Another week, and another solid check mark for the BC athletic department.
After a Week 1 that blew many fans' minds in terms of improved gameday experience, Brad Bates spent his shortened week ironing out some of the noticeable holes for fan arriving at Alumni Stadium. After cleaning up some issues involving the Boston College student section's Gold Pass, BC announced free shuttle service from the lower Brighton parking lots that will be available for the remainder of the season. They also put forth an announcement to get the students and fans into the stadium early for a pyrotechnics display (one some fans will remember from last year's Notre Dame game).
The end result was an electric atmosphere comparable to some older days of BC yore. The fans were into the game from the opening kickoff, and the students were loud and raucous. Where an empty stadium greeted Florida State's 28-0 halftime lead two years ago, Eagle superfans backed up their team as a stingy defense played hair on fire. And while there are still items for the school to clean up, there is no doubt that they're continuing to head in the right direction and entice more people to come back to Alumni Stadium.
There were two major observations before the game ever had a coin toss. I was able to walk by Shea Field this week, as opposed to last week, and I saw cars packed on top of each other with loud music and heavy tailgating ensuing. The field typically gets lost in the shuffle because so many fans file in through More Hall, but the atmosphere was great for a Friday night game. There had been some concern that the crowd would fail to arrive; BC admittedly isn't anywhere close to where many want it to be, but its small lot on Shea Field was packed to the gills with flags flying high (though I'm sure the baseball team was thrilled to see its outfield destroyed yet again).
I follow a typical routine where I try to get into my seat roughly 30 minutes before game time. That gives me enough time to catch the opposing team's fight song played by the BC band (against larger football schools like Clemson and Florida State, it's something to behold because their fans are truly great traveling bases) and see the introductions. Usually, I'd see the stadium about 90% empty until well after kickoff. It's usually a gradual increase in attendance until the stadium fills to whatever capacity it's going to be halfway through the first quarter. This usually includes the students getting sufficiently bombed in the mods.
For the Wake game, though, I was pleasantly surprised that BC's students were, for the most part, in the stadium in time for the opening introductions. The student section seemed to extend a little bit further behind the end zone, mostly due to the lack of Deacon fans in attendance. It was maybe 60% full by the time the pyro went off and the team came running out.
That pyrotechnic display is something that can't help but get juices going. Against Notre Dame before a packed house (albeit split among the fan bases), it gave the game something of an edge before it began. I'm sure the players love walking through the smoke like the old Miami teams used to, and the fire shooting up probably ignites their own personal desire to crack some heads. For the fans, the explosions are something that big time college football does. UMass and the FCS don't do things like that; Miami has the smoke, FSU has its intro, and it makes it feel big time.
During the game, the BAMF Eagle was brought back onto the video boards and once again introduced. From what I understand, fans were able to take pictures with that beautiful bird of prey at halftime. I did not notice this, nor was I taking part, but if this is true, well then that's just awesome. I think I saw it with AJ's comments in the postgame comment thread.
As for the crowd itself, the student section was in the game and wild from the start. The animalistic defense got them going, and they were singing and yelling pretty much from the beginning. They made the stadium crazy, and it led me to hope that it would be more of the same for afternoon games instead of just night games. The crowd itself filed in a little bit later, as expected given the Friday night start time, and the upper decks of the end zones were relatively empty. My section, along the sidelines at the goal line opposite the students, was once again about 70% full with families, and the kids really got into the game.
Unfortunately, given the start time and lack of postgame tailgating, many fans departed by the middle of the fourth quarter. It was still a close game, but the stands all but emptied out. Maybe it had something to do with the kids, and maybe people had just seen enough. But the stadium was mostly empty, students included, by the time the players trotted into the locker room victorious.
One thing a lot of us noticed more this week was the fire from the players and the coaching staff. Their energy was clearly infectious, and I caught Steve Addazio on the field yelling or getting in his huddle's grill more times than I care to count. The players, after big plays, chest bumped in the field. They were wild, and the coaches showed more emotion in that one game than in the entire Frank Spaziani era. Daz is clearly selling a good bill of goods, one the players are buying into, and one that's now creeping its way into the stands.
BC's next home game is against Florida State. Given how things go against USC, with the off week in between, the Eagles could be on the national radar if they enter that game at 3-0. They're making waves because of the Don Brown Defense. FSU is a national championship contender. It's going to be the biggest game of the Brad Bates era to date, and I'm sure the department will have something in store.
My last point always comes back to my reaction with my dad following a game. We've been season ticket holders for 20 years, and our experiences range from the Glenn Foley days to the present rebuild. Last year, we spoke often about how we looked forward coming to games, but it was always the same and we felt like we weren't getting anything. This time, we're already looking forward to Florida State, and we're trying to figure out if we can get to Syracuse at the end of the year. We're hoping BC can somehow get an invite to a more local bowl so we can discuss potentially going (like the Military Bowl in DC). We are excited, and we're passionate about the team. We are happy fans. And after two games, we can't wait for the next one. The hugging, the high-fiving, the fist bumping - that's all stuff we thought was gone. But now? It's different. And we can't wait for it to continue.