View from the Rowdies

A drumming of Tennessee just doesn’t get old. I don’t care if the game was decided well before the final quarter. Sometimes just sitting in the stands watching one of your most hated SEC teams take a beating is one of the more relaxing things you’ve ever experienced. If there is any orange and blue in your blood, Saturday was one of those days for you.

You felt it when you woke up Saturday morning. It’s just different. SEC football makes you feel different. Sure, you aren’t actually on the field hitting people. Outside of screaming your lungs out, you actually have close to zero impact on the game. But still, it’s different.

Then you walk into the Swamp and see the Gators warming up. Not only them, but a team you actually recognize on the other side of the field.

I’ll be honest though, after Western Kentucky and Troy I was a little scared about what had happened to the Swamp. I kept thinking that maybe Gator fans had become too spoiled and the home field advantage may be slightly less noticeable this year. Maybe all the tickets had been bought up by alumni who now wanted to come and see what Coach Meyer was doing with this team, and that would somewhat eliminate the normal electricity of the Swamp.

When the Gators took the field, my mind changed completely. This was still Florida-Tennessee. There was still so much hatred in this stadium you could almost feel it. The teams came out, the opposing team gave the mock Gator chomp and you knew the game was already over. You remember Eric Ainge last season after Tennessee went up 17-7, right?

Watching a big time SEC rivalry from the student section of The Swamp is an experience of its own. I swear they sell twice as many tickets as there are seats on that side of the field. As much as you would like to have your own room, there is something special about being packed into a stadium on top of tons of people you know and some you don’t.

You really understand what it is to be a Gator when you are packed in like that. That’s what makes the experience at the Swamp so special. It seems as if everyone in that stadium loses themselves for three hours in something so much bigger than themselves.

Back to the game though, I was impressed with the results of the “blue out”. The student side looked great to me and most of the alumni side was blue as well. After re-watching the game on CBS, there were quite a few shots from above that were impressive.

After that Brandon James punt return though, you almost thought the stadium was about to fall. It brought back memories of last season’s South Carolina games. People actually ended up three rows away from their seats because they were jumping on top of others. Dangerous, yes, but one of those things you’ll only find at The Swamp!

How good does it feel to hear national media coming to grips with the fact that Tim Tebow is the real deal? It got a little old having them nitpick for something he hasn’t proven. Anything else? I’m sure Tebow would just love to prove someone else wrong.

I’m fighting everything within me not to make this another long column about how incredible this offense is. The bottom line is that 59 points and 554 yards speak for it. I’m not one to look past any team, but LSU better pack a lunch.

What can you say to give credit to this defense? A staple of last year’s defensive unit was a group who stepped up with their backs against the wall in big situation. That’s exactly what you saw out of this group Saturday. Ainge leads them into the red zone? Markihe Anderson picks him off. The Volunteers make it close in the third? Dustin Doe returns a fumble for a touchdown. The mark of an outstanding defensive unit is not that they shut the offense down on every play, but that they respond when they are backed into a corner.

That’s what you get out of this group. It’s a bunch of young, cocky guys running around hitting people.

With the departure of Brandon Siler, a leader was needed for this group. It’s not a coincidence that he’s also the new middle linebacker. Don’t be surprised if you hear Brandon Spikes’ name mentioned among the nation’s most elite defensive players before this year is over with.

Possibly my favorite play of the day was a play where Arian Foster ran outside the left tackle, and Spikes started in pursuit. Around halfway to the ball, Spikes took a solid hit from a Tennessee offensive lineman, fell somewhat backwards, and then continued to give Foster one of his harder hits of the day. That’s why some students have started calling Brandon Spikes “The Predator”, in reference to the 1987 movie. It’s actually a decent comparison with Spikes’ free flowing dreadlocks.

The other thing I heard a lot of from the student section and other students is this: “We’re setting ourselves up for a letdown game at Ole Miss”. Under other coaches, I would agree with that statement. What you get with Urban Meyer is focus. Don’t think Urban won’t be reminding these players of Gator struggles in the state of Mississippi, and challenging them to focus on embarrassing Ole Miss, just as they did to Tennessee.

Saturday they seemed to have a few lapses of focus, and needed a quick refocus after the Eric Berry interception return for a touchdown. But then what happened? 31 unanswered points. Fat Phil’s Volunteers went from eight points down to begging for mercy faster than Phil could mumble, “Sure Knoxville High School, I would love to coach your team.”

And the rout was on. To me, it was eerily similar to the Ohio State game, minus the third quarter scare. The game was just one big party. Gator fans celebrating the humiliation of their most hated rivals. Be honest with yourself. What could be better than that?