In Miami, Gator fans left in awe

Fans from both teams try to out-cheer each other before the BCS National Championship outside Dolphin Stadium on Thursday, January 8.

Brian W. Kratzer/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 1:34 a.m.

MIAMI - After this night of victory, packed with suspense and heroics, roaring with cheers and capped with fireworks, University of Florida fans in attendance were marveling at their third national championship in football in only 12 years.

"It's my second national championship," said Jeff Steinberg, an '05 UF grad, "but it never gets old. It's shock and awe."

The hard-fought game against Oklahoma was close for three quarters, and some fans at Dolphin Stadium called it a "nail-biter."

For some, it all turned with quarterback Tim Tebow coming out with emotion and the will to win in the second half. For others, the stalwart Gator defense was key. After all, it had shut down the record-breaking OU offense.

"When I saw Tebow get all into it, I knew we were going to win," said Joan Sudlow-Cunningham, a fan from Stone Mountain, Ga.

"When Tebow came out in the second half, and he was patting all the players on the back ... it lifted the team, just like he did after Ole Miss," Lynne Romrell said, bending down from the stands at the end zone.

As he talked, Tebow came running along the wall, slapping the outstretched hands of the fans.

They chanted, "One more year!"

After the game, Tebow didn't say whether he was going pro or coming back to play his senior season.

In the last few minutes of the game, after Florida's Ahmad Black intercepted a pass from Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and the Gators drove the field and scored, the atmosphere in Dolphin Stadium shifted.

The Gator fans dropped whatever worry they still felt and began to cheer in jubilation. OU fans could be seen standing somberly with their arms crossed or covering their faces with their hands.

By the end, almost all the Sooners - about a third of the 78,468 inside the stadium - had left.

As the final seconds ticked down, the Gator fans shouted, "S-E-C!" and, "Tebow!" Many stared in amazement at the field or held up their cameras to capture the moment or posed in small groups while other friends took their picture.

Though the Florida defense had nullified Bradford's high-scoring magic in the first half, Gator fan Darshak Patel had still been very concerned.

"In the third quarter I was sitting down because I was really scared," he said. In the end, he was just amazed by the Gator victory.

"I was in Arizona two years ago, and I can't believe I'm here," said the '02 graduate, who lives in Holiday. "Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow. This is amazing, and I'm like, 'Wow!' I'm excited with winning."

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