Not only were the Dawgs ready to fight to control their destiny to Atlanta, but they also received the No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2017 with Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M the week before.
Athens was buzzing as fans flocked in bunches to Sanford Stadium. Kentucky was off to its best start to a season (6-0) since Bear Bryant coached there in the 1950s. They had a fair amount of fans near the visiting gate off of East Campus Road with their blue vividly contrasting the strong majority of people in Georgia red.
Outside of the Reed Plaza gate, fans had tailgates set up and the lines for students to enter the stadium nearly doubled in the minutes that I was there, about two and a half hours before the game.
At that gate, the UGA Spike Squad meets before every game for their gameday tradition of painting their full bodies in Georgia colors before putting their signature spiked shoulder pads on top.
The UGA Spike Squad was established in 2010 and ever since then, the group has become an integral part of Georgia Football. They are the group you see in the first two rows of section 109 at every single UGA home game.
Most television broadcasts will lead with video of the Spike Squad as they yell into the camera before games start. Their paint can be fascinating but intimidating at the same time. One had a shark costume attached to their spikes, another with a slash painted on her face, also another with a top hat that looked like something Abraham Lincoln would sport.
With “College Gameday” and “SEC Nation” in town for the Kentucky matchup, the Spike Squad had to divide up its team. Some members went to the Gameday set, some went to “SEC Nation,” while others remained near the Reed Plaza gate to hold their spot in line. After all, there is no reserved seating in the Sanford Stadium student section, even for the Spike Squad.
It can make for long days and in this case a long night. Spike Squad members camped out overnight the night before the Kentucky game at Myers Quad to make sure they were visible on the “College Gameday” set that went on air at 9 a.m. the next morning.
Usually, they try to get to the gate they enter about four hours prior to kickoff. Gates to the stadium open two hours prior to kickoff and they lead the charge for the student section, where students all rush to save seats for the game as soon as they open.
This year, there has been a noticeable difference in how early students have gotten to the games with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart’s calls to the fanbase to be “ELITE” in the ranked home matchups with Arkansas and Kentucky.
Nonetheless, nobody has beaten the UGA Spike Squad to the first two rows in section 109 or the UGA Paint Line, a different organization that is known for spelling out special messages with paint while sporting afro-type wigs, who always gets the front of section 110.
One coat of paint is all that is needed for the game for the Spike Squad, as members tend to paint up right before they go in the gates so that the paint will be dry by kickoff. While most fans tend to enjoy a bit cooler weather, it does not benefit guys that are shirtless or girls that are in just a tank top or sports bra.
For that reason, veteran Spike Squad member Blake Davis says that warmer days are always better for the Spike Squad, rather than the cold end of year games where members are “shivering.”
Davis is a fifth-year student at UGA and has been a part of the squad for all five football seasons. He’s passionate about cheering for his Bulldogs and this year has been a special one for not just the team but also the Spike Squad.
In his five seasons he’s seen tremendous change to a UGA Spike Squad that currently has about 35 members, who are also diehard Bulldog fans.
“Before in 2017… we would meet on Saturdays for the football games and that would be just about it, we wouldn’t really hang out outside of that,” said Davis. “But now the amount of social events and other opportunities that we do together is endless. We’ve gone from kind of an informal group to having a full executive board and constitution.
And people are picking up on the significance of the Spike Squad because they have now become a part of the culture of Georgia Football. After every turnover that Georgia gets on defense, you see the gold “savage pads” that were actually originally a gift from the Spike Squad.
The team has also used it for recruiting pictures and fans can be seen with their own savage pads made from scratch from time to time.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” said Davis on seeing the players wear the savage pads. “Putting it on a player that’s at the top of his game at that moment, and it’s his moment is super special to be a part of.”
Fellow UGA students, especially younger ones, recognize the symbolism that the Spike Squad represents because they have been around for most of, if not all of people’s Georgia Football fandom.
Jack Marbut is a fifth-year UGA student and life-long Bulldogs fan. At the age of 13 in 2012, he was able to take a picture (above) with the Spike Squad and sit in the first row of section 109 with them for a couple of drives. He now sees them as one of the defining marks of the gameday experience in Athens.
“They embody the spirit of Georgia Football,” said Marbut. “The student section starts with the Spike Squad. They are the first ones, they’re right behind Uga and Harry is always down there. I would put them on the same level as a mascot. They are out there dedicating a lot of their time to getting the spirit going.”
Being able to cheer for the top ranked team has provided mutual benefits for the Spike Squad as well. The group has been as visible as ever, with “College Gameday” located at a Georgia game three times this year and the squad also traveled to Atlanta for Gameday during “week 0.” With that, the group has seen more people interested in becoming Spike Squad members.
They have seen their growth increase on social media as well according to Cody Powell, a Spike Squad member and the manager of the group’s Twitter account ( @UGASPIKESQUAD). The account currently has over 24,000 followers and actively engages with their followers on a day-to-day basis.
They also have over 5,000 followers on Instagram.
“It’s really fun getting to see people traffic into the account and seeing the account grow while getting to meet more Georgia Football fans,” said Powell.
Now that the squad has been in existence for over a decade, Davis wants to continue to see his group grow and build on the momentum the current squad has provided through an alumni base. They have started the initial steps of establishing an alumni base but want as many Spike Squad members to come back and reconvene together.
Although it can seem like a tedious task at times, Spike Squad members absolutely love cheering for the Georgia Bulldogs and according to Davis would not trade it for anything.
“We have fun,” said Davis. “I don’t think there is anything that is that hard about it. To the people outside and people that aren’t sure about joining, I would say that the hardest part is getting up early.”
With the way the Spike Squad has imposed itself into the culture of Georgia Football, the future is bright for the group. They’ve now become an integral part of representing UGA players, fans and the gameday atmosphere.