Week 3 focused on some big time Power 5 stadiums with games at Louisville, South Carolina and Clemson. As a general rule for a “game traveler”, you always look for (a) a P5 game on a weeknight due to their rarity; and (b) 2-for-1 Saturday’s with a day game and a night game. This weekend checked all those boxes and presented the opportunity to see games at some major bucket list stadiums.
Friday night’s game at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky was my first visit since 2019. Cardinal Stadium is “newer” in comparison to most of the other ACC stadiums, as it was built fairly recently in 1998. It replaced old Cardinal Stadium, which was a multi-purpose venue which hosted football, soccer and baseball. New Cardinal Stadium originally had 42,000 seats and has expanded since to seat 60,000 fans.
Though the game on this night vs Florida State was not a sell out (46,459 fans were in attendance), it was still a raucous atmosphere. This was largely due to the significant Seminole fan presence at the stadium. Tomahawk chops and FSU war chants were heard throughout the night, as Seminole fans looked to take over the stadium. The game turned out to be a classic see-saw battle. Though Louisville QB Malik Cunningham did everything possible to will his team to victory (243 yards passing, 127 yards rushing, 3 total TD’s), his efforts were not enough. Florida State QB Tate Rodemaker found WR Johnny Wilson in the back of the end zone with 7:54 remaining to put FSU up 35-31 in the lead. A lead they would not relinquish.
It was a blast watching the dramatic finish in Louisville, but the game ending at almost midnight set up a less than ideal 8 hour drive to make the noon kickoff in Columbia, South Carolina. But with flight cancellations and delays prominent, the risk of flying was not worth the sacrifice of a middle of the night mad dash. Fortunately I made it in time and the doubleheader Saturday was upon me.
Williams-Brice Stadium was built in 1934 with 17,600 and has since been expanded several times to its current capacity of 77,559. It is an impressive venue and on par with its fellow SEC counterparts. And with #1 Georgia in town, the attendance actually exceeded it listed capacity with 78,212 fans packing Willy B:
Gamecock fans were upset minded and the stadium was absolutely lit for “Sandstorm” during the pregame. The energy and towel waving reverberated throughout the stadium and set the scene perfectly. The type of “goosebumps” moments that a game traveler dreams of. All of the planning and effort to be in that position is all worth it when you’re experiencing the craziness firsthand. Just an exhilarating feeling.
The game itself was not competitive. Georgia, the defending 2021 National Champion, is a juggernaut and ran through South Carolina in all aspects of the game. They led 24-0 at halftime and 45-0 at the end of three quarters. Not at all what the home fans came to see, but a dominant performance that this neutral fan could appreciate. The game results are always secondary to me however and I had an awesome time getting my first non-COVID attendance restricted game in at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The night cap was 2+ hours away at Clemson. With a late 8pm start, making it in time for kickoff was no problem. Clemson Memorial Stadium is similar to Williams-Brice, as it also started as a smaller older stadium that has grown over the decades since its original construction. Built with 20,500 seats in 1942, it has since quadrupled in size to its current capacity of 82,500. A massive venue with an incredible view from the peak of the upper deck:
The Tiger faithful packed Memorial Stadium, even though they were playing an unranked out of conference foe in Louisiana Tech. That’s all the proof you need to know that Clemson has an extremely loyal fan base. Easy to fill a stadium when you’re playing a rival, but these fans fill it to the brim every home Saturday. And they were rewarded with a 48-20 victory over the Bulldogs from Ruston. Though they started slow, Clemson eventually held a 34-6 advantage at the end of the 3rd quarter and showed why they are worthy of their #5 ranking.
Another great weekend for my college football travels. Make sure you follow @CFBcampustour to stay up to date with where I’m going. Week 4 is going to be a fun weekend of games with visits to Georgia State, UTEP, SMU and Oklahoma. Hope to see you at one of these games or at a stadium near you soon!