Behind the Chutes: Sacramento, Round 1

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Here are three things we learned following Round 1 of the Sacramento Invitational at Sleep Train Arena on Friday night.

Titman notches first BFTS ride

Bryan Titman leaned against the wall outside of the locker room before the start of Friday night’s Sacramento Invitational and spoke calmly about his upcoming Built Ford Tough Series debut.

The 26-year-old rookie talked about how, of course, he was nervous for his debut, but he was surprisingly not as nervous as he expected he would be after winning the Laredo, Texas, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event earlier this month to earn a spot in this weekend’s draw.

Instead of worrying too much about the bright lights and the level of competition he was about to compete against, he was just going to let his riding do the talking.

If there were any first-time jitters left, Titman wasn’t going to allow them to come through in his riding. The East Bernard, Texas, bull rider recorded his first-career ride by covering Cash Ya Out for 85.25 points despite the bovine athlete trying to throw him forward inside the bucking chute prior to the gate opening.

“The bucking chute is where it kind of went bad,” Titman said. “He kind of lunged forward. Everyone told me I should have re-pulled, but if I re-pull I kind of fight my head in there. I kind of just go with what I have and I figured I could ride him with what I had. When he kicked out of there he felt good, he kind of stumbled on his front end and he wanted me over his head a little bit, and when he turned back he just felt amazing. I then kind of lost him a little bit and gathered him back up.”

So was his first BFTS event everything he ever imagined?

“Oh, it is a lot more than I thought it would be,” Titman said. “The fans are a lot louder. The Velocity Tour is great, but these right here are the top of the line. The fans are good. You know the bull riders are going to ride something, so when I see other guys ride and winning that makes me want to win.”

The ride places Titman ninth in the round heading into tomorrow night’s Round 2, where he will face Wilbur.

“I am just going to stay like I was on that first one,” Titman said. “I am not really too excited – I am excited to be here, but I am not letting my nerves get to me. As long as my head games stay where they are at I will be fine.”

Round 1 is déjà vu for Dirteater

Ryan Dirteater is starting to grow fond of the River City after picking up the first-round win by riding Houla Hoop for 87.5 points.

Not only is it the second consecutive year that Dirteater has covered the bull at Sleep Train Arena, but it also is the second time that the Hulbert, Oklahoma, native has won Round 1 in Sacramento. Dirteater split Round 1 with Robson Palermo last year on Houla Hoop.

“It is good to get one underneath my belt,” Dirteater said. “Déjà vu again. I did it last year at this event and I did it again tonight.”

Dirteater took time this week to watch his ride on Houla Hoop just once before taking him on for the second time in his career. He knew Houla Hoop is normally an honest bull with a lot of kick, yet Houla Hoop attempted to fool him with a different trip than last year.

“He had a different trip with me tonight,” Dirteater said. “He was around the right and back around to the left, but I got it done.”

It is also Dirteater’s first round win of 2015 and it provides him with 100 points toward the world standings.

“It helps a little bit knowing I got one down,” said Dirteater, who is 14th in the world. “I got some points. Points are really valuable right now early in the season. It helps quite a bit, so if I just get that one down I can stay on top.”

Dirteater believes he has another solid matchup coming in Round 2 on Saturday night.

“I have a pretty good bull tomorrow, Cowboy Phil, and hopefully I can make 8 on him,” Dirteater said.

Byrne gets to leave a round with a smile

The story seemed to keep on repeating itself for Tanner Byrne.

Whenever the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan bull rider would make the 8-second whistle, he seemingly would always end up placing outside the Top 5 of a round and head home empty-handed with no points toward the world standings.

That nearly happened once again on Friday night, but Byrne’s 86.75-point ride aboard Jeepers Creepers was enough to place him fifth in the round and grant him 30 points toward the world standings.

It is the first time this season Byrne has placed high enough in a round to earn points.

“I am just staying on my bulls and hopefully they will start giving me some points sometime here,” Byrne said. “All I can do is stay on and I can’t make the draw or do anything different. I am going to keep on riding and it will come.”

The 30 points is a season-high for him on the BFTS and his 95 total points on the year bumps him up to 36th in the world standings.

It is his third-highest scored ride of the season.

Coincidentally, Byrne’s highest score of 87.5 points, which he accomplished twice in New York, granted him no points in either the 15/15 Bucking Battle or the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden.

It is why it was no surprise to see Byrne walking away with a grin following Round 1 on Friday night.

“I know how to ride bulls one way and I feel like I really dominate bulls and I get tapped off,” Byrne said. “One of my biggest flaws is that I make them look not as rank. Instead of marking me high, a lot of times they mark the bull down. Which I mean it does look like they are not bucking as hard, but that is just the name of my game.

“I am going to keep riding and the points are going to come. There is nothing else I can do but stay on my bulls. I am just worrying about that.”

Byrne faces Grandpa Joe in Round 2.

Injury Updates

Marco Eguchi’s struggles continued Friday night as the 25-year-old was bucked off in 2.2 seconds by Super Cool Cat. He is now 1-for-11 this season on the BFTS.

Eguchi sustained a bruised right thigh when he was struck by the bull’s horn after the buckoff. He is questionable for Round 2, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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