Whenever and however it happened, Auburn’s student section transformed this year.
Maybe it was the excitement about a potential run at the college football playoff, or maybe it was the new student ticketing rules that resulted in higher attendance at games. Whatever the cause, Jordan-Hare Stadium experienced rocking crowd noise that could only compare to the crowd that witnessed the Kick Six.
Most notable is the swag surfing that took place during the Georgia and Alabama games. Against Georgia, when head coach Gus Malzahn challenged a call on the field, the stadium DJ played the old hit, “Swag Surfin’” by F.L.Y. The entire student section, arms around each other, began to sway back and forth to the song.
The stadium DJ also played “Crank That” by Soulja Boy, a song that Georgia had played and danced to after beating Auburn in 2007.
The team joined in, and the players on the field and on the side line began to dance to whatever music came on. At this point, the game was already won, but the confidence of the team and the crowd was in the air for the entire game.
The environment was so electrifying that it led to Georgia players complaining about the music in Sanford Stadium, while Auburn’s players praised the fans after the game.
“Our fans were definitely surreal,” said wide receiver Darius Slayton after the game. “It’s probably one of the best atmospheres that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here.”
“It’s a party,” defensive end Marlon Davidson said after the game. “We got a party tonight.”
The energy and the enthusiasm reverberated through the stadium. As iron sharpens iron, it seemed like the crowd’s enthusiasm and the team’s enthusiasm fueled each other.
Malzahn gave credit to the fans for the big win. “I’m very proud of our fans,” Malzahn said. “Our fans were off the charts the whole game and really helped us win this football game.” Usually a hard-nosed coach who doesn’t show too much emotion, Malzahn let his players loose and let them have fun.
After the surprising victory over the Bulldogs, Auburn’s playoff hopes became real again, and their confidence was higher than ever. The confidence of both the team and the fans carried over to the Iron Bowl.
When Alabama came to town, the matchup proved to be more challenging than that of Georgia. However, the environment was almost replicated completely.
There was dancing, there was singing, there was swag surfing. The players were having fun again, and it led to a complete domination of the Tide.
The two performances were something that’s never really been done before. No team has ever defeated two top ranked teams in such a short span. The amazing thing wasn’t even that Auburn beat both teams, but that Auburn absolutely dominated the field in both games.
“We’re just enjoying ourselves,” defensive tackle Dontavious Russell said. “Whenever you have a team that’s enjoying themselves, it’ll show in the way that we play.”
It’s evident, to the crowd and the team, that this year’s student section environment was better than ever before, and it had an impact on the team.
At home, Auburn outscored its opponents 266-95. Away from home, including the SEC championship, Auburn only outscored its opponents 181-130. At home, the Tigers were 7-0. On the road, the team went 3-3.
Of course, playing on the road will always prove to be a challenge for any team, but the difference in home and away performances for this team was incredible. The team that dominated Georgia and Alabama in Jordan-Hare can’t even compare to the team that dropped games to Clemson, LSU and Georgia.
The Auburn crowd did all it could for the SEC championship, but Georgia fans had three weeks to buy tickets, as they clinched the East the week before they came to Auburn. The Tigers, on the other hand, only had a week to prepare after clinching the West against Alabama.
It wasn’t necessarily the same as an away game in Athens, but it was clear inside Mercedes-Benz stadium that Bulldog fans were the heavy majority in that crowd.
Auburn fell 28-7 to the Bulldogs on Saturday, but this crowd is still excited about its Tigers. The fans, and the students, are still excited about the Tigers.
Family is a term that has different definitions for different people, but everyone in Jordan-Hare has the same definition.
Everyone who goes to Auburn, who has graduated from Auburn, and has experienced Auburn, knows exactly what the Auburn Family means. It isn’t something that can be defined to someone who isn’t a part of it. When you experience it, you know that nothing else compares to it.
The fans know it, and the players know it. That family’s presence can be felt inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. After November, Georgia and Alabama know it too.