A marching band and cheerleaders in the stands, a virtual eagle flight and about 70,000 missing Auburn fans. It was far from a normal gameday in Auburn on Saturday, but it was one of the best sports atmospheres during this pandemic.
An official attendance of 17,490 was comprised of mostly Auburn students with player’s guests from Auburn and Kentucky also adding to that number.
It was obvious during pregame warmups that even the reduced crowd would make a difference. As kickoff approached, the crowd was ready for football.
Coach Gus Malzahn noticed the crowd throughout the game.
“I really want to give a shout out to our students,” Malzahn said. “They were extremely loud, specifically in the fourth quarter. We didn’t really know what to expect, but they made a big difference.”
Senior Jordyn Peters also had high praise for the students.
“We have the best fans in the nation if you ask me," Peters said. "They're going to be as loud as possible. It still felt like a real football game. They were still yelling and cheering, just like before. I loved it."
The first half felt like an adjustment for the fans, but in the final moments of the half, the students brought the energy.
With Kentucky driving, the video board flashed crowd prompts to get the students cheering, but they were not necessary. They just added fuel to the fire that a student section throughout the entire stadium was.
After a failed quarterback sneak by Kentucky on second down, the stadium was as loud as it had been all game for third down.
Roger McCreary intercepted a Terry Wilson pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Jordan-Hare Stadium was raucous with cheering following this play.
That cheering turned into a barrage of boos when referee Steve Marlowe announced that a targeting foul had been called on Derick Hall, and the touchdown would not count.
Auburn football was back.
In the second half, the students turned it up another level. They took a half to adjust and were as loud in the second half as they are for rivalry games.
It was the best sports atmosphere I have seen since March. The only way you could safely create a better atmosphere than what we saw Saturday is by giving the students a night game.
Auburn has announced that the Arkansas game on October 10 will also be mostly students in the stands.
If Auburn wants to continue to have the best sports atmosphere in the country, they will continue to give a majority of tickets to the students.