View from the Rowdies

No one should ever be happy about a loss. When you look at the final record for the Florida Gators this season, there won’t be a category for a “good loss”, and quite frankly, there shouldn’t be. This loss hurts just like them all. But after experiencing this game in Death Valley and a long drive back to Gainesville, I’ve come to realize that there are quite a few things to be excited about.

My trip to LSU began Friday afternoon around 4 o’clock in the pouring rain of Gainesville. With the expectation of rain the entire weekend, we set off for our first destination; Biloxi, Mississippi.

If you ever want to bore yourself beyond belief, take a drive down I-10. The portion of this road near Tallahassee is quite possibly more boring than any other road I’ve been on. Coincidence of the location? I doubt it.

We arrived in Biloxi late Friday night and just went to bed in preparation for a long Saturday.

Saturday morning we began our drive to New Orleans near nine o’clock. It was somewhat of a surreal experience to drive down the interstates and still see trees snapped in half and houses with holes in their roofs. Years after Katrina, the destruction still peaks its head up to remind even those visiting.

We were only able to spend a little over an hour in New Orleans, and even that was spent being a tourist. None of us had ever been to New Orleans before, and it was a unique experience. There was plenty of orange and blue to go around early Saturday in New Orleans. The most memorable quote from the day came from a man playing the tuba on the side of the street who greeted me by saying, “Your Gators are going down tonight! By the way, any contribution you could make would be much appreciated.”

We then set out for Baton Rouge. The interstates on the way there gave you a sense of the “bayou” and most of the drive was spent on long bridges over water. And then the game day traffic began.

We figured that it would make the most sense to drive past all of the exits packed with cars trying to get off the road, and come onto campus from the back. We found a great parking spot right off the interstate that was merely a mile walk from the stadium.

As has been stated plenty of times on the Gator Country message boards, the game day atmosphere for an LSU home game was unreal. I’ve honestly

never seen so many people in a three mile area. I was shocked to see that many people in one area, and figured that stadium had to fit near 200,000 people for everyone to have a ticket.

That made a little more sense during the game when they announced that Saturday broke the record of the most people on the LSU campus at one time. That speaks enough about the current state of the Florida football program. I had people in New Orleans telling me that this was the biggest game in Baton Rouge in a long time. Obviously it was because the national champions were in town, but it furthers the point that this team will have the target on their back all season.

Now I know that every fan base has their group of bad apples. I’m sure that Florida has some fans who are so obnoxious it makes opposing fans want to puke. If that’s the case with LSU, then I must have run into all of the bad apples. I figured that probably had more to do with me being a student than anything. Every single frat house or tailgate that me and my friends walked by, we were immediately swarmed, sometimes even pushed, by people who had obviously been drinking for hours.

I must say that Tim Tebow must be the most hated player in college football. Also, I doubt that LSU fans know that anyone else is even on our team. The very few times that I didn’t hear “Tiger Bait”, it was “Tebow sucks!” or “Tebow wouldn’t even start here!”

You have to love when people are so jealous of your team’s starting quarterback. I got a good laugh out of it.

I had outstanding seats for the game Saturday night, sitting on the second row at the 50 yard line. It was a unique experience to sit that close to our bench and see some of the happenings during the game and how lucky we are to have the coaching staff that we do.  My seats were directly behind where the defensive line was at on the bench, and seeing the intensity of Coach Mattison was great.

The comparisons between Death Valley and The Swamp have been interesting for me to read. Before the game started, the crowd was loud, but I didn’t think it was noticeably louder than the Swamp. During the entire first half and part of the third quarter, the stadium wasn’t very loud at all. That’s where our team did an excellent job. They went in and immediately took the crowd out of the game.

After the final score of the USC game was announced to the crowd, the place absolutely erupted. When the whole stadium was going crazy like then, I think it edged The Swamp in noise.

It was reassuring for me to hear that crowd erupt like it did, and then watch our bench. Andre Caldwell was walking up and down the offensive side of the bench saying, “They won’t be number one tomorrow!” Tony Joiner was doing the same for the defense, telling them not to be intimidated by that noise, but to step their game up. And that’s exactly what they did by marching down the field and scoring on a touchdown catch by Cornelius Ingram.

That’s one of the many positives I saw from this game. You saw a young team, hated by the entire stadium, responding soundly.

There were plenty of times where you liked Florida’s chances to end the game with a victory. One of my friends next to me even said with ten seconds left in the third quarter, “If we can just end this quarter with the 10 point lead and the ball, I feel great about our chances.” And the very next play was the Kestahn Moore fumble.

Later on Hester put the ball in the end zone and the long walk to the car was ahead of us. Most other students I’ve talked to were soaked with alcohol or some other fluids on their way out of the stadium, but we came out pretty much alright. Sure we heard our fair share of “Have fun at the Peach Bowl”, but that was expected. Quite frankly, those are the people who I will be looking for when we smoke LSU in Atlanta for the SEC Championship and ruin their national championship dreams.

At the end of the trip, there really wasn’t much to say. A team comprised of 75% freshmen and sophomores went into one of the toughest places to play in the country, took on the #1 team in the nation, and lead the game about 55 minutes. How can you be disappointed by that?