Campus is abuzz with Gators early lead

Mike Osa, Lauren Leander and Mike Movak celebrate after the Gators' first touchdown in the National Championship game at the O'Connell Center on Monday night.

Tim Hussin / Special to the Sun
Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 10:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 10:42 p.m.

Near the end of a first half that saw four Gator touchdowns, the announcer at the O'Connell Center had a request of the thousands of students who gathered to watch the game there.

"Please, no crowd surfing," he said via the arena's loudspeaker.

Members of the crowd, which filled the O'Connell Center nearly to capacity on Monday night, mostly refrained from becoming airborne.

But they did scream, jump, stomp, dance and chomp their way through the first two quarters of the BCS National Championship football game, which the O'Connell Center broadcast live on four huge video screens.

The crowd didn't wait for the Gators' four pre-halftime touchdowns to fill the arena with an echo-making roar. The arena seemed to burst into an orange-and-blue riot for every tackle the Gator defense made and every yard the Gators made.

The O'Connell Center was reserved for UF students, faculty and staff with Gator 1 ID cards, with each card-holder allowed to bring one guest.

Many said the student-heavy crowd created a game-watching atmosphere that rivaled the student section at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and said it made watching the Gators play in the national championship game even more special.

"People told me that this was sort of the place to be tonight," said Ty Morton, an 18-year-old freshman. "It's cool to be around all the fans and all the excitement rather than just sitting around and watching the game at home."

On W. University Avenue across from campus, thousands of students and fans packed bars and restaurants with TVs to capacity, leaving standing room only.

At Gator City, Brian Barry and his Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers said they took turns standing in line at Gator City since midnight today to get the front two tables they usually watch games from.

"There was no question; we had to get these front two tables," Barry said. "We've never seen the Gators lose from these tables."

-Sun staff writer Alice Wallace contributed to this report

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