LSU football returned Saturday, but the vaunted on-campus tailgating atmosphere around campus did not.
The Parade Ground felt emptier than it's ever been. No children surrounded the Indian Mounds, looking to roll down them. Anybody roaming around was headed toward the stadium or students headed to their dorms
Tailgating was not permitted on campus because of the coronavirus pandemic, but fans could gather near and around their cars with others attending the game. People walked around with masks, socially distancing and following the university's guidelines around tailgating.
But, cross an invisible line at the North campus gate at Chimes Street or at the South Campus gate at Parker Boulevard, and things got a little more festive.
The area surrounding The Chimes Restaurant and Taproom, The Varsity Theatre and The Revelry was packed more than two hours before kickoff.
The Revelry advertised the "Tailgate at Northgate," including $3 mimosas, $3 Svedka screwdrivers and $8 brunch burgers and tater tots, according to their Instagram account.
Southgate of campus was quieter in the hours before kickoff, but crowds gathered at the houses and apartments on Highland Road after kickoff and during the game.
Evan Antilley, David Cresson, Dryden Duggins and Val Rangelov are juniors at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. The four of them usually tailgate with family and friends before going to the game. Antilley said he went to every game last year and will go to every one this year if possible.
But even though there was football, the vibe outside The Chimes did not match a usual tailgate atmosphere, he said. The four did their own "tailgate" outside of their car down E Chimes Street.
"I'm not feeling it at all," Antilley said. "Not tailgating is weird because it builds up a lot of the hype for the game."
"We pretty much just got hype in the car," Duggins added. "Listening to like hype music. Even though it's still different, it's still gameday. You have to treat it like that."
Johnny Denenea and his friends — Rick Millet, Kirk Barrell and Denis Taylor, all graduates of the LSU class of 1985 — normally set up a large tailgate on campus every week. Instead, the four had lunch with Denenea's freshman daughter Aimee at The Bulldog patio.
Millet -- whose friends call him the "Professor of Tiger Mania" -- lamented that it was great tailgate weather, with temperates in the low 80s instead of the typical blistering heat of an LSU season opener.
"It's comparable to the South Carolina hurricane game (in 2015)," Denenea said. "It was kind of a lighter crowd and different setting. Very quiet, eerily quiet."
"They'll have some energy and activity in there, it's not going to be the roar of the crowd. I don't think there's going to be an earthquake seismology for this one."
Everybody emphasized that, even though it's a weird season, surrounded by uncertainties, they're happy LSU is bringing a sense of normalcy.
"We've been waiting for this for so long and everybody is so hype of LSU football right now, it's going to be a good environment anyway, regardless of how many fans are there," Rangelov said.