Doak S. Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee is not one of my favorite places to be by far. Alone in my orange and blue in a sea of garnet and gold I felt like a target, but when I saw how great my seat was, I honestly did not care. The stadium was almost full, the crowd consisting of 83,429 Gator and Seminole fans anticipating the opening ceremony. This was the first time in 12 years that both teams were ranked in the top ten, making this year’s outcome difficult to predict. The two teams had been playing well all season; Florida State University (FSU) was undefeated and the University of Florida (UF) had only one loss to the University of Georgia, the third ranked team in the nation.
The Florida/Florida State rivalry began in 1958 and ever since, the Gators have basically dominated the rivalry, winning 34 games and tying two of the 55 played in the intervening years. Because the schools are so close to one another, it is not rare to have Gator and Seminoles fans living under the same roof, which only makes the rivalry more competitive. Ever since John James “Jimbo” Fisher became the head coach at FSU in 2010, the team has become tougher than ever, beating the Gators in the last two seasons, breaking their six-year winning streak. It should be noted that the loss of both the infamous quarterback Tim Tebow in 2009 and head coach Urban Meyer in 2011 may have had an effect on those outcomes, not to mention the young and inexperienced UF team that head coach Will Muschamp and his team had to remodel during his first season as head coach.
Despite being on Seminole turf, the close proximity of the two universities guaranteed a large turnout of Gator fans as well. Luckily, the row I was sitting in happened to be comprised of mostly Gator fans, thus all the heckling from the nearby FSU fans was not directed towards me alone.
Both bands performed in the opening ceremony as well as the dramatic flaming spear routine of Chief Osceola and his steed Renegade. FSU won the coin toss and elected to kick off first and that was it. It was game time. This game was one of the most stressful games of my life, falling just behind the devastating loss in the SEC Championship game against Alabama in 2009, because a lot was at stake here. The Gators could no longer rely on the excuse of a young team with no definitive quarterback as the result to the last two soggy seasons. This game would prove whether the team was back on track to once again become the top team in the nation.
About five minutes into the game, I heard the person behind me screaming for a medic. I turned around to see that a man in the row behind me had passed out suddenly and was unresponsive. It was scary. But then he peed himself.
This would not have been a noteworthy occurrence if the urine did not flow down the step and form a puddle where I was standing – in new shoes. However, as police and medics swarmed our seats, the only thing I was paying attention to was the field, where the Gators had 14 plays amounting to 54 yards and control of the ball for almost six minutes. This is a pretty impressive feat, especially since FSU’s defense was ranked number one in the nation at the time of the game.
The drive ended in an easy fourth down, 39-yard field goal by record breaking kicker Caleb Sturgis, putting the Gators ahead 3-0. FSU quickly got the ball down to the Gator’s 29-yard line and things start to look bad for the Gators until a bad pass from Seminole quarterback E.J. Manuel led to the first of many interceptions of the game.
I, along with the other Gator fans, felt pretty good about the way the game was going, though we knew that there was still plenty of time left in the game for the Gators to screw up and FSU to take over.
Unfortunately, the Seminoles exploded back into the game during the third quarter and changed the game completely. FSU fans turned around and jeered at us every time they sacked Jeff Driskel, the UF quarterback, and it was definitely not looking very good for the Gators as the third quarter ended 13- 20.
Head coach Muschamp, who is known for his angry, yet effective, rants, must have said something to his team before the fourth half because the Gators had one forced turnover, rushed 111 for 179 yards and scored 24 points in only five minutes and 29 seconds making the final score 37-26, basically ensuring their win with about six minutes left on the clock, quite a substantial amount of time in college football.
Though it was a big victory for UF, it would have been even sweeter if the University of South Carolina Gamecocks had beaten the Notre Dame Fighting Irish later that night. Unfortunately for Gators fans, the Fighting Irish successfully defended their undefeated status with a 22-13 win. If USC had won, UF would have had the chance to get into the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game, a feat they have not performed since 2008.
On Dec. 2, it was confirmed that because the University of Georgia Bulldogs lost to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship, the Gators will be playing in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 against the University of Louisville Cardinals.
Even with the loss to the Gators, FSU was still eligible to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Georgia Tech on Dec. 1 and won 21-15, qualifying them for the Orange Bowl against the Northern Illinois University Huskies.