The scene from Glendale


Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 11:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 11:28 p.m.

GLENDALE, ARIZ. As the BCS National Championship Game approached, chants of "Ohio State Gator bait!" rang outside the University of Phoenix Stadium.

While Gator fans were noticeably outnumbered by Buckeyes, the University of Florida faithful gave up nothing in enthusiasm.

"We're Florida fans, the proud Orange and Blue!" said UF senior Jennifer Norman, 22, before engaging a passing fan in a "Go Gators!" cheer.

Thousands of Florida fans tailgated in stadium parking lot in the hours before the game, grilling out and sipping brews as they counted the minutes until game time.

"It reminds me a little bit of the Florida-Georgia game but a little bigger, a little better," said Keith William, 49, of Melbourne.

Student fans were forced to stand in a line snaking around the stadium for their tickets. Wearing a Florida flag as a cape, UF grad student Greg Smith, 22, said he couldn't wait to get his ticket and start partying.

"It wastes most of our day standing in line," he said.

Some fans prowled the parking lots for an elusive game ticket. A few expressed frustration at booking travel plans, yet likely being kept out of the game.

"We got the flight, the hotels, the parties. Now we're just sitting here," said Jerry Leggett, 46, of Tampa.

Gator fans didn't seem fazed by the larger Buckeye contingency. UF junior Kyle Hitchcock, 20, said it seemed "like the entire state of Ohio" was outside the stadium, but the Florida crowd was younger and livelier.

"It looks like there's more students from Florida and more older alumni from Ohio State," he said.

Joe Goldberg, UF's former student body president, flew into Las Vegas and drove down to Glendale for the game today. Goldberg, who now lives in Miami and works in sales for a technology company, says he likes the Gators' chances tonight.

I think we've got it, he said. "It's a big year for the Gators, isn't it?

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