A chorus of cowbells rang in the new year Wednesday night at Sun Life Stadium.
“Music to our ears,” said Mark Hitt, 59, an Oneonta, Alabama, high school principal and former Mississippi State nose tackle who traveled to Sun Life Stadium to watch his Bulldogs face Georgia Tech in the Capital One Orange Bowl. “Either you love them or you hate them. Can you imagine being under center and hearing 40,000 cow bells?”
“It’s very intimidating.”
Vignesh Ramesh, 21, an industrial engineering student from Georgia Tech, had his own word to describe the cowbells — “annoying.”
Either way, thousands of fans celebrating outside the stadium before kickoff had them, heard them or both.
The cowbells, described in the Mississippi State media guide as “the most resounding symbol of the university,” were not heard at MSU’s league football games from 1974 through 2009. The Southeastern Conference’s ban against “artificial noisemakers” was lifted before the 2010 season.
The Orange Bowl game had a cowbell situation of its own.
OB officials agreed to allow the cowbells to be used, as long as Georgia Tech could bring its 1930 Ford Cabriolet Sports Coupe — known as the Rambling Wreck — to lead the team onto the field.
The white and gold Rambling Wreck interrupted the cowbells outside the stadium, beeping its horn as students inside waved to fans.
There appeared to be far more Mississippi State fans walking the Sun Life grounds and tailgating before kickoff.
A group of Tech students accompanied by a dad was asked, “Where are all the Georgia Tech fans?”
“Studying!” insisted the father, Mark Nuzzo, an information technology specialist from Tifton, Georgia, who said MSU fans listen for cowbells “so they know where their ex-wives are.”
Added Nuzzo: “Do you know how hard it is to get into Georgia Tech?”
Nuzzo’s son, Georgia Tech alum Zachary, 25, explained that Georgia Tech alumni “are dispersed all over the world, wherever interesting problems are to be solved.
The only problem Kay Reinert of Plantation wanted to solve was how to keep her family together, should the game be close in the final quarter.
Kay, 61, is a 1975 MSU grad whose daughter Lori and son-in-law Drew went to Georgia Tech — and whose husband Brad graduated from Ole Miss.
Kay wore a burgundy shirt with a Tech Proud Parent pin.
Brad wore a Georgia Tech cap because he can’t stand MSU. “He made me leave the cowbell in the car,” Kay said.
Drew’s explanation for the substantial crowd of Bulldogs in tailgate mode: “I presume most of them are unemployed.”
Nearby, a young man dressed in burgundy and white shouted through a microphone that an older man had a game ticket on the 50-yard line for the first taker — free of charge.
The lucky man who got the ticket was Greg Moore, a 46-year-old elementary school principal from Spring Creek, Ontario, in Canada. Moore was accompanied by his wife and three children, who are vacationing in Naples and adopted the Bulldogs because, well, they like bulldogs — and cowbells.
“They sound like birds flying,” said Caleb, 15.
“They sound like hail falling down,” said his sister, Olivia, 13.
Hitt, the former nose tackle, assured that whatever they sound like, “Mississippi State fans ring responsibly.”