PULLMAN – Washington State’s first home football game sold out for the first time in more than half a century Saturday afternoon, and no one seemed to appreciate it more than a young linebacker who grew up 3,000 miles away.
“It really showed me what Pullman, Washington, was about. It was just magnificent,” redshirt freshman Darryl Monroe from Orlando, Fla., said after the Cougars’ 24-20 win over Eastern Washington.
“I could be somewhere in Florida playing in front of 90,000 people or whatever, but there is no experience like this where you have everyone that’s in the town in Pullman, Washington, just to watch you play.”
The announced crowd of 33,598 – there were a few hundred empty seats – exceeded the official capacity of 33,522. The latter number has changed regularly since more than $60 million in off-season upgrades added a new press box, suites and other premium seats to 40-year-old Martin Stadium.
“It’s like walking into an NFL stadium now,” one fan said.
That’s a bit of a stretch – most NFL stadiums seat at least twice as many fans as Martin – but the south-side improvements definitely give Martin Stadium more of a “big-time” look.
“I even had one of the refs come up to me and say, ‘Man, that thing looks pretty cool,’” quarterback Jeff Tuel said. “It’s real sweet.”
Tuel said the crowd was “awesome.” Monroe described the crowd as “wonderful.” Fellow linebacker Cyrus Coen said the crowd provided him with “the most unbelievable feeling.”
“The fans here are incredible,” new Cougars coach Mike Leach said. “I’d heard this is a great place to play and coach and all that. It was incredible.
“There’s a personality here that doesn’t exist at other places. This is a special place as far as going out into that stadium. There’s a lot of traditions laced in there.
“I think it’s incredibly impressive.”
The crowd was WSU’s largest in five years, dating back to the 2007 Arizona State game, which drew 35,117 before Martin was downsided slightly. Martin held 25,000 the last time WSU had sold out its home opener in 1952 for Stanford.
“It’s a place where any player should be proud to play,” Leach said.