Monday, October 3, 2011

#3 Alabama at #12 Florida Game


#3 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0)
at
#12 Florida Gators (4-0)

Mascots Ready for Action

A few weeks ago I got a call from my old University of Washington friend about making the trip to Gainesville, Florida for this titanic battle.

Now while this was an awesome proposition, it was not an unusual one for Mark.

Over the years, similar calls from Mark have led us to, among other events, the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star game in Seattle, a Washington game at Notre Dame, an LSU game at Alabama, five BCS National Championship games (1999, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010), 2006's Super Bowl XL in Detroit and countless Rose Bowl games.

If you love sports, a friendship like Mark's is a very fortuitous thing to say the least!!!

I, of course, said "YES!!!"

After our Dos Pueblos game was finished Friday night, it took me less than an hour to get to the Los Angeles Airport for my 11:45 p.m. red-eye flight to Tampa, Florida. I did not get a lot of sleep on the Delta flight that got me to the Sunshine State at 7:20 a.m. Saturday.

Mark, who was already in Tampa conducting some business negotiations, picked me up right on time and whisked me back to the Sheraton for a much needed shower and a change of clothes.

Once cleaned up, we were off for the two hour drive North to Gainesville, the home of the University of Florida.

The University of Tampa

It was just a few blocks from the Sheraton and Mark had already checked out the University's unique architecture the day before. Interesting indeed, this building was once a high end hotel until UT took it over in the 1930s.

Mark holding Jude

Once we got to Gainesville at about 11:00 a.m., our first stop was the home of John, Morgan and Jude Regas. John is the Account Executive for Gator IMG Sports Marketing and Mark's connection in the UF Athletic Department.

Nice young family.

It was time for food and the pre-game festivities before the 8:00 p.m. kickoff.

Gator Pride was EVERYWHERE!

The Scene of the Evening's Contest

Lunch with Tim Tebow

The highly recommended place to eat our lunch was the Ballyhoo Grill. In a stroke of Gator Luck, we ran into Tim Tebow there. He was very quiet, almost stiff, but just as nice as you would think.

Say, didn't he have a Denver Broncos game Sunday at Green Bay to play?

Deep Fried Gator Meat

You can deep fry anything, dip it in BBQ sauce and you have an award winning appetizer!

Much better than a spleen sandwich in Palermo!!!!!

After lunch we parked the car in a young man's front yard for $30. It sounded a bit high until he informed us that the price included free beer until game time which was still a good five+ hours away.

Statues of the Holy Trinity

If football is indeed a religion in the South, then this is part of the UF Pantheon.

These are statues depicting Florida's three Heisman Trophy winners, from left to right, Tim Tebow in 2007, Steve Spurrier in 1966 and Danny Wuerffel in 2006.

That's why they call it GATORade

Mark on the left with John Regas on the right

That is John's assistant Justin between them. John had a little free time to take us on a small tour of the UF facilities.

Home of the 2006 & 2007
NCAA Basketball Champions

The Gator's Baseball Stadium

Gator Pride in the lobby of . . .

The Football Hall of Honor

The Holy of Holys for Gator Nation, it was closed on game day.

Unless you know someone.

The Gator Trinity's Heisman Trophies were on even display.

1966 Steve Spurrier

1996 Danny Wuerffel

2007 Tim Tebow

Nice Gator

This Gator Statue is located at the front entrance to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the end of Gator Walk.

TRADITION

Gator Walk

At exactly 5:45 p.m., the entire Gator team and coaches unloaded from a bus at the far end of the Gator Walk to pass through a gauntlet of truly adoring fans, by the Gator Statue and enter the Stadium to dress and prepare for the huge challenge in front of them.

Gator Bait

That is a Gator head that you can place atop your own dome to pay tribute to the passing heroes on their way to the game.

Here Come the Gators!

In the IMG Hospitality Tent

Once last chance to fuel up before Kickoff, it was catered by Sonny's BBQ, the dry rub ribs were outstanding!

My Tablemate had INTERSETING Hair

Fully sated and ready for some football, we entered the Stadium about 50 minutes before the start of the game.

I had debated which camera to bring to Florida, my big Nikon D3000 or my Nikon pocket-sized Coolpix. I opted for the more convenient Coolpix since I figured we would be too far from the action in some far away spot in the cavernous stadium known simply as "The Swamp."

Our Seats
Section 10, Row 5, Seats 27 & 28
at the 47 Yard Line

The seats were incredibly close to the field right behind the Florida bench with great sightlines.

DAMN!!! Why didn't I bring the big boy???

The Swamp is HUGE!!!

We would be joined by 90,888 of our closest friends, the second largest crowd in Florida Field history.

Most of the following pictures are courtesy of the Gainesville newspaper.

There were PASSIONATE Fans

There were INTENSE Fans

There were MELLOW Fans

The view from Section 10, Row 5, Seat 28

We were SO close to the field!

Florida WR Andre Dubose
covered by Bama CB Dre Kirkpatrick

Gator QB John Brantley would hit Dubose on a 65 yard TD bomb on the first play of the game.

Our view of the Line of Scrimmage

#3 Bama's Trent Richardson - A BEAST!!!

As the night wore on, the Gators wore down. Richardson and and the Crimson Tide just physically pounded the Gators.

Richardson had 29 carries for 181 yards and 2 TDs.

Richardson for SIX!!!

Bama Defense Dominating

This sack of Gator QB John Brantley just before halftime knocked the Florida signal caller out of the game with a leg injury and effectively ended any hope that the Gators had for a victory.

The final score saw the Crimson Tide roll to a brutal 38-10 victory to improve to 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the SEC West good for a first place tie with LSU (5-0, 2-0) and surprising Auburn (4-1, 2-0). The Crimson Tide hosts SEC East member Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1) next Saturday.

The Gators are now 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC East tied with South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) for first place. Florida travels to play the #2 ranked LSU Tigers next week. OUCH!

By the time the game was over and we had driven back to Tampa it was 1:45 a.m. on Sunday.

I caught a 9:30 a.m. flight to Houston followed by another flight to Los Angeles that got me back to SoCal at about 2:45 p.m..

The Iconic Restaurant at LAX

I was still sleep deprived but excited about having enjoyed yet another EXCELLENT Mark Johnson Adventure!!!

In related college football news, the University of Washington (4-1, 2-0 PAC-12 North) rolled past the University of Utah (2-2, 0-2 PAC-12 South) 31-14 in a PAC-12 game. The Huskies have a BYE next week and then host Colorado (1-4, 0-1 PAC-12 South).

In Division III, the #20 California Lutheran Kingsmen (2-1, 1-0 SCIAC) overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit and rallied to a dramatic 28-24 victory over the #13 Redlands Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1)!

It was the SCIAC opener for both squads and the first ever game at CLU's brand new $8.9 million William Rolland Stadium. Good job Kingsmen!

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