Aggies Defeat Northwestern and Reliant Stadium for a Bowl Game Win

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You've seen those commercials during late night or during the middle of the day. Those commercials with some "attorney" droning on about your rights and asking if you've been exposed to asbestos or some other dangerous substance. Commercials giving you a 1-800 number and urging you to become part of their class action against the manufacturer of the product.

Yeah, those commercials.

Sitting high up in the Reliant Stadium press box on Saturday morning as the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas was kicking off, one couldn't help thinking that very soon there's going to be a new commercial airing, one urging any and all high school, college and professional football players who have ever or will ever or may ever play a game at Reliant Stadium to phone the number, talk to the attorney and join in a class action against Reliant Stadium.

Even in the press box, so high and far away it's almost in a different zip code than the rest of the stadium, the horrible condition of the Reliant Stadium turf was evident. The so-called grass was about five shades of green, none of them the good color of green, and numerous shades of brown. Seams were evident. The divots could be seen from where players had attempted to plant and make a move.

Still, there was a football game played on Saturday, the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas pitting the 6-6 Texas Aggies against the 6-6 Northwestern Wildcats. The Aggies did their standard thing, grabbing the 20-7 halftime lead, then surrendering 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats got back into the game, getting the score to 30-22 with about half of the fourth quarter remaining.

But the Aggies did the unexpected. They held on to a fourth-quarter lead, kept the Wildcat offense off of the field, and kicked a field goal with under a minute left in the game to make the final score 33-22.

"I told the guys on the side, 'We need to answer to win this game. It's on us. It doesn't matter what the defense did. It doesn't matter what special teams did. The game is right here in our hands right now and we got to take it,'" senior quarterback and game MVP Ryan Tannehill said of that last drive. "It came down to a couple big third-down plays. [Northwestern] did a great job of stuffing the run and putting us in some third-and-medium, third-and-long yardage. Guys made plays. That's the great thing, like I said about our guys is they wanted to make plays today for a lot of reasons."

It's been a tough month for the Aggies. Even more, it's been a tough season. There's been the whole realignment thing. The constant failure to hold onto big halftime leads. The firing of head coach Mike Sherman. The hiring of new head coach Kevin Sumlin. The recent death of senior offensive lineman Joseph Villavisencio. If something could go wrong with this team this season, it did.

Until Saturday when the Aggies didn't collapse. When they put the season in the rearview mirror and ended the season on a high note, their first bowl victory in 10 years.

"There's many different levels to it, but a win satisfies them all," Tannehill said. "It's just so special to be on the field with my teammates and compete one last time."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald noted that the Aggies played a good game, but he and several players noted the loss was, more than anything, on themselves. The Aggies didn't do anything surprising, not to the Wildcats. What defeated Northwestern more than anything were the self-inflicted injuries, such as jumping offsides on three of four straight plays late in the third quarter.

"The roof was closed," Fitzgerald said. "It went from a home game to super home game for them, and we knew it was going to be that way. We thought we prepared for it. Obviously I didn't do a good enough job."

Put the blame on themselves they might, the story is still what the Aggies did. They didn't collapse in the fourth quarter. They didn't let the pressure get to them one final time. When they most needed to make the plays on offense in their final drive, they made the plays.

As for Reliant Stadium, while the players and coaches might have raved about the first class treatment they received from the city and the game organizers, the conditions of the turf were atrocious. Sure, it's nice to advertise having a grass field, and a grass field is supposedly safer than alternatives, but the patchwork mess that made up the Reliant Stadium field on Saturday was an embarrassment to the city and football fans.

It is, in short, a class action lawsuit (and a bad TV commercial) just waiting to happen.

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