The dull clang of aluminum cans, girls dancing to music selected by a parking-lot DJ, flat-screen TVs on truck beds, and generators buzzing to the sizzle of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers.
The party outside of the Georgia Dome started Saturday morning for USC fans, the day beginning with hope for the folks who huddled under tailgate tents or strolled through the Georgia World Congress Center.
“It was a great trip down. It was an adventure,” Stan Smith said. “People were so excited about the whole event.”
If you’re not an Auburn fan, though, the game was pretty much forgettable.
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Smith’s wife, Mary Douglass, said it was disheartening to see Gamecocks fans leaving during the fourth quarter.
“If they wanted to go out, we understand,” she said. “It was still a lifetime experience.”
A collection of sights and sounds from South Carolina’s first trip to the SEC Championship Game:
The easiest route to the Georgia Dome was MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation system. At least parking for the train was free, as some lots were charging as much as $60 per car.
If the fans were playing, it would’ve been pompoms vs. rally towels. The pompoms won, if only because they were used through the postgame trophy presentation. The orange tassels blended in with Auburn fans’ orange tops, providing a seamless transition from arm to ball of stuff on a stick. Many Auburn fans brought their pompoms from home, unlike the Gamecocks, who had towels placed in 15,000 seats Friday.
Big man on campus
When the lineups were announced, the cheers for Cam Newton were louder than those for Marcus Lattimore. It was ominous.
Outside the GWCC, the site of the SEC FanFare and the place to hang out before the game, it seemed like Auburn fans greatly outnumbered USC’s. It was orange and blue everywhere.
Raise your hand
More than 75,000 people were inside the dome, but there were plenty of people outside looking for tickets, which were going for as much as $350. Those who needed a ticket were walking around like they were trying to get a teacher’s attention.
Smile and shake
When Eric Hyman, USC’s athletics director, stopped by the My Carolina Alumni Association pregame party at the GWCC, he was immediately engaged in conversation. The same thing occurred for Gov. elect Nikki Haley, only she was on the field before the game.
Bo Knows burning rubber
Before a third-and-7 on USC’s second possession, and after the second timeout of the drive, the jumbo screen showed a picture of Auburn great Bo Jackson. Stephen Garcia then threw an errant pass, and the Gamecocks punted. On the next Auburn possession, Stephon Gilmore was burned on a big pass play for the second time by Darvin Adams.
When Lou Holtz’s Dr. Pepper commercial was played on the jumbo screen, there was a chorus of boos. One could not determine whose fans were most adamant.
Sign of the times
The first “Game”-“Cock” chant came with 3:58 left in the first half. It was pretty weak, too, given the circumstance: Auburn driving on a possession that ended with a missed 36-yard field-goal attempt. The chant was heard only once more.
The Gamecock faithful was at its loudest in the second half after Connor Shaw’s 36-yard, fourth-quarter run. But it wasn’t a cheer. Fans booed Auburn cornerback T’Sharvan Bell, who picked up a personal foul when he pushed Shaw out of bounds late.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.