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Gators' foul play has Zook steamed

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 2002


TALLAHASSEE -- Of all the things that went wrong for Florida in its 31-14 loss to Florida State on Saturday night, the one that disturbed coach Ron Zook most was penalties.

The Gators (8-4, 6-2 SEC) were penalized nine times for 84 yards, including multiple personal foul calls. Florida averaged 56 yards in penalties going in.

"We had some personal foul penalties that were just ridiculous and you can't have," Zook said. "It's the first game we had a bunch of penalties like that, and you can't win when you have that many penalties."

Florida's inability to contain quarterback Chris Rix also was a major problem. Rix rushed for 83 yards, which opened things for his receivers. He threw for 194 yards.

"Any time a quarterback scrambles and he has time for his receivers to run around and he has a strong arm on the run, it's trouble," cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said.

The Gators running game started strong, then faltered after FSU put seven men up front, forcing Florida to rely mostly on its passing.

Tight end Aaron Walker, who dropped several passes, tipped one that was intercepted by Kendyll Pope and returned for a TD to give FSU a 24-6 lead in the third quarter.

"(The interception) was a big deal," running back Earnest Graham said. "The momentum changed and they got ahead ... and we didn't do much after that. We never recovered from that."

* * *

GROSSMAN'S FUTURE: Less than an hour after Florida's loss, quarterback Rex Grossman stood pondering what went wrong and what his future might hold.

Florida entered the season with several major goals, including winning the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, playing in the SEC Championship in Atlanta and, of course, beating FSU on the road.

None was accomplished.

"I'm not going to lie, it's somewhat of a disappointment," Grossman said. "But we've got a lot of pride. We're going to go into a bowl game, try to win and see what happens and try to regroup. We fell short, but it's going to leave a bitter taste in our mouth and it's going to make us better football players and better people."

Grossman said he will take some time before Florida's bowl game to decide whether he will return for his senior season.

"As a competitive person I'd like to come back and make this right, get us back on the right track and end on a great season and everything like that," he said. "But there are a lot of decisions that I need to make."

UNHAPPY HOMECOMING: Senior receiver Taylor Jacobs' return to his hometown of Tallahassee, and to the field after missing three games with an injury, didn't turn out the way he had hoped. Jacobs had seven catches for 95 yards but no touchdowns. Still, Zook said his performance was solid.

"I thought Taylor played well. I was proud of him," Zook said. "I know it was important for him to come out and play well in his hometown."

NO REGRETS: Although Zook's ban on players talking to the media last week apparently didn't help their concentration, the first-year coach said he doesn't regret the decision. "If I had to do it over again, I would," Zook said.

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