stadium. 12 years later and I still felt impressed by DATCU Stadium as one of the better college football venues I’ve been to.
It’s not a massive cathedral like Kyle Field, Beaver Stadium, or Neyland Stadium but I am an absolute sucker for unique quirks and the end zone stands featuring the eagle tail feathers for the Mean Green absolutely qualify.
The seats on the alumni side were packed with supporters and the students had a decent bit of attendance as well. The UTSA faithful showed up to make for a good crowd and the bit of banter between the two groups felt largely fun in nature.
As has been the case in the series recently, the Roadrunners got the better of North Texas. UTSA jumped out early and controlled the game though UNT never gave up and hung around into the late stages, getting the game within one score.
All-in-all, in spite of my rough state from the previous night and a bit of a rough result for the home team, I came away impressed with the home environment for the Mean Green. With a bit more time in Denton, I think Eric Morris can turn North Texas into a real powerhouse. If they start winning a lot of games, DATCU Stadium could turn into a truly electric environment. In the meantime, it’s still one of the more seamless game day experiences I’ve had from start to finish and I highly recommend going to check out a game there if you have a free Saturday.
Next up, I’ll talk about my journey to East Texas to watch Stephen F. Austin host Southern Utah.