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Gators lose leading receiver for four weeks

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

JACKSONVILLE -- Florida's offense suffered a big blow Saturday when senior receiver Taylor Jacobs sprained his right medial collateral ligament on the first series. He will be re-evaluated today, but coach Ron Zook said the team's top receiver will not need surgery. He is expected to miss at least four weeks.

"They said he was going to miss four weeks, but I told him he had two," Zook said, jokingly. "The good thing is he's not going to have to be operated on."

In his absence, Rex Grossman completed passes to eight players, including O.J. Small, Antoine Sharp and tight end Aaron Walker.

GOING STRONG: The Florida-Georgia series is alive and well on and off the field.

Saturday's game provided the largest payout in the series' 80-year history. Each school is expected to earn about $1.3-million, and school officials have signed a new contract to play in Jacksonville. The four-year deal takes affect in 2003.

An increase in ticket prices generated $300,000 more than last season. The 11,252 box seats cost $60, up $10 from 2001. The other approximately 69,000 seats increased from $25 to $32.

Last season's game brought in $2.3-million in revenues. After taxes and expenses (about $200,000), both schools took in about $1-million. Under the new deal, each school should earn more than $5-million.

STREAK ENDS: Georgia's touchdown in the first quarter was the first allowed by the Gator defense this season. The defense had given up 12 points, all on field goals.

BORDER (RECRUITING) WARS: The Florida-Georgia series is known as the Border War, but the game also can set the stage for the battle for recruits.

Zook said while the outcome of the game could influence a small number of recruits, he doesn't believe winning or losing plays a major role in where players sign.

"Obviously, it has some outcome on recruiting," said Zook, who was successful in recruiting the Jacksonville area as a Gator assistant from 1991-95. "But in the experiences I've had in recruiting, that's important. But there's a lot more involved than wins and losses in these two programs."

FEELING ZOOK'S PAIN: While fans continue to debate Zook's performance, coaches and analysts continue to come to his defense.

"I think he's doing a good job," said ESPN's Mike Gottfried, the play-by-play announcer for Saturday's game. "I did a (story) on transition coaches this year. And they are 44-64 (entering Saturday); all the guys that have taken over new programs this year.

"The most difficult year is the first year. When you get in there, you didn't recruit these guys and you're changing a little bit of philosophy. Your nature is different than the previous guy, and you bring some different assistant coaches in. So you have to build a relationship. I think he's done a very good job under very tough conditions."

IS THAT A RULE?: The Gators received an "administrative warning" by officials late in the first half.

Why? Cheerleaders must have their megaphones pointed upward at all times, but some had them pointed toward the field.

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