By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 8, 2002
GAINESVILLE -- For the 51st time, Florida and Miami played a college football game Saturday. They will meet for a 52nd time next year at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Beyond that, no one is sure.
But if Miami athletic director Paul Dee has his way, the rivals would meet more frequently during the regular season than once every 15 years.
Dee said that task would be made easier if schedules are expanded to 12 games on a permanent basis, as has been discussed.
"In that case, we'd love to play them regularly, even if it isn't every year," Dee said before the game. "We like the opportunity to get to play great teams. Florida is a great team."
Dee didn't know what "regularly" would entail but said, "We'd like to have some cadence to it, some sort of regularity."
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has said even with an expanded schedule, the school would like to schedule other big-name opponents.
FOOTBALL, NOT WRESTLING: It wasn't wrestler Ric Flair. It wasn't even coach Ron Zook.
Instead, strong safety Cory Bailey led Florida out of the tunnel for Saturday's game.
Bailey, a sophomore, went to American High in Miami.
Earlier in the week, a radio station reported Flair would lead the Gators out of the tunnel. Zook said he knows Flair but the two did not discuss Flair leading Florida out of the tunnel.
Zook led the Gators out of the tunnel in the season opener against Alabama-Birmingham.
MITCHELL RETURNS: Clint Mitchell started at defensive end for the Gators, his first playing time since November. Mitchell, a junior from Clearwater, did not play against UAB while serving a suspension.
Mitchell was suspended in 2001 for various university and team violations. He missed the first six and final four games of last season.
MIAMI MARKS: Todd Sievers' 53-yard field goal in the first quarter was the longest of his career and fourth-longest in Miami history. The longest is 57 yards by Danny Miller against Florida State in 1981.
Also, safety Mo Sikes' 97-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the third-longest in Miami history. The longest is 100 yards by Selwyn Brown in 1985 against Boston College.
KICKING WOES: It was a tough day for Florida kicker Matt Leach. On the opening drive, Leach didn't come close on a 38-yard field goal that sailed wide right.
It was Florida's first missed field goal since Jeff Chandler failed on a 33-yarder Oct. 6 against LSU, a span of seven games.
Although Leach later made a 34-yarder, he missed his second extra point of the season after Byron Hardmon returned an interception for a touchdown. That made the score 27-16.
MISCELLANY: The attendance of 85,777 is a Florida Field record, surpassing the 85,771 for the Tennessee game last season. It was Florida's 79th consecutive sellout. ... Miami led 20-10 at halftime. That's the biggest halftime deficit for the Gators since Nov. 1, 1997, when they trailed Georgia 14-3. UF lost that game 37-17.
-- BOB HARIG, JILL MARTIN