I headed to Knoxville this weekend in hopes of catching the Rebels beating Tennessee in a safe, clean, and normal game. Obviously, if you opened up your phone at all this weekend, those weren’t the same adjectives used.
Buckle up, there’s a lot to unpack here.
Knoxville is fantastic. I heard plenty of hype for it and have had this game circled on the calendar for a while. The SEC really is just so great. I got into Knoxville around noon on Saturday and started to head out to see the city.
Knoxville is quickly climbing my favorite SEC town list— Ruby (@RubyDraay) October 16, 2021
The first stop was Babalu, a Rocky Top Talk recommendation, that did not disappoint. Luckily, I got there fairly early before kickoff and didn’t have to wait too long for a table. It was on the cutest street, right next to the river, and honestly looked a lot like a Hallmark movie. I might be wrong, but this area is very comparable to the Square. All of the different restaurants, movie theaters, and stores were right in this little area. While sitting out on the patio, I people watched everyone walking by. While it definitely wasn’t their color, there wasn’t a single person not in orange. The SEC takes a lot of heat, but the support from an entire city on gameday is unmatched.
We started to head over to the game, and while parking was a hot mess, the tailgating was not. I understand now why everyone that isn’t an Ole Miss fan hates on the Grove. Other SEC teams have cool tailgating, but they miss one important factor. Everyone is so spread out! There is something so special about having everyone together instead of having to walk all the way down the street each time you want to go to your friends' tent. As we were walking to the stadium, Vols fans were anything but friendly. Plenty of “F*!$ Ole Miss” were thrown around, but that’s college football.
I was completely blown away walking up into Neyland Stadium. I don’t think I have ever been to a college football game, or anything other game, that had 100,000 people there. I’ve never even seen Ole Miss sell out a game just yet, and that would still be 40,000 people less than the game on Saturday. It was unbelievable and equally intimidating to push through a complete sea of orange. Tennessee deserves a lot of credit for creating an atmosphere like that.
Once I got into the game, I started to feel embarrassed a little for Ole Miss and scared to death for what was going to happen in this game. My seats were right next to the Ole Miss band, behind the Ole Miss bench. With around 30 minutes left until kick-off, the stadium was already almost filled up. Of all the incredible moments from that night, that might have been the most impressive to me. Fans were loud and hostile while players were still warming up! That kind of opposing noise will definitely get in a player's head before you even officially run out of the tunnel.
As I was watching this happen, I was trying to figure out all the reasons that this doesn’t happen at Ole Miss. I could only come up with one. People don’t want to leave the Grove early. However, leaving 30 minutes early is not that detrimental to your Grove experience and can make things drastically worse for the visiting team. In regards to this weekend, imagine an extra 30 minutes to scream at Ed Orgeron. I’m down.
I’m going to get to the obvious storyline of this game, but a part of me hates I will probably remember that one minute for the rest of my life instead of how the other 59 minutes went.
I love Kiffin’s blue shoes, but my favorite accessory is his BDE— Ruby (@RubyDraay) October 17, 2021
Neyland Stadium is effing insane. From 30 minutes to kick off until Joe Milton ran out of bounds with no time left (lol.) It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a stadium that was that loud. It is easily in my top 3 greatest sports atmospheres ever. Seeing 100,000 plus in checkered-out sections is something that is seriously hard to describe. As an Ole Miss fan, I wanted to win so bad, but once I heard how loud they were, I honestly didn’t know if they would pull it off. Luckily for me, I remembered to take my preemptive Advil, and I didn’t end up with a raging headache from all the noise. I’ve had plenty of warnings from people about going to the State game this year, but after hearing Rocky Top, cowbells aren’t going to mean jack shiz to me.
The Tennessee band came out and played for what felt like five minutes before the Tennessee team did their signature “running through the T.” Obviously, so cool, but I have such a soft spot for really cool band performances. I’m not musically gifted, so when I see people who are, and can perform any kind of formations, I’m easily impressed. The best part of the entire performance was when they came up to the Ole Miss band and played the Ole Miss fight song. It was seriously amazing. I guess this is a tradition that the “Pride of the Southland” plays the opposing teams' fight song, but I think every team should do it. I’m a big fan.
The University of Tennessee pulled out all the stops for this matchup. The fireworks that went off all around the stadium, a flyover, and the checkered-out stadium. It was unreal. Now, to be fair, Tennessee and the stadium are unreal in a good way, but the fans are unreal in a bad way.
The last thirty minutes of the game are a blur. I was going crazy in the Ole Miss section after that fourth-down stop. The next thing I remember was seeing bottles flying all around me. Still in good spirits, mostly suffering second-hand embarrassment for Vols fans. Once I calmed down and realized Tennessee getting the ball back was a real possibility, I began to be worried.
A “you miss Kiffin” has started in the Ole Miss section. I am a participant.— Ruby (@RubyDraay) October 17, 2021
I didn’t watch the last play of the game for the second week in a row. It was too much for me to handle, but alas, the good guys won.
I loved Knoxville. The food, atmosphere, and Rebel win were everything I could have hoped for and more.