There were fewer fans in the seats for the 25th edition of the Valero Alamo Bowl, but the Alamodome got loud and wild Thursday night as the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs and Stanford Cardinal traded the lead in the fourth quarter before TCU came out on top, 39-37.

The official attendance of 57,653 was just the 16th largest in the bowl’s history, with the crowd made up predominantly of fans of the private Texas university. They went home happy after 15th-ranked TCU came back from a 21-3 first-half deficit, taking the lead for good on a field goal by Cole Bunce with 3:35 left in the game.

“It wasn’t as full as it was the last time we played here, but it was
still over 55,000 … so that’s an unbelievable bowl game,” said TCU Coach Gary Patterson, praising his fans for creating a noisy atmosphere inside the stadium.

With many upper-level seats unfilled at the Alamodome, the attendance number was considerably less than the record crowd of 66,166 that watched Penn State defeat Texas A&M in 2007, and the smallest since Oklahoma State played Arizona in 2010.

Meanwhile, a matchup between the smallest school in the Big 12 Conference and the smallest in the Pac-12 Conference meant smaller crowds for downtown hotel and restaurant operators.

Dacie Rivera traveled from Burleson, Texas, on Thursday with two friends to see the game and cheer on the Horned Frogs, but planned to spend only one night in a downtown hotel before traveling back north. “This is just a quick girls’ trip,” she said.

Sales at Casa Rio restaurant on the River Walk were down 25 percent because of colder-than-normal weather and limited outdoor patio seating, while upstairs on Commerce Street, Schilo’s was up just 4 percent, said Elizabeth Lyons Houston, marketing and public relations director for the two downtown mainstays.

“Generally, attendance for the 25th Alamo Bowl was lower than usual which also contributed,” she said. “And while TCU fans showed up as expected, we of course didn’t see as many Stanford fans.”

Valero Alamo Bowl officials, however, were more than satisfied with having a nationally televised game that wasn’t decided until TCU’s Innis Gaines intercepted Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello with 2:01 remaining to end the 13th-ranked Cardinal’s final drive.

“That’s something that’s going to help the Valero Alamo Bowl brand,” said Rick Hill, the bowl’s vice president of marketing and communications. “… Obviously, a team from Texas doesn’t typically stay as long.

“But the game was trending nationally on Twitter, so these are the kinds of games we live to put together.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.