Underdog win reignites faith in Florida

Easley celebrates after win -- US PRESSWIRE

Florida broke into September bearing the shackles of last season's disappointing 7-6 record and this season's doubts. The Swamp — once heralded as one of the loudest arenas in college football — slowly transformed into a hub of hushed cheers and stands merely speckled with fans by the time "We are the Boys" emitted from the PA system.

Belief in this UF team seemed uncertain until Saturday, when the Gator Nation came back around.

Earlier this week, right guard Jon Halapio admitted he and his teammates knew people didn't believe in the Gators the way they once did. However, he said every week was an opportunity to prove those people wrong. This week's 14-6 victory over LSU was the week it happened.

Attendance on Saturday tallied up a deafening crowd of 90,824 — just 83 patrons short of the all-time largest crowd for the FSU game in '09.

"That place was alive," coach Will Muschamp said of the Swamp. "I've been in a bunch of arenas —college, pro — I played in them, coached in them and today was as fine as any I've ever been in."

Muschamp said Florida fans had been absent of an "exciting" win for quite some time now and credited them for both their patience and energy.

"There is no question our fans made a difference in that football game," he said. "They energized our football team. We have the greatest fans in the world, and I mean that."

Junior safety Matt Elam, who rocked a game-changing fumble on the Tigers, said he knew the Gator Nation had doubts before he and his teammates took the field this weekend. After all, the Gators had plenty working against them including the Tigers' No. 4 ranking and 18-game regular-season winning streak.

"Coming into this game, nobody thought we were going to win," Elam said. "To be the underdog and get a win is a great feeling."

Elam said this team knows how to finish the game — a problem the orange and blue struggled to overcome last year. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd also acknowledged his team's underdog status before taking the field Saturday.

"This is the team that no one thought could do it," he said. "This is the team that rallied together as one and never talked about anything we were going to do and just did it. That's what we are and that's what coach Muschamp wanted us to be."

Following the win over LSU, both Elam and Floyd discussed UF's sights on a bigger hurdle looming across the state line. Elam said the victory brings the Gators one step closer to the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

"That's our goal," Elam said. "I feel like the sky's the limit from here."

Floyd said though Atlanta is also in the back of his mind, he has thoughts of the accolade perched at the national level. However, Floyd said the team must first continue to play each week the way they believe they can.

But that's not to say Saturday's didn't win hold plenty of promise.

"It meant a lot to our staff and to our players," Floyd said. "We needed this one and we got it. Now we know what type of team we are and what type of team we're capable of being."

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