SEC football officially kicked off Saturday, starting a season many feared would never get played.
At Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Auburn Tigers hosted the Kentucky Wildcats -- defeated them 29-13.
The first game since the start of the pandemic welcomed in more than 17,000 fans -- about 20% of the stadium’s capacity. Still, fans called the atmosphere “electric.”
“Way louder than I was expecting, I mean you couldn’t tell that it was that big of a difference from last year, not at all,” Fulton Carmichael, a sophomore Auburn student, said.
Saturday brought happiness for Auburn fans, not just because the team won, but just the fact that they were playing at all.
“If you had told me three months ago that we’d get to be here,” Carmichael said, “I would have said ‘no way,’ but it’s awesome to be back.”
Students like Carmichael made up a significant portion of those in attendance at the home opener, with the university reserving nearly all of the general admission tickets for students. Some attribute the significant level of crowd noise to them.
After the game, students said noticable differences included masks and cushioned seats -- which were spaced out to represent social distancing. Many said it also made the experience more comfortable.
“We have a lot of room to just kinda lean back,”Peyton Peninger said. “So they were nice. We’re not all scrunched up.”
Fans also said the smaller crowd made it easier to enter the stadium and cut down lines for things like concessions and restrooms. While the experience was undoubtedly different, fans said the university made a strong effort to make sure they got the full experience.
“They would play videos throughout the game, from last year, when everybody was there and like dancing and all together so it was kind of nice to, like, also get to see that and remember how things were a year ago,” Caitlin Callahan, a junior, said.
Ultimately, fans said the precautions couldn’t stop them from having fun and they all hope to be back for the next game.