ARLINGTON Following an extended summer-esque September, the first weekend of October turned crisp and cool overnight just in time for Notre Dame's 'home' contest against No. 22-ranked Arizona State at AT&T Stadium. This was the fifth game in the annual Shamrock Series where Notre Dame takes the team on the road to its fans and alumni -- the first game was in 2009 at the Alamodome in San Antonio followed by Yankees Stadium in the Bronx in 2010, FedEx Field in Washington D.C. in 2011 and Soldier Field in Chcago in 2012 -- and they are now 5-0 in the series.
The Fighting Irish topped the Sun Devils 37-34 in front of 66,960 fans that provided the best atmosphere of any of the college football games that I have attended at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. I have been to most of the college football games contested at the stadium and this scene certainly had the most energy and actually 'college vibe' of any of them.
We arrived shortly after 3 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff to find the tailgating in full swing as thousands of fans from both teams had began arriving well before noon to get the party started. In addition to the tents that lined the outer edges of the AT&T Stadium parking lots, there were multiple parties being staged up and down Collins St. ranging from the Notre Dame Alumni Association to a group of Arizona St. fans who rented out a parking lot near the Days Inn for what they said was "just to have a good time before we beat Notre Dame." Arizona St. recently placed No. 9 on Playboy's Top Party Schools list and definitely lived up to its reputation with its scene in Arlington.
Yet another party we found had given DFW the nickname of "South Bend South." The energy continued inside the massive stadium as the action went back-and-forth the entire game. It was Notre Dame's first regular-season game in DFW since 1958 and certainly felt like South Bend South with the Notre Dame logo in both end zones and plenty of shots of Fighting Irish fans and cheerleaders all evening on the huge video board. Luminaries in the building included Notre Dame 1987 Heisman Trophy winner and DFW resident Tim Brown and former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson, who was clad in a gray Notre Dame sweatshirt. Behind quarterback Tommy Rees' 279 yards and three touchdowns and wide receiver T.J. Jones eight catches for 135 yards, the Irish would leave victorious from Jerry Jones' $1.2 billion football palace.
"The Shamrock Series here and North Texas I think for our university was a great experience," said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. "We didn't you know what to expect in this stadium, because you hear things like 100,000, but it just feels like a great venue. The fans seem to be close. It is loud in here."
Next up for Notre Dame is an actual home game in South Bend against the USC Trojans on Oct. 19. The next college football game at AT&T Stadium is the Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout between Texas Tech and Baylor on Nov. 16.
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