Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, or “The Swamp” is a famous college football venue that is known for its rambunctious and resilient fans.
It would be understandable for the East Carolina football team to be a little intimidated entering a Southeastern Conference stadium they haven’t been to. The Pirates struggled through their biggest test however, staying consistent offensively despite the loud atmosphere.
“The Swamp” is the largest stadium in Florida, which is saying something, as there are three NFL football teams in the state. It also ranks as the 11th largest college football stadium in the country.
It is said to hold 88,548 people but somehow the attendance reached 90, 227 people last week in the Gators dismantling of New Mexico State.
Throughout the stadium there are signs of Southeastern Conference championships and three of national champions, as well as hard-to-miss statues of quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow.
The Pirates initially didn’t appear to be intimidated in the slightest as they came out and faced the crazy atmospheric adversity head on.
However, there is no doubt that “The Swamp” was a factor, something that seemed to be overlooked by some ECU players.
“We have played in elements just like this and there is nothing different, Dowdy Ficklen is just as bad so it was an easy transition going into it,” offensive leader Isaiah Jones explained after the 31-24 loss.
While it does get loud for the ECU players on Bagwell Field, Dowdy Ficklen holds nearly half as many fans as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium does and there’s no way the noise level compares.
The most tell-tale sign of the disruptive crowd was the number of ECU penalties. The Pirates committed nine penalties for a loss of 65 yards, creating unneeded adversity.
The game’s opening drive resulted in an ECU touchdown, jumping out to an early 7-0 lead. The offense didn’t look in sync during the drive, however, as they committed two false start penalties, in direct correlation with the crowd noise.
Then, late in the third quarter, ECU had the ball in the Florida red zone and was on the verge of scoring an important touchdown.
In consecutive plays, ECU allowed quarterback Blake Kemp to get sacked, then tackle Ike Harris was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct, making it third down and 35 yards to go, one of the many instances the Pirates shot themselves in the foot.
The Pirates can act as nonchalant as they want, but it was extremely apparent “The Swamp” had a big effect on the game, something the Pirates will need to work on if they want to become an elite program.