Dallas Cowboys fans got a glimpse of everything they were hoping to see Friday night.
Their new stadium dazzled. Tony Romo was darn good. And the Cowboys won, pretty easily.
In the first football game at the nearly $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, Romo looked right at home, going 18 of 24 for 192 yards and sending Dallas on its way to a 30-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans in a preseason game.
“It was incredible,” Romo said, comparing the atmosphere to a regular-season game. “It’s really exciting to be a part of something this special. It’s only going to continue and get better as the year goes on.”
Thousands of fans rushed in when the doors opened two hours before kickoff, many eager to see just how humongous the overhead video boards are and some simply in a hurry to claim the best standing-room spots. By the time players walked through a club packed with fans to get to the field, they were all smiles about finally getting to play in this place they’ve heard so much about for so long.
“The electricity that we felt just prior to the opening kickoff was really special,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who spent more than $825 million on the building, the rest of the $1.15 billion tab picked up by city taxpayers. “A great night. A great crowd. And an event we will remember for a long, long time.”
The Cowboys (1-1) played up to the mood, for the most part.
After losing a long kickoff return to a penalty then going three-and-out on their first drive, Romo controlled a 15-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run from Marion Barber. Although it technically was the first TD here, it won’t go down that way since this game doesn’t count — but Barber sure seemed excited to score it anyway.
Tennessee (2-1) answered with a field goal and a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kerry Collins to Justin Gage, giving the Titans a 10-7 lead with 59 seconds left in the half. Then Romo used all but one of those seconds to move the Cowboys 79 yards for the go-ahead score. It came on another 1-yard run, this time by Felix Jones, who got the drive going by turning a short pass into a 42-yard gain. Dallas gained 249 yards in the first half, piling up 17 first downs.
“We didn’t tackle the way we’re capable of doing the first half with our starting defense,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “There were too many third-and-shorts and fourth-and-shorts.”
In the second half, Dallas backup quarterback Jon Kitna threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Kevin Ogletree, who tipped it to himself and made a one-handed catch while also being interfered with by the defender. The Cowboys got a safety when Tennessee’s third-string quarterback Patrick Ramsey was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone, then third-stringer Stephen McGee threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Hannah with 1:53 left.
Collins played the entire first half and was 8 of 11 for 55 yards and a touchdown, but the offense gained only 78 yards.
Tennessee went three and out on its first three drives, including the one that ended in a field goal; the Titans started at the Dallas 32 but had to settle for a 46-yarder by Rob Bironas. They finally got moving on their last series of the half, going 69 yards in eight plays.
“It was really important to get that touchdown,” Collins said. “It was good to finish on a strong note.”
Vince Young started the second half for Tennessee and was 3 of 9 for 33 yards with a batted ball getting intercepted on his final attempt. He also ran twice for just 2 yards. Rookie Javon Ringer gained 33 yards on five carries.
Instead of announcing attendance, the Cowboys said there were 75,720 tickets distributed. The place looked mostly full, although there were some unfilled seats in the top-dollar areas. Most suites seemed in use, with folks even hanging out on the patios outside the field-level suites.
Customers didn’t get to see all the bells and whistles, though, because Jones kept the retractable roof and retractable end-zone doors closed, and the Ring of Honor had yet to be installed. There’s also no giant star on the 50-yard line, like the one made famous at Texas Stadium when Terrell Owens celebrated on it while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Gotta save something for the home opener against the Giants on Sept. 20.
Perhaps the most notable stadium nugget Friday night was that Tennessee’s rookie punter A.J. Trapasso kicked the ball into the bottom of the massive video boards, forcing a do-over. He almost hit it on that kick, too.
The screen — which is 60 yards wide and 25 yards high — was an inviting target for Trapasso and starter Craig Hentrich during pregame warmups. Both hit it multiple times.