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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fans treated to stadium’s spectacle at Cotton Bowl

Site of 2015 National Championship allures Missouri backers.

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AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, before the 78th AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3, 2014.

Lauren Kastner/Senior Staff Photographer

ARLINGTON, Texas – Fans clad in gold, orange and black flooded the west and east concourses when the doors opened to AT&T Stadium on Jan. 3 but did not rush to their seats.

Instead, they stopped and looked.

Before the Missouri and Oklahoma State kickoff at the 78th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, “Jerry World” was the main event. Cowboy’s owner and general manager Jerry Jones was the largest private donor in the building of AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009.

Fans who gazed upon the stadium for the first time could only offer few words to describe the stadium’s sublimity.

The Cotton Bowl moved to the home of the Dallas Cowboys in 2010. It has the largest column-free interior and hosted the Super Bowl in 2011. Other than football games, U2 has played there, and in March 2013, the NCAA tournament south regional set up shop for three games.

Yet, on Friday, the orange of AT&T adorned the blue and silver stadium when the Cotton Bowl came to town and sell-out crowd of 72,690 people filled the seats. It was the first time the Missouri Tigers played a game in the venue after practicing on the field all week long.

“The first time I walked out here for our first practice it was like a chicken in the rain – I was just like looking up the entire time and coach is like, ‘Max, stop.’ But it’s so pretty,” senior left guard Max Copeland said.

The Tigers practiced all week in the NFL stadium and both teams received tickets to the week 17 contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he enjoyed AT&T Stadium.

“I just know if there’s a better facility out there that puts on a show and is accommodating to the game,” Gundy said.

In 2015, it will host the best show in college football after receiving the bid to host the first National Championship game in the playoff era.

The crown jewel of the $1.2 billion-domed stadium is a 175-foot high definition video board that treats fans by the roof to an up close view of the game.

Yet one fan, Karl Caldwell from Marshall, Mo., was not content to just watch the video screen. He said he brought binoculars because he wanted to watch the action for himself.

With the Cotton Bowl being played in football glitziest venue, many fans dressed to impress especially Caldwell who wore a gold sequined jacket. His jacket attracted attention as many asked for a photo for the sparkling Tiger fan. It’s Caldwell’s second Cotton Bowl and third time donning the gold jacket.

“As a MU guy, I’m just proud to be here,” he said.

A Columbia family opted for the coordinated look with all four kids sporting black and gold striped overalls. The oldest son, John Thomas Jr., started the trend a couple games ago and he said he liked them because they are unique.

It was his first time at the stadium but not for his father John Thomas, who visited the Cowboys’ cathedral for a tour. Thomas was also on hand to watch Missouri take on Arkansas in the 2008 at Cotton Bowl Stadium, the site of the bowl game since 1936. Thomas said this year’s bowl game beats the 2008 contest, calling the Arlington stadium “incredible.”

The University hospital doctor brought his whole family, most of them MU alumni, to this year’s bowl game including mother and father-in-law, Carol and Otis Miller. They got engaged at a Missouri football game in 1957.

Another fan traveled all the way from Kentucky to bring the Tigers luck. Joe Thomas (no relation to the other Thomas’) wore an orange Tiger jumpsuit at the 2008 Cotton Bowl. He did so again on Friday with whiskers painted on his face.

“I did it at the last Cotton Bowl and we won,” he said. “It’s for good luck and its fun.”

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