In Iraq, Fort Lewis soldiers awake early to watch BCS title game

BAQOUBA, Iraq - A touchdown in California delivered an early-morning jolt half a world away.

As Alabama running back Mark Ingram sprinted untouched into the end zone during the second quarter of college football’s national title game Thursday, William Satterwhite jumped from his seat.

“There you go!” yelled the Fort Lewis soldier from Birmingham, Ala. “There you go! All right now!”

As most service members across Forward Operating Base Warhorse slept, Satterwhite and 10 other die-hard football fans munched on popcorn and knocked back energy drinks for the 4 a.m. broadcast of the game being played in Pasadena, Calif. The soldiers, many from Fort Lewis’ 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, relaxed in weathered blue chairs in the 160-seat Faulkenburg Theater as a projector provided an oversize view of the broadcast.

Satterwhite, one of the top noncommissioned officers in the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, grew up near Birmingham. And with the Crimson Tide playing Texas for a shot at their first national title since 1992, sleep could wait.

“I was here at 3 o’clock,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

He pumped his fist every time Ingram broke a big run. Every incompletion by Tide quarterback Greg McElroy drew an exaggerated wince. And Satterwhite made sure everyone in the theater took notice when Tide players broke big plays – like when Heisman Trophy winner Ingram shook off three tacklers to keep a second-quarter drive alive.

“He’ll always break that tackle!” he yelled. “You can’t stop him! He’ll always break that tackle!”

But a sack of McElroy one play after Ingram’s impressive run drew the cheers of the handful of Longhorns fans in the theater.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” screamed Spc. Justin McShane, a military policeman from Houston. He repeated it again a second later, just as loud but more deliberately: “That is what I am talking about, baby!”

But just a few minutes later, Alabama’s Trent Richardson scored on a 49-yard touchdown run. Satterwhite leapt from his seat, clapped his hands and dished out a little trash talk.

“At this point,” he said, “this might be over at halftime!”