Week 11: SMU

A review of SMU game day from Week 11 of the college football season.

A hidden tailgating gem!

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UCF 28, SMU 55

When you consider elite tailgating atmospheres, you probably think of LSU, Ole Miss, the SEC. SMU likely doesn’t grace the list– that is, until you’ve been there. The Boulevard is undeniably one of the best tailgating scenes in all of college football.

It’s high-class, energetic, widespread, and exciting. Plots on the Boulevard main strip are in high-demand and are mostly filled with wealthy alumni (which there are plenty of) and organizations. The farther north you get, typically the younger the crowd, until you get to the student’s area. While it’s more raucous than the tamed side across the street, it’s still very high-brow.

After all, SMU is the SEC team of the American.

SMU’s campus is filled with history, gorgeous architecture, and art. From the George W. Bush Presidential Library to the iconic Dedman College building, a pregame stroll around campus is imperative.

If you’re looking to go to a SMU game day, I highly encourage it. Tickets are incredibly reasonable ($20 wholesale, oftentimes less than $10 via third-party) and parking can be free. There’s a few options on the website that are closer in walking distance to the stadium than most free lots around the country. I personally park at the SMU East campus lot by Lyons Insurance (6116 North Central Expressway).

Before Gerald J. Ford Stadium opened in 2000, SMU played football at Texas Stadium, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite it being constructed this century, Gerald J. Ford Stadium looks historic. I mean that in the best way possible– it feels storied but not decrepit.

For being what the nation considers a mid-level, unranked AAC matchup really has some serious star power underneath. SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai was second in passing touchdowns as of this game and led the nation in yardage earlier. The team is coached by Sonny Dykes, who late this season has been rumored for vacant TCU and Texas Tech positions.

Across the sideline was National Champion head coach Gus Malzahn (formerly of Auburn). Coach Malzahn broke his leg in the weeks before the game, but insisted on coaching his guys from the sideline. He hobbled out on crutches, led the team out of the tunnel on a golf cart, and had a specially-constructed riser on the sideline to sit on.

One thing to know about UCF fans is they travel extremely well. While SMU is one of the easiest stadiums to get to (being just 20 minutes from DFW Airport), UCF faithful showed up in droves. The fans represented UCF that you could have fooled me into thinking this was a bowl game.

UCF gave their fans something to cheer about early on, taking a 7-0 lead to begin the game. However, SMU’s offense exploded to the tune of 38 first-half points. With a lot of back-and-forth offense, the first quarter took over an hour to complete and the score stood 21-14, SMU.

From halftime on, it was a footrace in which the Mustangs had a lengthy head start. Ultimately, the home team came away with a 55-28 victory. It was the first home victory I’d seen in over a month since Oklahoma upended Nebraska in Week 3.

Part of scoring with SMU is getting to see a lesser-known tradition. Peruna is a mini horse and the school’s live mascot. She’s regarded extremely well by fans and the student body. You can get photos with Peruna before the game as she’s escorted around the Boulevard. She also runs the field after every touchdown.

Game Day Grades

Stadium: B-. The storied feel of the stadium is great and there’s exactly zero bad seats. However, it’s just fine and a hair too big for the fanbase. The student section is entirely based on the grassy hill, which is something I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Tradition: B-. SMU was a great program that captured national championships. We all know the story of the death penalty and the Mustangs never reclaimed national relevance. Peruna is a great live mascot, but the rest of the schools traditions aren’t much to write home about.

Atmosphere: C-. Like I said, the stadium is too big for the fanbase, especially since the student section isn’t located in any seats. Kickoff was at 11:00 a.m., so everyone was a bit sleepy. It’s a pretty typical late-season, non-contender, non-rivalry atmosphere.

Tailgating: A. Outside of LSU and Ole Miss, there aren’t many schools that outdo SMU in terms of class and scale. A fair amount of tailgaters never actually leave for the game. The Boulevard is the place to be.

Fans: B. Most fans are older and wealthier alumni; after all, SMU is a very expensive school to attend (well over $50,000 annually). They know their football team and cheer loudly, but they’re also late to show and can lull during breaks in the action. However, like many private schools, it’s easy to feel like an outsider and SMU fans aren’t the first to welcome you into their clique.

Extracurriculars: A+. This is a recurring theme of schools and games located in the DFW Metroplex. Am I biased since I live here? Yes. But is DFW one of the busiest and fastest-growing metros in the nation for a reason? Also yes. There’s a million things to do.

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