The anticipation was building late last week. Every college football players start to see the light at the end of the tunnel once game week rolls around. They get back into a routine of preparing for an opponent, and the thought of that first hit against someone in a different colored jersey starts to dominate their minds.
And then it was taken away.
The lengthy lightning delays brought two-and-a-half inches of rain to the playing surface, and it was deemed unsafe for the game to resume. The long offseason of preparation would then last an extra week. As that week winds down and the glimmer of hopes of Saturday continues to build in the players’ eyes, the players continue to get excited.
"Out at practice (Tuesday) I got mad,” Florida linebacker Michael Taylor said. “I'm like ‘dang, I can't take anyone to the ground.’ You don't want to unleash on your teammates. When I finally get out there (on Saturday), pray for them. That's how we all feel because we've got some stuff to let out. It's been a while, so we're just ready to take the field."
Add in a run-heavy Eastern Michigan offense, and the linebackers are especially happy for a physical game on Saturday.
"Thumbs up, very happy. Good for us," Taylor said.
The disappointment of last season was easy to feel in the locker room after last week’s game was originally suspended. Dante Fowler called the atmosphere during the delay a “different feel, different vibe” because of the excitement the players had to get on the field and show the fan base the progress that was made in the offseason.
The opportunity to show a difference still exists, just one week later than originally expected.
“We were all ready to get out and show everybody what we’re about,” Florida receiver Latroy Pittman said. “First impressions are everything, we just wanted to get the good message out there that we’re ready and that we’re going to be competing for something in 2014.”
The anticipation is the most difficult part for the Gators. As much as the players say they’ve buried and forgotten about the four-win season in 2013, it’s still in the back of their minds. They want to rid themselves of that memory, and the first step to doing that is getting on the field during a new season and starting 2014.
Fall camp served as the first step to making that happen, but this camp has lasted one week longer than most because of the lost game against Idaho.
"That was probably the hardest part of it, participating all offseason and coming from last season and still not being able to play, it was a little rough,” Florida left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “But I think this weekend will be something special just because of the extra buildup."