ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Onterio McCalebb #23 and Chris Davis #11 of the Auburn Tigers carry around the trophy after their 43-24 win over the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Had my War Eagle and TET moment with LSU Jonno Saturday as he messaged me in the afternoon about an extra ticket, so I met him and his crew down at the Georgia Dome for the Chick fil A bowl. Just imagine, I was planning on watching the game at home and rocking in the new year with Dick Clark's corpse on ABC. You have to give Jonno credit, sporting the Auburn shirt and LSU visor. I think he got more comments and high fives than would Cam Newton with a fistful of free tickets. I don't think there's any doubt who Auburn fans are pulling for next Monday. Anyway, a good time was had by all. That got me thinking, maybe this spring game we might try to have a TET meet-up like we last did in 2009. Might be fun for all to congregate, swap stories and at the very least, have some wagers settled in full.
Although the game was announced on Thursday as being another sell-out, attendance was a little over 72,000, which is about 4000 shy of capacity. I must hand it to Virginia fans as they came out in force. Naturally it was a little hard to tell visually looking around the stadium since everyone had on the same colors. You had to use your ears. A lot of Cavalier fans sported bow ties or powdered wigs, the latter a reference to Thomas Jefferson, the founder of UVa. Talking with a few of their fans before the game, they said they had last played in the Dome in 1998, against Georgia, and that it was just like a Bulldog home game. I told them to get used to it and that Saturday night would be no different.
I've been to the Chicken Bowl a few times when we weren't playing, so you'd figure I'd remember this little tidbit, but they serve alcohol in the stadium when it's not a regular SEC game. I mean, I guess that's the rule because I distinctly remember no sales during the SEC CG last year. The Georgia Dome area is a tough place to tailgate, with the CNN Center food court being about the only place with restaurants, and basically only two of those being places that serve drinks. The tailgaters per square foot ratio in there might be what you'd find in downtown Hong Kong, assuming they had college football there and tailgates, of course. Factor into the crowd the folks down there for the Zac Brown Band concert next door at Phillips Arena and it was wall to wall.
I was pleased the crowd was rocking going into the dome and inside it. With two Jumbotrons in the house, everyone gets to see what's going on. It was cool to see Bo Jackson down with the team on the sidelines before kickoff. He even went out with the captains for the coin toss. If I'm Virginia's coaches, I think I'd object. I wouldn't want my players being star struck like that. Regardless, it's good to see Bo being so visible with the team the last two years. We've caught him on the sidelines a few times over the years and more than a few just last year, but with his first return to the Heisman ceremony in 25 years for Cam's award, he definitely has a bigger presence with the program now than he's ever had. Thanks, Bo. (And shouldn't we have had him at least talk to Russell Wilson last year?)
Saturday was a perfect storm of greatness coming together for this team for one last hurrah. I'm very pleased to see the 2011 team go out as winners in their final game. I've been harsh on this team since Amen Corner and like some of you secretly did, I thought they were finished as a cohesive unit. I'm glad I was wrong. The new year is a time for redemption, and I was so happy for Barrett Trotter and his redemption in the eyes of his teammates, the coaches and the fans. I certainly hope he'll be back with us next year.
So the countdown for the new year has ended, Tiger fans. Everyone give a kiss to each other just as we kiss 2011 and a few players and coaches goodbye. Wish them the best on their future endeavors. While this particular squad of Tiger players rides off into the sunset, the Auburn program is still here. We've got coaches to hire and finicky 17 and 18-year old recruits to sign. Football is only over for about a month until national signing day. And only three and a half months until the spring game. We'll see you there!