For expatriate Nebraskans living in the Southeast, the current bowl system provides some unique opportunities to view quality football games within a couple of hours of your home. Atlanta being only four hours from the hacienda and tickets being provided gratis, I took the opportunity to attend the Peach Bowl. Here’s my story:
Why would one consider attending the Peach Bowl, when one had not attended either school? The tickets were a Christmas Gift, and we could go to the game and be home the same evening. These were two high powered offenses from two highly ranked teams. The game had high potential to be a shootout with the two teams trading haymakers for four hours. UCF had the top ranked offense in the nation, and Gus Malzahn wrote the book on hurry up, no huddle offense. Like, he wrote a book.
My personal interest was seeing how the Frost Staff preps their team for a big game, and if his split interests had taken a toll on motivation. It was also a unique opportunity to view other fanbases “in the wild” so to speak.
New Year’s Day may have been the only good day of the year to drive into Atlanta in the morning. We slid right in, decided on a twenty dollar parking lot vice a thirty or a fifty, and trekked in. Mercedes-Benz stadium was very nice. It had a great look, roomy seats, lots of food stands and bars, and friendly staff. Chik-fil-A had a big do next door that we skipped. I wanted to get to the stadium and watch the teams prep. Teresa wanted to get in front of the nearest heater.
Walking in with a mostly Auburn crowd, we got to experience our first Florida Man fan: a drunken bro in #jorts attempting parkour off the statuary in front of the arena entrance. He didn’t land on his head in front of us, so I hurried my registered nurse wife along quickly before he did something she would be compelled to provide first-responder care for. The tiger fans shook their heads.
Teresa and I were in Husker Gear, as we always are on trips away from home. It’s how expatriate Nebraskans find each other out in the “wilderness”. But, we were discreet, wearing black Husker shirts, with vests over them due to the arctic cold the Southeast was experiencing (it was 24F). No one was hostile or even impolite. We saw Georgia fans, Ohio State fans, Georgia Tech fans, and a decent amount of Falcons gear. There had been some incredibly exaggerated reports of Husker Presence at this game.
I live in Birmingham,a two-hour drive from Atlanta. No hard confirmation, but been hearing there could be as many as 15,000 red-clad Nebraska fans at the Peach Bowl on Monday simply to watch a coaching staff during the UCF-Auburn game. Frenzy over Frost is becoming Saban-esque.— Lars Anderson (@LarsAnderson71) December 30, 2017
I met nine. And saw one guy in a Knights shirt with a Husker hat. Seven of the nine were from Atlanta. And I walked the entire concourse at halftime looking for a UCF fan in jorts for a picture.
Just a general note about both fanbases. The fans in general were, as my Uncle-Cousin Chuck would say, “very well put together”. Regardless of gender. I’m a terrible, shallow person.
UCF stadium attendance may have been spotty, but the black and gold were out in force yesterday. You could tell that many were new or casual fans, though. Maybe it’s a culture thing. In our section, only about half knew the specific Knights cheers for kickoffs and the other half smirked at them. Very few stood for kickoffs, for third downs, for red zone stands. Knights fans were easy to knock out of the game too. Auburn’s big return to open the second half sent many to the bar or their phones. Perhaps they didn’t believe the team was going to prevail. There were many freak-outs after the final interception, however.
The Tiger fans around us reminded me of my brother’s seats in North Stadium. Everyone around him has their seats since “ought nine or thereabouts” and it was two years before they’d even grunt at him when he sat down. #hiphophogwash, #rtdb, all that. The Auburn fans were like them. They’ve been there before, and they expect to be there again. Quick to criticize, slow to compliment. Every tiger fan in our section knew every word to the fight song, and every cheer for every circumstance. They were loud to the last play.
A couple of conversations with the fans around me really illustrated how different bowls are for teams in the Southeast than for the Huskers. One UCF fan next to me came from West Palm Beach. He complained because he had to fly, and wished the Knights had made the Orange Bowl instead. Another thought the UCF presence was especially notable because “we had to drive six whole hours, and Auburn’s only an hour and a half away.” It would appear bowls weren’t a winter vacation for them like they are for the average Husker Fan.
The game was enjoyable for its own sake. There was constant tension, lightning strikes on offense, and it came down to the final seconds. Last season had made me forget how enjoyable spread offense is to watch. McKenzie Milton gave me flashbacks to Taylor Martinez’s scrambling. He also gave me flashbacks of his and Armstrong’s passing. Milton reminded me of driving my bug on the interstate: passing was difficult and usually unsuccessful.
One interesting observation by my wife: Nebraskans must stand a certain way. We were watching the pregame warm-ups so I could determine if the Knights were “focused but loose” or perhaps “exuded a quiet confidence” or some other journalistic drivel. I pointed out Coach Frost to my wife. She states, “Oh, I can tell which one he is, he stands just like all you Nebraskans.” Whaaat? How’s that? She pulled up this pic:
Feet shoulder width apart, hands in pockets, pelvis forward is apparently “The Nebraska Way”. And you thought it had something to do with a dive option on third and short.
TL/DR: Great venue, great game, Nebraskans stand funny.