The mascot for the University of Georgia football team was a goat, and when he arrived with his handler, Georgia fans in the grandstand enthusiastically applauded.
Auburn University’s fans responded by screaming “shoot the billy goat.”
That was moments before kickoff of the first football game ever between the two schools. It was played at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park in 1892, long before Bulldogs and “War Eagle.”
The two teams play again Saturday in Auburn, Ala. The clash between the highly ranked opponents is game No. 121 in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry.
Smiths Station Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland recently acquired a wonderful reminder of that first contest.
“This is really neat,” said Copeland, holding a brown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal dated Feb. 20, 1892, which featured the details of the game. It is fragile to the touch.
The price for the Atlanta Journal then was just 10 cents a week.
A customer of Copeland’s business, Country Market in Salem, Ala., gave it to the mayor who believes it to be authentic.
The plan is to place it in a Smiths Station museum to be opened next year.
“It will be a great addition,” said Lisa Deason, the city’s planning administrator who also serves as Smiths Station’s historic preservation coordinator.
“I am a big Auburn fan. I love what the school stands for. I go to every game,” said Copeland, who attended the school. “I was very excited to get this and fascinated by how the game has changed.”
“Auburn Wins” is the large headline on the front page, which devotes four full columns to the contest.
At the time, Auburn was the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, and fans cheered for “A.M.C.” Throughout the story, Georgia is referred to as the “Athens team.”
Scoring was handled differently, and there were two halves instead of four quarters.
The game kicked off at 3:30 p.m., the same time this year’s contest is scheduled to start.
It ended by 5:15 p.m., which will not be the case on Saturday.
“No TV,” Copeland said, laughing.
It was played in rain.
A huge difference, Copeland noticed, is the size of the players.
A team roster published in the paper shows the average weight for Auburn’s team to be about 164 pounds and for Georgia about 156. The average height for both teams was 5-foot-8. Each team in 2017 features at least a dozen players weighing more than 300 pounds. Both quarterbacks are taller and heavier than any lineman in 1892.
There were no recreational vehicles back then, but many Georgia fans arrived in carriages that lined one side of the field.
At the end of the game, the winning team received two prizes, a silken banner and a silver cup.
The newspaper report said the excitement was “intense” and the “boys in orange, white and blue scored a glorious victory.”
Fans blew horns throughout the game, and the sound of cowbells was constant.
The reporter said there was hard playing on both sides.
“The victor may well be proud of their conquest and the losers should be by no means feeling discouraged at their defeat,” said the report. “To both is honor due.”