NEW ORLEANS -- Matt Mauck, Trey DiCarlo and everyone else playing in the Sugar Bowl hope to have a field day in the big game.
Whether they do might depend on one thing -- the field itself.
But others who have played on it found the new AstroPlay surface
a little slippery and a bit tricky.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Jay Feely blamed it for a stumble on a
bad miss in overtime on Nov. 16, the first game the New Orleans
Saints tried the turf. DiCarlo was wary that NFL kickers are just
6-for-14 on field goals since the switch.
"I heard they're only making about 50 percent," Oklahoma's
kicker said. "Maybe it's got some spell in it."
Said Saints coach Jim Haslett: "Everybody's kickers have
problems adjusting to it. It's not Astroturf, where the kicker puts
the ball down and everything's smooth. It's not like that."
Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells watched several of his guys
trip and tumble in Sunday's 13-7 loss to the Saints. Star receiver
Terry Glenn fell at a key spot in the final two minutes, leading to
an interception that sealed the defeat.
"That shows you another thing that's stupid," Parcells said,
blaming his own players. "That's their fault. Get some shoes that
work. It's simple. Any football player knows that. That's the first
thing -- go out and test your shoes every game."
Taking no chances, the No. 2 Tigers and No. 3 Sooners brought an
ample supply of footwear for Sunday night's Bowl Championship
Series title game.
Oklahoma rolled into town with about 500 pairs of shoes. For any
other game, the Sooners might show up with 200 pairs, director of
athletic equipment Greg Tipton said.
"We've got everything imaginable -- cleats, tennis shoes, molded
cleats, screw-ins. We've done a lot of research on this field," he
said. "I was here about two weeks ago for our advance site visit
and spent a lot of time studying it."
LSU equipment manager Greg Stringfellow was equally prepared.
"They've got 500? We have at least that many," he said. "I've
got a whole truck parked outside full of shoes.
"Usually, we might bring 70 or 80 extra pairs," he said.
"This time, we've got them all."
Like Tipton, Stringfellow has done some advance scouting. He
stood on the Superdome sidelines two weeks ago when Memphis beat
North Texas 27-17 in the New Orleans Bowl to see what shoes worked
best, and he's also spoken to the Saints' equipment manager about
The Superdome scrapped its seven-year-old turf in mid-November and
replaced it with AstroPlay, a darker green surface that its
developer says is softer and safer for athletes. The Superdome got
the new field for about $350,000 -- it usually costs up to $700,000
to install, but the maker was eager to showcase it at the Sugar
Between the synthetic blades, there are tiny granules of loose
black rubber. They're made from crushed, recycled tennis shoes and
designed to simulate soil on real grass fields.
"When they first laid it in, you'd see players running and
leaving a rooster tail, kicking up those rubber pieces,"
Stringfellow said. "It's gotten pressed down since then, and it's
The Saints played four times on the new surface, and the New
Orleans Bowl and several high school games have been held on it.
LSU has similar turf at its indoor practice facility on campus.
The Tigers won on an AstroPlay field at Mississippi this season and
also won the SEC championship game on a similar surface at the
Mauck, the LSU quarterback, already has a game plan for his
"I'm going to wear a special cleat that is in between a turf
shoe and a regular cleat, which is what Nike makes for this
surface," he said. "Some guys are going to wear cleats, but a
bunch of guys will wear tennis shoes."