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Stunned in The Swamp: What Florida-Tennessee felt like in person

“Was this actually happening?” It was.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Between watching our offense crumble against Michigan a couple weeks ago and losing the scheduled home opener against Northern Colorado due to Hurricane Irma, a win this past weekend is exactly what the millions of Florida Gators fans in Gator Nation needed.

But would we get it?

To be completely honest, going into the game, I didn’t have much hope we would actually pull out a W. Given the Gators had not scored a single offensive touchdown to that point, how could I not have my doubts?

As my alarm blasted in the mid-morning hours of Saturday, I lazily rolled out of bed and collected my thoughts. It was finally game day, y’all. After what seemed like an eternity since the last game in The Swamp, the void in my heart was finally going to be filled. And I wasn’t worried about the possible outcomes of the game at that hour — just the excitement of finally getting back to the regularity of game day weekends.

I threw on my all-blue attire for the day and quickly found my people so we could venture to our pregame tailgate. The (sparing) orange, the blue, the drinks, the barbeques, the music, the pregame banter: It felt so good to be back in my element.

We spent our beloved pregame behind the infamous midtown madness for a solid few hours, but as the clock struck 2 o’clock, we began to make our way through the masses towards Ben Hill Griffin. “Go Gators!” rang out throughout the crowds as everyone funneled in through the gates. The stadium music was booming, and I could practically taste the Domino’s pizza from the concession stands thanks to the wafts of cheese that filled the air as we were finding our seats.

We climbed up to row 65 and settled in. The minutes ticked down. The stadium grew louder and louder by the second. And finally, a comfortable and familiar lull fell over everyone. The eerie chords prompting everyone to do the Gator chomp began.

As soon as “Hereeeeeeeeeeeeee come the Gators” echoed through the stadium, the entire stadium shook with excitement.

The team stormed the field. The orange and blue flags flew through the air. The fight song rang through every nook and cranny of Florida Field. It was go time.

We braced ourselves for what was to come.

Probably, we should’ve braced harder.

The “Ed-dy” chants were loud in the first three quarters of the game, and Florida’s beloved kicker answered them. When the first field goal went up, so did my hopes: Even if the football gods were going to make it impossible for us to score an offensive touchdown, we were going to get points on the board somehow, dammit.

And then the fourth quarter came. We were loud. We were rowdy. We all absolutely freaked out when Powell caught the pass to finally give us our first offensive touchdown of the season. We all began to allow our nerves to slowly creep into our minds as Feleipe Franks threw his interception, followed by a Tennessee touchdown. We really got nervous when we were tied with just seconds to spare.

And, to be real: I don’t think my heart, or my sun-drained body, could have handled overtime. As I started thinking about that prospect with the seconds on the clock draining down, I got more and more stressed. The students in my block started talking amongst ourselves, and we came to the conclusion we were definitely going to run the ball to run down the clock, definitely leading us to go into an overtime we did not want.

But in the back of my mind, I kept telling myself, “Just throw it up. C’MON. What do we have to lose?”

And that’s just what we did.

I watched in absolute disbelief as Franks threw the ball up. Was this actually happening? It seemed as if the whole world slowed — as if we were in a scene in a movie — as I stood wide-eyed with tens of thousands of fellow fans, watching the pass drop right into Tyrie Cleveland’s arms.

As soon as Cleveland fell to the ground, the stadium absolutely erupted. My entire body was shaking; I jumped into my boyfriend’s arms, and was lost in the screaming and yelling and excitement.

We freaking did it, man.

And it felt pretty damn great to be a Florida Gator.