If you’re like me, this is the time of year where you’re normally digging up highlights to slake your desire for college football and get you through the last few brutal weeks of the offseason. And the best highlights are often ones where it’s not just about what happens on the field, but the atmosphere and the crowd reaction that makes them truly special. Nowhere is this more true than Kyle Field, where the 12th Man (TM) has the potential to make every game special.
With that in mind, I dug through my mental rolodex to come up with the Top 12 (#branding) crowd moments in Kyle Field history. This can be when the crowd impacted the game, came together to do something particularly memorable, or just went nuts after an amazing play. It’s an admittedly broad category, but it’s my list so I’ll do what I want, and I’d appreciate if you got off my back about it. There’s also a fair amount of recency bias in this list, both due to my demographic (I’m class of 2005) and the fact that there is almost zero video evidence online of anything that happened before the late ‘90s (which my tween/early teen year fashion choices are thankful for).
With that said, let’s get through the rest of this offseason together by re-living these great Hate Barn moments.
12. Ja’Mar Toombs puts the team on his back (Oklahoma’s team)
2000 vs. Oklahoma
The Aggies eventually came up short in their upset bid against the undefeated Sooners (who went on to win a national title). And we’re gonna just not talk about the blatant block in the back on an INT return that gave Oklahoma the lead for good. But none of that changes what an incredible moment it was when Ja’Mar Toombs rumbled (and that’s the only way to describe it) 27 yards for a TD on a 4th and inches handoff up the middle, breaking tackles along the way before dragging three Sooner defenders into the end zone. It gave A&M a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and the crowd went understandably nuts. TOOOOOOOOOOOOMBS!
11. Johnny bombs it to Mike Evans for 95-yard TD
2013 vs. Alabama
Another game where A&M came up just short against a top-ranked opponent (sight), but man what a moment this was. Alabama had been up 14 points, and was knocking on the door to make it a three-touchdown lead when a fumble game A&M the ball back at their own four yard line. And on 3rd and 9, Johnny Manziel tossed a 35-yard time to Mike Evans, who then outran two Tide defenders to the end zone. A seeming 21-point lead had shrunk to only 7 in the span of only four plays, and the top blew off of Kyle Field. Many still say this is the loudest they’ve ever heard the stadium.
10. That seven-overtime marathon
2018 vs. LSU
This gets on the list just because the fans survived this emotional roller coaster. This game almost ended twice before it got to regulation (INT overturned because Mond’s knee was down, clock hit 0:00 before the referees reviewed and put 0:01 back on the clock), and then went into so many overtimes that the NCAA keeps changing the rules to keep it from ever happening again. But among many crazy moments, man what elation followed when Kendrick Rogers caught that two-point conversion for the win (and be sure to keep watching the video to see the students saw the horns after storming the field).
9. That shot heard ‘round the Brazos Valley
2016 vs. Tennessee
Another crazy overtime finish, this time in a measly two overtimes against Tennessee (A&M shouldn’t have even let the game go to OT, but that’s a story for another day). Either way, the game came to a climax on Tennessee’s first play of the second overtime, when Joshua Dobbs threw a pick to Aggie safety Armani Watts to end the game. The crowd went nuts, the A&M sideline went nuts. Everyone went nuts. So much so that you could hear the roar clearly from more than a mile away.
8. Isaiah Spiller uses the truck stick
2020 vs. Florida
Kyle Field was only at 25% capacity in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions, but that didn’t stop the 12th Man from making an impact on the game. But moreso than the crowd, this was a game where the A&M team found a way to take control and will themselves to victory, and no play embodied that more than Isaiah Spillers’ 19-yard touchdown run on a 4th and 2 with the Aggies trailing in the fourth quarter. I especially love the crescendo you hear from the crowd from near silence, to cheering because he got the first down, to roaring when he trucks the linebacker and heads for the end zone. This was a pivotal game in A&M’s incredibly successful 2020 season, and hopefully, a turning point for the program as a whole.
7. The Great 12th Man Migration
2007 vs. Fresno State
You normally don’t hear about great moments against Group of Five teams, but this was the Dennis Franchione era. And when this blisteringly hot September non-conference game went to three overtimes, those who still remained in the student section (I can’t underscore how hot it was), did the most to ensure they affected the Fresno State offense by walking across the stands to huddle along whichever side of the field was used for the next possession. Sure, it wouldn’t have even happened if the stands had been full, but it still shows how dedicated the 12th Man is to helping their team.
6. The first Maroon Out
1998 vs. Nebraska
This was a monumental win for the Aggies, breaking defending national champion Nebraska’s 19-game winning streak and propelling A&M to it’s first and only Big 12 Championship. But this game’s lasting legacy is Maroon Out. You wouldn’t know it now, but prior to this game, you’d see the majority of Aggies wearing white (or other random colors) to home games. Maroon Out started as a once a year event that eventually changed the entire landscape of A&M home games, and today you’d never be able to tell which game each year is the designated “Maroon Out” game, because the stadium is a sea of maroon for EVERY game.
5. ‘FIFTY! THOUSAND! (clap-clap-clapclapclap)’
2016 vs. UCLA
Leading up to Texas A&M’s season-opening game against UCLA in 2016, Bruin QB Josh Rosen attempted to downplay the role the crowd could play in the game, saying “After about 50,000 people, it all sounds about the same.” And with the game tied, and UCLA driving in the final minute, the 12th Man sought to only only prove him wrong, but rub his nose in it a bit. He would throw an INT, and upon his return to the sidelines, be serenaded by a chant of “50,000!” from the A&M students. It was a rare moment of sass from the loud but usually “classy” A&M crowd.
The Aggies would go on to win the game in overtime, and to my recollection that is the last time we ever played UCLA.
4. It’s raining 12th Man towels
2010 vs. Nebraska
The 2010 season was the unquestioned peak of the Mike Sherman era, and nothing embodied this more than the game with the Cornhuskers. The Aggies started the season 3-3, but the season turned on a dime when QB Jerrod Johnson (love you Jerrod, a shame that injuries derailed your greatness) was benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill. A&M went on to rattle off six straight wins, including No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 10 Nebraska and Texas in Austin, before losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. But the lead up to the Nebraska game was seemingly unparalleled at the time. They had chairs on the track for the first time in years, and the 12th Man towels were out in full force. It was a sloppy, defensive game, which played right into the crowd being a major factor. The video below showed just how nuts it was in the student section, yelling their tails off before Nebraska turned it over on downs, and the 12th Man towels rained from the sky in a celebration of victory.
This video may have been filmed on a potato, but that was one rowdy potato.
3. Red, White & Blue Out
2001 vs. Oklahoma State
Yes, A&M won this game, but this is the lone entry on this list where the opponent and what happened on the field didn’t matter in the slightest. This game, just 11 days after the Sept. 11 attacks, represented the spirit that permeates Aggieland and makes it such a special place. It’s especially incredible because this effort to have all fans wear red, white and blue based on seating level wasn’t cooked up by the athletic department or the university, but just a small group of students. Word then spread like wildfire (all before social media, mind you), and the result was awe-inspiring. I was a freshman at A&M for this game, and it remains my No. Kyle Field memory. Visuals of the stadium decked out in red, white and blue still give me chills to this day.
2. ‘Don’t Mess with the 12th Man’
1985 vs. Texas
This is a moment that lives in Aggie lore, and as a modern college football fan, also causes so much confusion. Texas just stands there, attempting to wait for the crowd to calm down, and the refs seem content to let them do so. The commentators even mention the refs could even call a penalty on the crowd if they didn’t quiet down (????!?!?!). But as you’ll see, the 12th man didn’t quiet down, Texas eventually snapped the ball, and the Wrecking Crew met at the QB for a sack, forcing a punt in a game that the Aggies dominated 42-10.
1. The Bonfire Game
1999 vs. Texas
There have been plenty of games that Aggies desperately wanted to win, but the collective fanbase never needed a win more than they did on this day in 1999. Just days after the tragic bonfire collapse that claimed the lives of 12 A&M students, the Aggies faced Texas in a emotionally charged affair. A&M held a four-point lead, but Major Applewhite and the Longhorns were in Aggie territory with less than a minute to go with Applewhite was sacked and fumbled, which was recovered by A&M linebacker Brian Gamble. As A&M fans cheered, Gamble stretched out his arms and looked to sky. It’s a visual that stuck with everyone who saw it, and represented what so many Aggies were feeling that day.
Additionally, discussion of this game is not complete without mentioning the touching performance by the University of Texas Longhorn Band. As much as these two fanbases despise one another, this was moment of mutual respect that still resonated with Aggies decades later.
Ultimately this was just a football game - so insignificant compared to what Aggies had been wrestling with in the days leading up to this game. But it was a moment of healing as fans got to celebrate together, even if briefly, to take a respite from grieving. And if that doesn’t represent what college football is all about, then I don’t know what does.