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Gators coach Will Muschamp got a signature victory when Florida defeated No. 4-ranked LSU on Saturday.

Sunday October 7, 2012Gators Notebook: The Swamp's Reawakening, Muschamp's Moment, SEC Outlook

Gators coach Will Muschamp got a signature victory when Florida defeated No. 4-ranked LSU on Saturday.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Think of an orange and blue pot that’s been bubbling on the stove for three years just waiting to boil over.

That was the “Swamp” Saturday night.

As big as Florida’s 14-6 upset of No. 4-ranked LSU was for the Gators, the moment was equally significant for a packed stadium and rabid fan base pining desperately for a signature victory to signal the return of the Gators to national relevance.

Well, Florida is back.

And so is the Swamp.

“That was the Swamp that you hear about when you’re a recruit and we all grew up with,” junior flanker Trey Burton said. “It was great to see it, man.”

The win was UF’s first over a top 5-ranked opponent at home since beating LSU in 2008, Tim Tebow’s junior season.

“Our fans were ready for this game,” senior linebacker Jon Bostic said. “When [our defense] was out there, you could see it. [LSU’s players] couldn’t get the calls and checks they wanted. They couldn’t hear.”

At one point between plays, safety Josh Evans caught himself scanning the field and soaking in the atmosphere.

“It was so loud, the loudest I’ve heard it since I’ve been here,” Evans said. “It helped us so much. The more juice, the more energy, the more it motivated us to go out there and play harder for them.”

After the game, Muschamp echoed his players' sentiments. Obviously, having been at Auburn and LSU and Texas, he knows what an intimidating home-field advantage can do for a team.

And to the opponent.

This was the Swamp that Steve Spurrier created, that hit a speed bump with Ron Zook, and that Urban Meyer brought back for a few years.

“There is no question our fans made a different in that football game. They energized our football team," Muschamp said. "We’ve got the greatest fans in the world, and I mean that. I’ve been in a bunch of arenas – college, pro, I played in ‘em and I coach in ‘em – and today was as fine as any that I’ve ever been in. They deserved to have that win and our kids did as well.”

A MUSCHAMP MOMENT

Speaking of Muschamp, obviously this was a mega-win for the UF coach.

Although he never was going to admit it.

“I’m not really worried about me,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of friends out there.”

Maybe so, but after overseeing a 7-6 season in 2011 (the program’s losingest in 25 years), this victory was validation for everything Muschamp has been telling his players and the fan base for nearly two years about how this program needed to be rebuilt.

And if you saw Muschamp work his way through his players and coaches to celebrate in the northeast corner of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- with the student section and band -- and then dive into his players’ arms for a mini-crowd surf in the locker room, it was clear this was a big moment for him, too.

“It’s a testament to Coach and the path he’s put us on,” senior linebacker Lerentee McCray said. “We believed.”

EYES ON ATLANTA

There’s no secret Florida’s goal -- and the goal of every SEC team -- is to wind up in Atlanta for the conference championship game. 

The Gators (5-0, 4-0), who moved up to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll Sunday morning, are unbeaten at the halfway point in their league schedule, so obviously there’s a long way to go. 

The next two weeks, though, will go a long way toward seeing how viable that goal is. 

At Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2) next weekend. 

Home against South Carolina on Oct. 20. 

The Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0), who soared to an all-time high No. 3 after crushing Georgia 35-7, are at LSU next weekend, so that should be another crazy day in the Swamp. 

But first things first. 

“We have a huge challenge in front of us next week in Nashville against a very well-coached team,” Muschamp said. 

That challenge is the next step toward the program’s first major goal. 

“We all think about it. We all got it in the back of our heads,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said of playing for an SEC title. “But there’s no Atlanta if we don’t play each week the way we know we can. So we’re going to keep doing what we got to do. We know it’s going to be a fight each week.”

 

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