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Archive for Saturday, November 11, 2000

Ducks flying toward Rose Bowl berth

November 11, 2000

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— Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That's what Florida wants.

"This game is all about focus. There's a lot of noise and if they get in your head, it can be a long day."

South Carolina receiver Jermale Kelly on Florida's fans

Every team that plays at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a.k.a. The Swamp, knows its reputation for raucous, loud fans.

South Carolina is no exception. The Gamecocks have practiced with artificial crowd noise and talked all week about keeping their poise.

"That's the loudest stadium I've ever played in," South Carolina defensive tackle Cecil Caldwell said. "The crowd really gets on you the whole time. It's definitely the hardest place to play."

The Gators' record in The Swamp reflects that. They're an amazing 62-4 at home under coach Steve Spurrier.

Perhaps more legendary than the crowd noise are the stories of abuse and excess.

Until this season, fans were allowed to go out of the stadium at halftime. They'd run across University Avenue to a bar called the Purple Porpoise, which offered shot specials. The fans got tanked up and went back to the game.

In the early 1990's, the wife of Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was drenched by a cup of something at the game. Some say it was beer, others say it was something much worse that bears a likeness to beer.

Last season's Tennessee game was practically a brawl in the stands. More than 140 arrests were made and Volunteer fans talked about being in fear. Players have been known to be the object of flying debris.

As rowdy as the place can be, The Swamp, given its name by Spurrier, also is home to some of the most unique traditions in college football.

At the end of the third quarter, the fans stand and sing "We are the Boys" and sway back and forth throughout the song. One player said earlier this season that he nearly got sick watching the motion.

There's also a pretty good chance that today's game will mark the return of "Mr. Two Bits." He's otherwise known as George Edmondson.

For 40 years, Edmondson led the old "two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar" cheer and the whole stadium joined in. He retired in 1998, interestingly enough, doing his last rendition of "Two bits" against the Gamecocks. But Edmondson has re-appeared during the big games and with the SEC East title on the line today, he's expected to return.

Anywhere the Gators are playing, their fans will do their patented "Gator chomp," the motion of clapping up and down with arms extended. This is done while the band plays the theme to "Jaws" after a big defensive play.

"It can really be distracting," South Carolina receiver Jermale Kelly said. "This game is all about focus. There's a lot of noise and if they get in your head, it can be a long day. This is our first time in a situation like this for where so much is on the line. All we can do is prepare ourselves for the challenge."

Aside from all the talk of intimidation, the Gators' success in The Swamp mostly has to do with how good their teams have been. Only two teams have won more games since 1990 than Florida: Florida State and Nebraska.

The Gators have finished in the top 15 all 10 seasons, the top 10 eight times and the top 5 five times.

So it stands to reason that they play well at home because, in truth, they tend to play well everywhere.

"It seems as if the players enjoy playing here," Spurrier said. "It seems the defensive players especially play a little better. We're very happy we're playing this game at home."

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