BYU football: Starstruck Cougs await new Cowboys Stadium
Provo » Forget for one minute that the BYU Cougars are playing one of college football's elite on Saturday.
Getting to play the first college football game -- heck, the first meaningful football game -- at the new $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, "is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience in and of itself," said BYU receiver McKay Jacobson.
The No. 20 Cougars and No. 3-ranked Oklahoma Sooners will kick off at 5 p.m. MT Saturday in the sold-out domed stadium with a retractable roof that seats 80,000 but is expandable to 100,000 in front of a massive crowd and national television audience (ESPN). Several BYU players and administrators already have visited Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' football cathedral that locals are referring to as "Jerry's World," the "Jerrydome," or the "Jones-Mahal."
"Man, you wouldn't believe that place," Jacobson said.
The sophomore, who played high school football at nearby Southlake Carroll, was able to tour the stadium this summer with his father, Evan. He even called BYU quarterback Max Hall with his cell phone when he was standing in one of the end zones.
"It is as awesome as everyone says it is," Jacobson said. He's told his teammates they "have to see it to believe it."
In his address to the media Monday, BYU's Bronco Mendenhall even got into the stadium hyperbole, a rarity for the button-down coach.
"Now I hope that [BYU] plays in a manner equal to, or even exceeding, the stage they are on," he said. "And that would be saying something considering it is the eighth wonder of the world, which I think some are calling it."
Like Jacobson, BYU reserve linebacker Brandon Ogletree also grew up near Dallas, in McKinney, Texas. He checked out the stadium when he went home for a few weeks this summer.
"It is amazing. It is breathtaking," he said. "It's not like anything I have ever seen. I can't wait to play there."
Based on ticket sales, officials estimate that approximately one-fourth of the crowd will be BYU fans, due to the large number of LDS Church members in the Metroplex area. But thousands are traveling from Utah, too, including Draper's Steve Reardon and his family.
"Just seeing the stadium is worth the trip," said the longtime BYU-Cowboys fan.
Defensive end Jan Jorgensen, BYU's resident college football junkie and historian, said the Cougars consider it "a huge honor" to have been chosen to be the first college team (along with Oklahoma) to play in the stadium.
"We will walk in, and I think there will be the awe factor for both sides, which I think is something you have to get over real quick," Jorgensen said. "You can't worry about where you are playing or anything like that. You just have to focus on your opponent and go out and worry about them."
The stadium's crown jewel is the 600-ton video display board that hangs in the center and reaches from one 20-yard-line to the other. It includes the largest high-definition television screen in the world.
"It is going to be right over my head," tight end Andrew George said. "For me personally, it is a cool thing, but if we get caught up too much in that, and all the other gadgets, we are not going to play our best."
In the first football game played in the stadium, the Aug. 21 Cowboys-Titans NFL exhibition game, a punt by Tennessee rookie A.J. Trapasso hit the video board and the down was played over.
Mendenhall and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday they believe the same rule will apply to their game.
Details of the new Cowboys Stadium located in Arlington, Texas:
» Cost approximately $1.2 billion to build
» Has 80,000 seats, but is expandable to 100,000 seats
» 600-ton video board extends from 20-yard-line to 20-yard line
» Roof will retract in 12 minutes
» Is 2.3 million square feet surrounded by 30,000 parking spaces