Paradise 2 Pavement | The Return of the Gators, Part 1
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The Return of the Gators, Part 1

Living in the Caribbean was an amazing experience, but it lacked one of my favorite things of all time; College football.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Florida Gator fan.  While we did have tv, not a lot of Gator games were nationally televised so I ended up having to stream most of the games.  The internet connection in a third world country isn’t exactly prime for streaming football.  The pixelated nintendo choppiness made it very frustrating to watch; along with how bad the Gators were playing in most of the years I was out there.

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The Gators have been struggling for quite some time, but with a new quarterback and a new head coach the future looked bright.  No one was giving Florida a chance for a good season besides homers like me.  Coach Mac came in with Will Grier and that amazing defense and made a statement in the first game; winning 61-13 against New Mexico State University.  They carried on that momentum against East Carolina University, a rematch of our bowl game last year, winning 31-24.

 

One of the greatest things about football season is getting to hang out with friends and family.  The next two games, Kentucky and Tennessee, were nail biters.  I watched both at parties wearing my new jersey for the year and some adult fruit.  The Gators were starting to look really good and running through the conference.  It was time they got their first real test of the year.

Florida vs Ole Miss

#3 Ole Miss came to Gainesville to test #25 Florida in the Gators first game of the season as a ranked team.  The atmosphere around campus was inspiring to say the least.  Every one felt the momentum this team was gaining.  As everyone in the South Eastern Conference knows, playing in the swamp at night is one of the toughest venues in football.  The crowd was rocking from the start and never stopped.  I don’t think I saw anyone leave early; besides Ole Miss fans.  Many players on the Gators were battling the flu, including Will Grier, which was a bit nerve-wracking.  Florida put up a quick 13 points in the first quarter and never let up.  The Gators defense stuffed Ole Miss, shutting them out in the first half.

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The crowd of 90,500 made it near impossible for Ole Miss to get any play calls in contributing to some timeouts and delay of game calls that made the crowd go crazy.  It was by far one of the loudest games I’ve been to in the swamp.  The Gators rolled over Ole Miss, but still struggled to get some kicks through the uprights.  After this game, people started to take the Gators a bit more seriously.  One thing that the game was great for, is that it gave me a chance to test out the van.  I couldn’t get the TV set up in time and we ended up having to watch College Gameday and the day games on an iPhone.  The van got a lot of attention though.  Once I’m done, it’s going to be one serious tailgate machine.

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Florida @ Lousiana State University

My original goal was to be on the road by this game and around the area, so I bought this ticket at the beginning of the season.  Little did I know I’d have so many set backs.  However, I have a ridiculous amount of southwest miles.  $10 later and I had a ride to New Orleans.  One cool thing that I found out after buying the ticket is that my Dad planned on going out to Baton Rouge to visit one of his friends and go to the game too.  His birthday landed right on gameday, so now I was more excited than ever.

I scored a killer seat, front row, south endzone.  He was going with his friends who had season tickets and wasn’t sure where they were.  I thought it would be cool to give my dad my ticket for his birthday.  We eventually found out we were in the same section, AWESOME!  They ended up about 20 seats away from me which made it a pretty good time for shit talking and running down the isle for some high fives.  It also setup a pretty killer tailgate location right by the stadium as you can see below.  LSU definitely has one thing going for them and it’s parking spots.  The University of Florida is kind of cramped around the stadium, but still has an amazing tailgate scene.  However parking is a pain.  There’s no lack of parking at LSU.

So it was #8 Florida against #6 LSU in Baton Rouge.  There’s little that rivals the atmosphere in Death Valley at night.  With a little over 103,000 in attendance, not only did I lose my voice, I lost my hearing for a bit too.  Leonard Fournette is LSU’s star running back and Heisman front runner.  Everyone and their mother knew LSU’s gameplan going into this game and the Gators tried their best to capitalize on it.  However Fournette is too much of a beast and stuck us for almost 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The game appeared to being getting out of hand towards the end of the second quarter.  It was looking like the Gators were going to go into the locker room at the half down 7 – 21.  Until Treon Harris bombed a pass down the sideline to Callaway who made an amazing catch and tippy toed his way into the red zone.  The next play Harris lobs one to our tight end McGee for the score.  Just as I thought we could take it into the half down by one score, LSU’s quarterback Brandon Harris bombs one down to Dupre with 16 seconds left. UGH heartbreaking.

Mid way in the 3rd quarter, the Gators brought it to within one score and had LSU’s offense on their heels.  LSU punted on a 4th down and Callaway ran that bitch to the house on a 70 something yard return, very Percy Harvin like.  The game wasn’t without its controversy.  There was a fumble recovery by the Gators that wasn’t given to us on a horrible call.  It was at a crucial point in the game when we needed the momentum to go our way.  But you can’t blame it on the refs.  What was heartbreaking though is the fake field goal that LSU pulled out of their ass.  Getting us for the second time in five years off a Fake FG.  LSU won, 35 – 28, giving us our first loss of the season.

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The game was AMAZING; besides the outcome.  Came down to the wire and if a few missed calls were made, the outcome could have been way different.  Both teams played real tough and it was one of the best games I’ve ever been to.  Experiencing the game with my Dad was awesome too.  Nothing brings family together like getting hammered and yelling obscenities at 20 year olds playing a game.

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Florida vs Georgia

One of the most anticipated games of every year, the Florida/Georgia game.  Named the largest outdoor cocktail party in the world, Florida/Georgia is so much more than just a football game.  The atmosphere around the city is pumping.  The game is played on a neutral site in Jacksonville and both schools show up big.  They split the stadium half and half so it’s really cool to see the distinct split line of the colors in the crowd.  This game typically decides the front runner in the East and this year was no different.  Georgia was coming in with a huge loss of their running back, Nick Chubb.  The game could have gone differently with Chubb playing, but there’s no excuses.

Florida dominated Georgia with their defense getting five turnovers.  With Kelvin Taylor getting another 100+ yard game and Callaway scoring big on a few plays, the Gators pulled away quick.  The defense held Georgia scoreless in the first half and didn’t allow them to score a touchdown all game.  The Gators pulled out the win 27-3 and pretty much clinching the East; just needed a win against Vanderbilt or South Carolina. We went to the game without any tickets, just a parking pass.  We ended up getting some upper level seats, but they worked out perfect.  The weather was amazing, and the drinks were flowing.  The pregame party on Friday at the Jacksonville Landing was fun, but lacked a bunch of blue and orange.  Either way, taking home the W was what that weekend was all about.

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Coming Up..

So the Gators are sitting pretty at 8-1 with the SEC East clinched.  They play the South Carolina Gamecocks today who are having a hell of a hard year.  They’re currently last in the East and lost the ol’ ball coach (Steve Spurrier) mid season.  This game is always one that I get excited for because of Spurrier’s ties to UF and I grew up watching him coach the Gators.  The stakes aren’t as high as usual for this game, but the Gamecocks have won 3 of the last 4 times they played us.  So it will be nice to see a little revenge.  The Gators are going to have to really put it on them if they want the playoff committee to take them serious; since last week we won, but still dropped in the rankings.

After today, they go on to take the first college I went to (FAU).  And then the game all Florida fans wait for.  One of the biggest instate out of conference rivalries in all of football, Florida vs Florida State.  Florida State is currently ranked #16, but don’t let that fool you, they suck. 😉  It should be a great one and my fingers are crossed for a night game in the swamp.

The SEC West is still up for grabs and Alabama controls its own destiny.  The first big event stop on my trip will be in Atlanta on December 5th for the SEC championship game.  I’m rooting for another Florida/Alabama SECCG because they are always fun to watch.  They story line behind coach Mac previously working for Nick Saban at Alabama is a good one as well.  All of that will come in Part 2 though.  So enjoy the games and GO GATORS!!

Derek
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