In the moments prior to kickoff in the BCS National Championship Game, Urban Meyer stood next to the goalpost and watched his team go through pre-game drills for the final time of the season. Several Florida fans located in the lower bowl of the University of Phoenix Stadium were calling out to him.
Meyer obviously tried to focus on what was happening before him. However, moments later, he half-heartedly turned and looked up as if to say, “I hear you”.
That didn’t quench the thirst of these fans. The thunderous calls of his name and words of encouragement intensified and they continued for several more minutes. Meyer, who was now hurriedly chewing on his gum, waved the white flag so to speak. He eventually turned his head and flashed a rather devilish grin that served as both an acknowledgment of their support and a definitive,” We’re ready!” It would be the only time he would have to wave that flag.
In the year that Florida football celebrated its’ 100th anniversary…Urban Meyer and the Gators delivered a national championship.
The nation’s toughest schedule, a second year coach, and an offense that featured a lot of new faces. More time would be needed to build the Florida program before it could compete for all of the marbles.
Somebody forgot to tell them about Urban Standard Time.
Much like the Gators season the pre-game interaction between Meyer and the Gators fans served as an outstanding example of chaining. Meyer reinforced the crowd by acknowledging their calls. They reinforced his acknowledgement by ramping up those catcalls. It continued as he once again acknowledged the Florida faithful in that section of the stadium.
Didn’t the 2006 National Champion Florida Gators make believers of each of us as they collected victory after victory along the way? You’d be hard pressed to find a Florida fan who didn’t believe the Gators could win this game. Only a select few of our SEC brethren and state rivals believed in Florida too.
Enjoy this one Gators…it might be the last time we can truly sneak up on anybody. The swagger is back.
I’ve been asked numerous times…what was it like in the stadium at Phoenix?
Well, let’s provide a little perspective.
As the Gator Country staff (The Hollywood Bob, The Franz Beard, and The Mark McLeod) approached “The Mothership” we noticed a wave of Scarlet and Gray with a dash of Orange and Blue. The Buckeyes fans were revved up for this one. They actually looked at us with some curiosity as we exited the vehicle in the media parking lot, but rarely was a word spoken. We’re certainly not pretty, but we didn’t come down with The ‘Ship.
Overall, Florida fans seemed rather reserved in the parking lots, saving their voices for that moment when the teams took the field. The confidence level in many of those Florida fans was still pretty high.
Fans of both schools were quick to give a shout out every time John Salley, Eddie George, Kirk Herbstreit, or Cris Carter walked in front of them as they walked the sideline. Everybody loved Salley, who shouted out or at the very least acknowledged the fans, as he walked by. Overall, Florida fans were respectful of George and Carter. George took the time to look up and acknowledge the Ohio State faithful as he walked through. Ohio State fans loved Herbstreit. However, if you took the letters in Herbstreit’s name- dropped a few, while jumbling others around- you could make out one of the expletives commonly called out to him by a few Florida fans.
The Franz Beard recalled the faces on the many members of the media at the half. He and Bob were in the auxiliary press box and had to journey through the press area at the half. The commentary ranged from shock and amazement to open jaws that were seemingly being prepared for a root canal.
On the field, I experienced much of the same. The Ohio State University students who painted themselves and stood in the first row of the Florida endzone were boisterous and confident before the game and that lasted until it was 21-7. Once DeShawn Wynn scored from two yards out early in the second quarter- it was like taking an ice pick to a helium balloon. So, basically, it was exactly like what occurred on the field.
The post game field celebration was pure pandemonium. Everything you saw on television and more. Guys like Wynn and Derrick Harvey, who don’t normally say more than a sentence when answering a question could have interviewed for a chair on Fox Sports. Others were catching the glitter and confetti and throwing it at us. Several reflected on those grueling August practice sessions, the monstrous SEC schedule, and/or the support of the fans who believed in them when nobody else would. It all mattered.
It was outstanding to see former Gators Terry Jackson, Lomas Brown, and Errict Rhett so jubilant at the outcome. And why shouldn’t they be? They set the table and helped make the Florida program what it is today.
We departed “The Mothership” in the early morning hours after the game and met two members of The University of Phoenix Stadium clean-up crew. These frugal masters of design had commandeered a discarded charcoal grill, pieced it together, and fired it up. They were just pulling off some hot dogs from a vacated cooler and had a Heineken kegger (probably found in the lot as well) to wash it all down. I told them they looked like they were set and one of them simply replied that they were outdoors types of guys.
While we opted not to dine with the stadium staff, eating sounded perfectly fine with us. You work up quite an appetite living on Urban Standard Time.