Though the number of fans, 3,452, who attended USF football’s Spring Game on Saturday were nearly a thousand less than last season’s game, 4,432, it didn’t feel like it.
The atmosphere, which began to really pick up two hours before kickoff in the streets surrounding Corbett Stadium, had the feel of a real game day, despite the mid-80-degree weather and sun beating down.
Before the 2 p.m. kickoff, live music, food stands and family games were a part of a pre-game festival. In the Sun Dome’s parking lot, USF flags flew high above cars as fans tailgated and grilled food as if it were fall, not spring. Minutes before kickoff, paratroopers trailed red smoke as they flew onto the field. The ensuing national anthem was played by USF HOT Band.
“We got out at about 12:30, enjoyed some lunch and pre-game corn hole,” said Will Davis, a 1999 alumnus who majored in elementary education and attended the game with his wife and four kids. “We came out here because it’s at the stadium on campus. We love being here.”
Among the crowd were USF alumni, who graduated from USF as far back as 1963. Also in attendance were more recent graduates, such as former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, who graduated in December.
“It feels good to be back just knowing the legacy you left here,” Flowers said. “I talked to (quarterbacks) Chris Oladokun and (Brett) Kean before the game and just told them guys to strive for greatness.”
For Flowers, who wore a towel over his head on the sidelines to limit his exposure to fans, Saturday was his first USF football game he attended in street clothes.
“It’s kind of nice to just sit and watch as a fan with this atmosphere,” he said.
Like Flowers, Saturday was former USF men’s basketball forward Payton Banks’ first USF football game as a fan. Banks, who averaged 11.4 points per game in 2017-18, is still studying to earn his master’s in global sustainability and entrepreneurship from USF.
“I’d love to play in this kind of environment,” Banks said.
Current USF football players were happy with the atmosphere inside of Corbett Stadium, too.
“I loved it; the crowd was awesome,” Kean said. “It was good getting the band out here playing the whole time. The paratroopers coming in the beginning, it really pumped us up.”
Potentially adding extra motivation to USF linebackers was the presence of not only former USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez on the sideline, but the presence of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebacker Kwon Alexander, too.
The game faced USF’s offense against its defense, with a specialized point system that awarded the offense points for things such as consecutive first downs and points to the defense for forcing an interception. USF’s offense edged out the defense for a 56-55 win. To the crowd, however, the result didn’t matter.
“I don’t even care who wins, is it like this every year?” Claire Embry, a USF volleyball player, said pre-game. “I love how they closed the streets off for everything and that it’s on campus. It should always be like this.”