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Florida, Missouri fans look forward to game atmosphere

Saturday, November 3, 2012 | 11:24 a.m. CDT; updated 12:47 p.m. CDT, Saturday, November 3, 2012
Stefan Ebert, an MU alum, sets up a tent before the Florida-Missouri football game Saturday in Gainesville, Fla. Ebert is originally from St. Louis and was invited to tailgate at Florida by gatortailgating.com.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What's so great about "The Swamp?"

It's huge.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, known as "The Swamp," towers so high you couldn't even see the top because of fog early Saturday morning.

But just two hours before kickoff, the sidewalks around the stadium weren't crowded at all. There were trucks and RVs with tailgaters in the distance, but near the stadium, there weren't scents of food on the grill.

It was mostly quiet except for one area in front of the north end of the stadium where Florida's band was playing. There, a large group of fans, most of them dressed in blue, gathered in two lines. 

Members of the band and cheerleaders stuck out their arms and led the crowd in the Gator chomp.

Soon, the Florida team bus arrived. Gators coach Will Muschamp led the team into the stadium. They entered triumphantly, high-fiving and shaking hands as they moved down the middle of the two lines of fans.

Among the fans was a bald man wearing a blue Florida football jersey. He introduced himself as "Gator Nation," but later revealed his real name, Troy Coleman. He spoke with a Southern drawl about his anticipation for the game.

"Gators gonna win," Coleman said.

Although it was calm before the game, Coleman said by kickoff, the stadium's atmosphere would be loud. He particularly loves the intro.

"(It) makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck," Coleman said.

That's saying something, because it looked like it had been just a couple of days since he shaved his head clean.

But it wasn't very loud yet. It was even quieter on the other end of the stadium, where the Missouri football team entered the back of the stadium.

A crowd of about 50 Tigers fans clapped as the team got off the bus. There was no band playing. Many of the Missouri players looked like they had just woken up as they made their way into the stadium.

Douglas Smith, a 1986 MU graduate, was keeping to himself as well. He walked around wearing a grey Missouri shirt and a baseball cap. It was his first visit to Florida's stadium.

"I have never been to The Swamp before. Never had any desire," Smith said. "I came so I could boo."

Smith's friend from St. Louis, Joe Jones, laughed.

"We'll probably be boo-hooing," Jones said.

Smith wasn't too optimistic either. He said he would enjoy the storied atmosphere in the stadium.

"I'm realistic," Smith said. "The final score won't give us much to cheer about."


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