2022 – Best Of List

Another year is in the books and it was another fun season of games! One thing that I really enjoyed was being able to travel through the state of Virginia right at the peak of the trees changing colors. It was absolutely beautiful. Along the way, we visited four state capitols this year, ate at our first Indian restaurant, and took in a four overtime game in our number one game of the year.

As always, although this blog is mainly just as a place to track my visits and store my memories, it is always amazing to get such great feedback and comments along the way. Thank you so much for your support along the way. I can’t wait to explore and announce our 2023 trips in the next couple of months.

Top 5 Games of 2022

5. Kansas State 40 – Missouri 12

Fifty yard line view

I am going to have to rethink going to games where Missouri is the away team. In 2019, I watched Missouri play in Kentucky in a downpour. Once again, the rain caused havoc on this trip. It started off with a storm before hand which delayed the opening of the gates. Luckily, the basketball arena sits right next to the football stadium and they had it opened up for people to take shelter at until the gates finally opened up.

After a brief period of being dry, the rains came again and they didn’t stop the rest of the game. There was another storm delay in the second quarter where we had to evacuate to the covered concourse areas.

As for the game, this one was not particularly close. Missouri started off the scoring with a field goal, but it was all Kansas State after that. Kansas State would score three straight touchdowns in the first half to take a 20-3 lead into half time.

The second half basically followed the same script. Missouri scored the first field goal to cut the lead to 14 and you thought they might have a slight change to fight back into the game. But Kansas State would score another 20 straight points to easily put the Tigers away. Missouri scored their one touchdown on the last play of the game.

Final score: Kansas State 40 – Missouri 12.

4. Oklahoma 49 – Nebraska 14

Inside Memorial Stadium

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this game. Nebraska just fired Scott Frost so you didn’t know if the Cornhuskers would rise to the occasion or just give up on the season. On the flip side, this was Oklahoma’s first road trip of the season so how would the Sooners step up?

Coming out of the gate, Nebraska got a stop and then immediately went down the field 77 yards in just six plays to take an early 7-0 lead. They were efficient and you had to think Nebraska was going to fight hard.

That was basically the only offense Nebraska would show in the game, however. Oklahoma immediately responded to tie the game up. The rest of the half Nebraska had the ball six times and punted on five of those drives and turned the ball over on downs on the sixth. On the flip side, Oklahoma just drove down the field with ease on most of their possessions and took a 35-7 lead into the half. A lot of Nebraska fans left during halftime.

The third quarter did not get much better for the Huskers. On the first drive of the second half Nebraska fumbled the ball. Oklahoma took over and immediately scored again. They would also score on the second possession of the second half to take a 49-7 lead before starting to pull their first string out of the game. Nebraska would score on their last drive of the game to account for the final score.

Final score: Oklahoma 49 – Nebraska 7.

3. Liberty 41 – BYU 14

South end zone at Liberty Stadium

This one was a shocker to me. It wasn’t surprising Liberty won, but it was surprising that they dominated in the way they did.

The first quarter of the game was actually owned by BYU. After an early Liberty field goal, BYU drove down the field on their next two drives and took a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. The BYU fans in the stands, and there were plenty of them, were appropriately going crazy.

I don’t know what the conversation was after the first quarter on the Liberty sideline, but things turned around in the second. Liberty moved the ball down on their next two drives to go up 17-14. BYU had the ball towards the end of the half and went for it on fourth and nine with just over a minute to go and failed. That was still enough time for Liberty to go down and kick a field goal to go up 20-14 at the half.

The dominance by the Flames continued in the second half. They scored touchdowns on their first two drives including a one-play, eighty-yard run by Dae Dae Hunter. This put Liberty up 34-14 and the game was well in hand.

Final score: Liberty 41 – BYU 14.

2. South Alabama 27 – Southern Miss 20

Southern Miss Band

This game ended up being a very exciting back and forth affair. South Alabama was still competing for a division crown (ultimately won by Troy) and Southern Miss was having a much better than expected season.

The Jaguars got the scoring started on their first drive with a field goal. Southern Miss answered back late in the quarter with the first touchdown of the day to go up 7-3. The first part of the second quarter were scoreless but things picked up. First with a Golden Eagles field goal, then with a touchdown by South Alabama to tie things up at ten. South Alabama tacked on a field goal as time expired to go into the half up 13-10.

The only score in the third quarter was a touchdown pass from Frank Gore, Jr. to Jason Brownlee and Southern Miss retook the lead going into the fourth. South Alabama retook the lead early in the fourth and then it was a matter of holding on. South Alabama scored another touchdown to pull away 27-17. This made the last second field goal by Southern Miss just window dressing.

Final: South Alabama 27 – Southern Miss 20

1. Miami 14 – Virginia 12; 4OT

Seat View at Scott Stadium

After this game I heard many sportscasters feel sorry for people that attended this game. To be honest, I really enjoyed it.

True, there were no touchdowns scored which made it a little tedious at times. But it was a clean game with no turnovers which made it a battle of wills. I can get behind games like that and appreciate the defenses stepping up (or, maybe, inept offenses not).

The first half saw the ball go back and forth with no sustainable drives. The first ten drives ended in ten straight punts; four of them coming after three and outs. Miami broke the scoring drought on the last play of the half to go into the break up 3-0.

The second half started a little better with Virginia tying things up at three on their first possession. Virginia would then take their first lead of the game early in the fourth with a second field goal to go up 6-3. Miami would drive down to the two-yard line on the last drive of the game but chose to tie it up at six on fourth and goal to tie things up 6-6.

The two teams would trade field goals in the first two overtimes to go into the sudden death periods tied 12-12. After no scores in the third overtime, Miami quarterback Jake Garcia was able to run in the ball himself and Miami won the game 14-12.

Top 5 Stadiums of 2021

5. Southern Miss

Fifty yard line view

M.M. Roberts stadium is an older stadium that was originally open in 1932. A lot of wear and tear can still be seen today.

It is a double decker seater on the two sidelines. The North side of the stadium houses an athletic center and had a medium-sized scoreboard as well. The South side is the newer addition that housed a set of suites. There was also a patio above the suites as well. The upper deck seats were very steep and there were small runner boards between the two decks that were about 20 yards in length.

There were not very many people at the game, maybe because of how chilly it was. The upper deck on the visitor’s side was virtually empty.  A few sprinkles came in before the game started but not enough to ruin the atmosphere.

For concessions, there were just the normal stands. One interesting item was they advertised combos, but there were no actual discounts on the combo compared to buying the individual items. There were a couple funnel cake stands and one Chick-fil-a stand in the South end zone.

4. Kansas State

View from seat at Kansas State

My first stops at the stadium were the team stores to find a hoodie as it was much chillier than I had anticipated. They had entrances to the stores from the outside of the stadium so people could go in before the gates open to shop which I thought was a smart idea. Once it got close to gate opening time, they would then lock the store from the outside and open up the inside doors instead.

There were not very many activities outside the stadium. I think the combination of the 11 am kickoff time and the bad storms probably kept a lot of people away early. Also, other than the basketball arena on the South side of the stadium, the rest of the stadium was surrounded by parking lots which I always think takes away a lot of prestige from game day. About 30 minutes before the gates open, the football team did arrive and do a walk to the stadium through the crowd with the band playing in the background.

The stadium featured a full bowl alignment. There were decent sized video boards in all four corners of the stadium as well as runner boards in the North and South end zone. The stands were pretty full for this game and there were a decent number of Missouri fans that made the drive over from Columbia for this one as well.

In a bit of a surprise, there were really only the normal concession stands with no corporate standups along the concourse areas. Each concession stand sold its own type of food though, some hot dogs, some pizza, some BBQ, to give it some good variety. Prices did seem a little high here compared to other stadiums, but some of that could just be due to current high inflation.

3. Liberty

End Zone View at Williams Stadium

This game was the first sell out in the history of Liberty and the hype was real for the crowd. It started before the game with people lining up well before the gates opened to get in. There are always a few people that line up early for games, but this was one of the highest early turnouts for a game I’ve seen for a while.

As for the stadium, just like the rest of the campus this was a very nice, newer stadium. They had double deck seating across the two sidelines. On the South side of the stadium, they are a few general admission lawn seats and a set of patio suites. The North side was where the football facilities were located. There were runner boards along both sidelines between the lower and upper deck and a large video board rising above the football facilities on the North side. One nice feature of the stadium is that all the seats outside of the student section had backs to them so you did not need to worry about renting seatbacks yourself.

One cool thing Liberty did that I really enjoyed were the hype videos. Starting 60 minutes before kickoff, they would play a hype video on the video board every fifteen minutes that counted down the seconds until the game with some theme behind it. I had never seen that done before at another stadium but think it’s something that more teams should consider.

For food, the first thing I noticed was that prices were cheaper than most stadiums I’ve visited. That is probably one of the benefits of being a private university. They had their normal concession stands, but they also had food truck alley. This was an area on the South side of the stadium where they had six to eight food trucks serving a variety of food. This included things like Domino’s, Kona ice, and Rookie’s ice cream.

Another interesting concept Liberty did that I can see becoming a norm over the next few years is mobile ordering from your seat. You could go on an app, order food, then just go down to a pick-up area by the concession stand you ordered from and pick up your food once it was ready.

2. Virginia

Lawn View at Scott Stadium

With both Miami and Virginia struggling through the season the atmosphere for this one was a little tapered. In fact, at kick-off the student section was only about half full. More people did trickle in as the first quarter went along, but there were definitely large sections of open seats especially in the upper decks.

The Thomas Jefferson influence is also found within Scott stadium with one end zone standing with pillars. The rest of the stadium was in a double-decker horseshoe formation. In the end zone with the pillars there were some grassy areas where people could sit as well. There was a large video board on that side of the stadium and a large runner board that ran between decks that went around the entire horseshoe.

The concession stands were mostly self-service. You would walk through the line and pick up what you wanted then walked to the end where a cashier would check you out. I was upset though that they automatically added a tip to your total unless you chose to take if off. Because I wasn’t expecting that I was charged more than I expected to pay.

There were also several food trucks near the pillars with items such as burgers, tacos, and even Turkish food. One other neat idea was the bottomless soda. For $10, you could come back and fill up your soda as many times as you wanted during the game.

1. Nebraska

Pregame at Football Game

Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium is one of the more prestigious stadiums in the country so I was excited to visit this location. I was not disappointed as it was one of the more beautiful stadiums I’ve been to and I was able to land a seat right along the fifty-yard line in the upper deck.

With the University of Nebraska being right in the heart of downtown Lincoln I took a bus to the stadium from an offsite location which was a very smart move as it made it easy to get to and from the stadium. The atmosphere around the stadium was great as OU and Nebraska had such an intense, friendly rivalry that fans were just open to talk with each other. This extended to inside the stadium as well as many Nebraska fans welcomed me to the stadium and talked with me about the game ahead of kickoff as well.

The outside of the stadium was a sight. They actually had glass doors in front of all of the openings of the stadium that you walked through after you scanned your ticket. Once inside the doors you saw some of the old school motif including an opening with the saying “Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football” and a huge stadium clock on one side as well.

Inside, the stadium featured a full bowl alignment with multiple tiers. There was a large video board on the North side of the stadium and small video boards in all four corners. There were also runner boards between tiers across both side lines.

Just like at Kansas State the prior week, there were no specialized concession stands. They did have stands that sold Runza sandwiches and Valentino’s pizza along with the normal concessions. There were also a lot of teenagers that they had walking around the concourse areas that were selling Runza sandwiches and bottled soda as well. One big difference at this stadium was that outside before the game there were stands selling food there, including Chick-Fil-A.

Top 5 Campuses of 2021

5. Liberty

Freedom Tower

Liberty is a fairly new university being established back in 1971. As a private Christian campus, of course everything was much newer and there was a lot of construction going on around campus erecting even more buildings while I was there.

One thing I noticed looking through information on the university was they had a convocation as part of their normal schedule, I believe three times a week. This is where they had speakers or musicians come in and instead of class the entire campus would come to the main building. Since when I visited was also parent’s weekend, there were a ton of people that were heading to the convocation while I was walking around campus.

The main attraction on the campus is the Freedom Tower. It is the tallest building in the city of Lynchburg and gives a great view of the city from the top. On the bottom floor of the Freedom Tower is the Rawlings Scriptorium. This houses some of the oldest Bibles in the world. It looked like it was also a study area so did not go inside, but they did have some centuries old Bibles along the windows that were interesting to look at.

As I’ve stated in the past, new campuses are nice but it misses some of the feel that I enjoy from a college. Liberty fits into that mold as well. As a private university, they definitely had the money to make it a great campus. But between that and the smaller size, there wasn’t anything that made it feel special.

4. Nebraska

Fountain on Nebraska campus

The University of Nebraska is right in the middle of downtown Lincoln. That gave it an interesting dynamic that I had not experienced at any other school to this point. I saw pros and cons of having this type of location.

On the plus side, everything was centrally located. It was easy to get through the whole campus pretty quickly. On the negative side, there didn’t seem to be a lot of open spaces. Nothing on the campus really stood out as being special.

I did spend a little time in the student union waiting for the National History Museum on campus to open. The union was very nice and seemed like a place a lot people enjoyed hanging out before class. Outside was a set of fountains that was probably the prettiest and most relaxing place on campus.

3. Southern Miss

Dome at Southern Miss Campus

Southern Miss had a fairly large campus. The first thing you see as you drive into the campus is the large dome of the administration building. This is the crown jewel of the campus as the school logo also shows the dome. With the fountain in front, it was a great view for visitors on campus.

There was also a huge rose garden at the front of the campus. It was not in bloom at the time, but between the garden and the nearby pond it led to another picturesque area. There was also a really old tree on campus that had branches that crossed over the sidewalk in another interesting location.

Overall, I was very impressed with the campus. It was definitely one of the nicest non-power five campuses that I have visited in my journeys so far.

2. Kansas State

Kansas State Entrance

Manhattan is very much a college town with the university in the central part of the city. It is a very large campus and in the middle of it all is the K-State student union which holds its own bowling alley. It is also home to the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of art and the K-State insect zoo, neither of which I was able to visit on my on-campus visit.

My favorite part of the Kansas State campus is definitely the older buildings on the South side of campus. The architecture on the buildings was beautiful. The best building was probably Anderson Hall, which is used as the administration building. It was built in 1879 and on the National Register of Historic Places. Something about older architecture always gives me the true university feel that newer campuses just don’t provide.

1. Virginia

Rotunda on Campus

The University of Virginia is one of the oldest universities in the country and another place designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The highlight of the campus was definitely the lawn and the rotunda. The rotunda once again brought together Jefferson’s love of domes and pillars. Around the lawn leading out from the rotunda was student housing along both sides.

This student housing is some of the most popular housing on campus. I read that it is reserved for Seniors who want to still live on campus and although there is no air conditioning that there are still waiting lists to try to live there. Walking around this area and seeing many students with their doors open and just socializing  with each other gave out a special feel that most colleges should truly be about.

The campus felt small although they do have a large population of students.

Top 5 Attractions of 2021

5. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park – Lynchburg, VA

Room where end of Civil War occured

The area of Appomattox is a significant location in the history of the United States as it is where the Civil War officially came to an end with the surrender at the McLean House. It was here that Robert E. Lee officially signed papers of surrender to Ulysses S. Grant.

Walking up to this historic site was actually really cool because there was a thick fog in the area. You could almost imagine that you were back in time as you walked down the road toward the house where the end of the war occurred.

In the middle of this park was an old court house that was used as a museum. Within it you learned about the history of the surrender including the various battles that led to the end. There were also some other buildings around the area such as a tavern where a lot of the pardons were created and an old general store as well.

Of course, the main attraction was the actual McLean House. This is the actual house where the signed surrender took place. You were able to walk into the room with the desks that Lee and Grant both sat at. This was probably one of the most historic places I ever was able to stand as far as U.S. history is concerned.

4. The Durham Museum – Omaha, NE

Inside Durham Museum

The Durham Museum is located near downtown Omaha and offers a history of the Omaha area. It is located within the former Union Station, which is an absolutely beautiful former train depot. Walking into the museum leads into a wide open, amazing architected waiting area of the former depot.

In the upstairs area there was a lot of history of the depot, including how the railroad industry, particularly passenger travel, played such a pivotal part in how Omaha become such a prominent city in the Midwest.

Downstairs, there were a lot of other history exhibits about the Omaha area. There was an interesting history of old movie houses and theaters in the downtown area. It documents both their rise in popularity as well as their eventual demise. The most interesting exhibit to me was around the Trans-Mississippi Exposition gallery. This featured the 1898 event that built up an amazing area that welcomed over 2.5 million people from around the world, but was torn down after five months once the exposition was over.

Back upstairs, they also had an old school soda fountain. So, of course, I had to order myself a chocolate mall before I left. This museum was a great place to visit and curated very well.

3. Mississippi State Capitol – Jackson, MS

Outside Mississippi Capitol

This season I was able to visit four different state capitols in Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, and Mississippi. Of all those, the Mississippi capitol was easily the prettiest to visit, especially inside of the building. It is probably the second nicest capitol I’ve been to behind the Iowa capitol in Des Moines.

The capitol originally housed all three branches of the government. Today, the State Supreme Court has moved to a building across the street and the Governor’s office is just a part-time office.

The first thing you see is the dome which is adorned with a beautiful eagle and other ornaments. There were doing a lot of construction on the outside so was not able to get around to the South side of the building easily.

On the inside, this was a capitol where no detail was overlooked. There was marble throughout and even the old water fountains were still up to date. The Senate room was closed to the public but was able to go into the gallery of the House and it was as beautiful as the rest of the building.

2. Monticello – Charlottesville, VA

Main Entrance at Monticello

After being disappointed visiting Jefferson’s Poplar Forest in Lynchburg, I did not have huge expectations for Monticello. Monticello, however, was a surprise in how much they had to offer.

When you first arrive there is a large area at the base that includes a museum, a film about Jefferson, and even a small café. Once you are ready to hear up to the main house you can either take a tram or walk along a trail that passes by the Jefferson gravesite.

The house itself had quite a few unique items. The biggest one was probably the clock in the main room. On top of the time, it also tracked the day of the week along the side of the wall. However, since the clock was originally built for a larger house, ‘Saturday’ could not fit along the wall. Because of that, they had to put a hole in the floor and put ‘Saturday’ in the cellar.

After the house visit, there were other things around the property that you could experience. They had one tour that went into detail about the slaves that lived on the property as well as one that walked through the garden areas, which was a huge interest to Jefferson. But probably the highlight was they had a Thomas Jefferson impersonator that came out and spoke to the crowd. He did an amazing job of interacting with crowd while staying in character.

1. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, NE

Napping away

Unknown by me going in, the Omaha Zoo is one of the highest rated zoos in the country. After visiting, it was easy to see why. This zoo has a lot of exhibits including a large aquarium that made it easy to spend a full half day here without getting bored or running out of things to see.

I started the visit by going through the aquarium. This was one of the larger zoo aquariums I’ve been through and they had a large variety of puffins, penguins, as well as a large shark tank that you walked underneath to see them swimming above you.

There were many other special areas around the zoo as well. There was the gorilla habitat where many gorillas were just lounging around right next to the windows which were very popular. There was also the kingdoms of the night area, where they had a lot of alligators, bats, beavers, and other animals that are mainly nocturnal. Finally, there was the butterfly pavilion where there were hundreds of butterflies flying around of many different sizes and colors.

My favorite part of my trip was probably walking by the elephant area as there were two baby elephants that were playing around with their parents. It was adorable and attracted a lot people watching and taking pictures.

Top 5 Restaurants of 2021

5. Runza – Omaha, NE

Runza sandwich

Runza is a famous fast-food chain that is only located in Nebraska and is one of the most popular places to local Nebraskans. They also sold Runza sandwiches at the Nebraska volleyball and football games as well and everyone was eating them left and right and talking about how amazing they were. I knew I had to try one of these out while I was in the state.

So, what is a Runza? It’s bread that is filled with beef, cabbage, onions and spices. I went with a Runza sandwich with cheese with ‘frings’ (which is an order of half French fries and half onion rings). The sandwich was fairly large and the mix of ingredients were a perfect blend.

This restaurant was very busy as there were always cars lined up around the drive thru which I could see directly from my hotel room. I really enjoyed the sandwich and could definitely eat here pretty often if I was a native Nebraskan. It reminded me a lot of the bierock that I had in California for the Fresno State game.

4. Half Shell Oyster House – Gulfport, MS

Outside Half Shell Oyster House

I am not a big seafood eater, but the Half Shell Oyster House is an extremely popular restaurant and a place I wanted to try while I was in Gulfport. I went just after the lunch peak and the place was still fairly crowded.

The lunch menu was pretty extensive and I wanted to try something that I know I had never tried before. With that in mind I decided on the Orleans shrimp and grits. It had been a while, likely my trip to Hawaii, that I had anything with shrimp. Plus, I do not recall ever having grits before. It was served with a smoky Cajun sauce.

The shrimp were a good texture and the grits were pretty decent as well. What made the dish though was definitely the sauce. It had a ton of flavor and just a little bit of kick on top of it.

The side I ordered it with was a sweet potato soufflé.  It had a good amount of cinnamon and butter on top. I could have done without the extra butter, but the rest of the dish was very good and worth the extra dollar for being a premium side.

3. The Cozy Inn – Salina, KS

Outside Cozy Inn

The Cozy Inn is a very small burger restaurant in downtown Salina. It is celebrating its 100th year anniversary this year in 2022. It’s claim to fame is the burger slider, which is actually the only thing it serves on its menu. The burgers are made fresh each morning and cooked with onions and topped with pickle, mustard, and ketchup.

When you enter the building there is just a very small up-front counter that holds 6 bar seats. They also have a walk-up window with some dining outside as well. One of the owners of the restaurant welcomed me and gave me an overview of their menu and the history of the restaurant. He was an extremely nice guy that made the experience that much better.

The burgers were great. The fact that the burgers were made fresh really came through. The toppings on the burger were generous as well. There is a good reason that this location was named the best burger in Kansas by USA today in 2010.

2. Bootleggers – Lynchburg, VA

Butcher’s Choice Burger

Bootleggers is located atop a long staircase up from the James River. This made it a small trip to get to, but a place that had a great view. The restaurant focused on serving bourbons and burgers., with a very extensive menu of both.

It was a tough decision to pick which burger to try, but I ended up going with the butcher’s choice. This burger came with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato along with horseradish mustard and relish. On the side I went with the sweet potato fries which is always one of my favorite dishes.

The burger was very messy, but delicious. The burger was juicy and toppings on the burger were all generous. The only minor complaint is I asked for no tomato, but there was still a tomato on the burger. With all the other flavors it did not take away from the rest of the burger. The sweet potato flies were also a good choice and made it a great meal overall.

Bootleggers is a great example of a restaurant that knows to specialize in one specific thing and how to excel in that area. I would definitely recommend eating here if you visit Lynchburg.

1. Luce – Charlottesville, VA

Outside Luce

If you want the definition of a hole in the wall, Luce is the place for you. Luce is a small Italian place that literally serves its food through a window in a very small building in downtown Charlottesville.

Pasta is my favorite food so I knew this was the first place I wanted to visit in town. They only serve three types of pasta, though they do also have a few pizzas they sell from Thursday to Saturdays.

I ordered the bolo pasta which was pappardelle pasta with a ragu sauce topped with toast crumbs, mint, and parmesan. Since all orders are to-go, they served them in cups with lids on top.

After opening up my pasta the first thing I appreciated was how full they filled the serving cups. They were filled to the rim and tightly to make sure as much pasta was in as possible. Pappardelle pasta is a wide noodle, wider than fettuccine.

The ragu was a great sauce to have on top of the noodles. The toast crumbs added a little bit of extra texture as well. I was very happy with the meal and it was one of my favorite Italian meals I have had on my journeys so far.

The only negative was the location. Since it was in such a small location in downtown, which is extremely popular in the evening, it made it hard to get in and out of the parking areas. If they were in an easier to get to location, I could see them getting much more regular business.

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