After an appalling Thursday afternoon of gluttony, chowing my way through some of the finer BBQ establishments in Atlanta, I head towards the Georgia Tech campus for a primetime night tilt against ACC foe Virginia Tech. An urban campus located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the school lacks the small town charm and sprawling lawns of more traditional southern campuses. One of the most prestigious technical universities in the South, Georgia Tech is rife with accolades and highly accomplished alumni. But I’m here for football, and with their unique brand of triple option offense, the Yellow Jackets are known for giving opposing defenses fits, and would be an interesting squad to witness first hand.
I shoehorn my rental into a free parking spot on 5th Avenue and hoof if the mile towards campus. Strolling towards the stadium, I stop in at Barnes & Noble which has taken over as the official university bookstore for Georgia Tech. I’m there to meet up with my college football doppelganger – Taylor Mathis – in town to promote his new book. A Wisconsin Badger alum and photographer by trade, Taylor has traveled extensively to some high profile college games across the country, and the list of places he has been nearly rivals mine. Documenting the unique and colorful culinary traditions he’s found along the way, Taylor keeps a blog: http://taylortailgates.com/, which has manifested into an impressive book project. With hundreds of breathtaking photos of the various foods and tailgating traditions found at each school, Taylor has put together a cookbook featuring some of the finest recipes that he’s encountered on his travels. It’s a must own for any college football fan, and the photos alone make it a mouth watering addition to your coffee table.
You can order his book here: Amazon Link
Taylor and I chat for a few minutes about our shared travels before I head down to Tech Wood Avenue, one of the main approaches to Bobby Dodd Stadium. Frat parties line the streets and spill out onto the lawns, while a few RV’s have staked out spots in the parallel parking spaces. For the guys, the uniform dujour appears to be a starched white oxford shirt, khaki pants and topsider shoes worn without socks. The entire ensemble completed, of course, with a southern “swoop” haircut, delicately feathered over the forehead. Girls wear open toe shoes and flimsy white dresses. I, along with the entire male population of Atlanta, pray for rain…
As I close in towards the stadium, the pomp and brass of entrance ceremonies can be heard in the distance. Soon, the Georgia Tech band, led by the “Ramblin Wreck” – a 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe, marches down Bobby Dodd Avenue to enter the stadium. A few cheerleaders hang off the running boards, and the driver lays on the old school “AAOOOGAHH” car horn. As a “yellow jacket” would be a rather inconvenient live mascot, the Ramblin’ Wreck serves as the official mascot of the school and leads the football team into every home game. While a mechanical mascot is an appropriate choice for a technical school, the Wreck is completely financed by the student Ramblin’ Reck Club, and receives no official university funding. The driver is elected annually by the club, and with only 46 of them in history, the position is considered one of the most prestigious at the Institute.
After the entrance ceremonies, I circle the stadium on the hunt for a ticket. A few minutes later, strolling through the crowd with my index finger waving in the air, a guy walks up and hands me a free ticket from a handful in his grasp. Before I can even get his name, he trots off into the crowd and disappears into the sea of white jammed onto Bobby Dodd Avenue. Proof yet again for all my readers that game tickets should be the least of your concerns when heading out for a college football adventure.
Entering historic Bobby Dodd Stadium on the Southwest side, one would be hard pressed to tell that this is the oldest stadium in College Football. Some recent facelifts have given the interior fresh pours of concrete and sparkling aluminum hand rails that belie the true age of the historic structure. Originally built in 1913, the stadium is actually celebrating its 100th anniversary this evening, at least according to my souvenir drink cup. But the Virginia Tech Hokies will be a far cry from the first game at Grant Field on September 27th, 1913 against Fort McPherson. A game that the Yellow Jackets won 19-0.
Although my free ticket is located on the second deck in Section 215, I squeeze into the white oxford masses of student section 19 to enjoy the game amongst my khaki wearing brethren. With anticipation for kickoff building, students excitedly wave white pom pom shakers that have been taped to the bleachers as part of the historic evening. But when the contest kicks off, Virginia Tech and their egregious stone pattern helmets, assume immediate control. The Yellow Jackets, wearing pleasantly simple throwback uniforms, fumble on only their fourth play from scrimmage and the Hokies recover. Two quick plays later, Virginia Tech finds the endzone and jumps out to a quick 7-0 lead. Tech would continue their sloppy play throughout the first half, fumbling a couple of times and running headlong into the opposing Hokie defense to no avail.
At halftime, Georgia Tech Football All Americans are honored at a midfield ceremony as part of the 100 year Anniversary, before the Ramblin’ Wreck leads the team back out of the tunnel. In the second half, the Yellow Jacket offense finds a bit of rhythm, and their triple option reels off a 14 play, eight minute touchdown drive to close the score to 14-10. But in the fourth frame, they sputter once again. Stymied on a couple of drives by the well engineered Hokie defense, Ga Tech QB Vad Lee throws a critical interception with two minutes remaining to effectively end the game. The Hokies escape with a 17-10 victory on the strength of their increasingly stout defense.
While in the end, I certainly tend to favor the sprawling lawns, ample tailgating and open green spaces of more remote southern campuses, Georgia Tech is certainly an impressive and tradition laden program. Given the extraordinary Atlanta food scene nearby, and a primetime ACC tilt against a premier division opponent, it’s definitely a place worth putting on your college football radar.
Thank you to my new friend Taylor, for taking a few minutes to chat. It was great to finally meet you and best of luck on the new book!
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