The latest win at home for the Tigers was all in a day's work. But the ESPN cameras were pointed at the field for three hours and did not tell the whole experience.
ESPN saw the opportunity and gave the game primetime coverage. The average at-home viewer saw the game in high definition. However, the fans who arrived at the game in-person had the least to watch and enjoy.
Several precautions were taken by everyone with any reason to be at the game. Everything from the seating arrangements to the live performances were all updated to coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans were assigned a quadrant dependent on the location of their seating assignment. One of those four quadrants was where the spectators entered, remained and departed. Fans could not walk to or from separate concourses.
Fans were also instructed to use mobile ticketing because paper tickets were not being used. Fans had been requested to enter the stadium at a specific time depending on the beginning letter of their last name. Letters 'A' through 'F' were asked to enter the stadium at 5:30. 'G' through 'L' was 6:00. 'M' through 'S' was 6:20 and 'T' through 'Z' was 6:40.
Being spread out was an understood precaution as well as a mask mandate. However, many sections were entirely vacant without a single person in them. Some sections of the stands were covered with a banner with sponsors on them. The seats directly behind Arkansas State were sectioned off. It makes a lot of sense to keep fans away from the players.
Memphis was one of many schools to take tailgating away too. Tailgating was not allowed anywhere and it kept people from lingering in the parking lots. So fans legitimately "came, saw and went."
There was a reported attendance of 4,537 people, which is eight percent of the stadium's capacity. Memphis Football announced a 'sellout' the day prior to the game.
All attempts to keep fans safe were legitimately understood and simple, however the atmosphere of the game had a 'watered-down' aspect.
The normal performances from previous home games were either virtual or non-existent. The Mighty Sound of the South was reduced to nearly twenty percent of its original band size. 44 members were allowed to represent the band while being masked and socially distant.
The band members were connected to microphones to help produce a grander sound. The MSS could not perform a pregame-show or a halftime show. The MSS could not leave the stands or enter the field for that matter. The cheerleaders and Pom Squad were masked as well and kept off the field. However, the Pom Squad used the field in August to perform their show and it was filmed. The recording was later played during the game while they were in the stands.
The Tiger Walk and the pregame pep rally did not happen. Tom the Tiger was not brought to the game despite turning 12 on the last day of August. Fireworks were not set off every time Memphis scored. All were seen as luxuries that could be cut to keep football.
When the game was over, players went to the locker rooms and everyone went home. The changes put in place to protect the sport are effective enough to have another home game. But the 'lucky' fans are the ones at home. Those who came to the game hopefully realized it just is not the same.
Until the COVID-19 situation becomes a complete thing of the past, these precautions will likely remain in hopes of protecting people. As different as it is, it keeps players on the field and excitement for Memphis.