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College football

The fill-in fills big shoes

By BRIAN SHAFFER
Published November 2, 2003

photo
[Times photo: Willie Allen]
Channing Crowder, jawing at Damien Gary, and UF defense overcame the loss of the SEC sack leader.

JACKSONVILLE - It's all in the shoes.

Florida's Bobby McCray might have been relegated to cheerleader duty during the victory over Georgia, but part of him was on the field getting after quarterback David Greene.

Before the game, McCray gave Travis Harris, his replacement at defensive end, a pair of his size 13 Jordan football cleats to wear during the game.

"I think the shoes rubbed off something," Harris said. "Me and him are close and I wanted to wear his shoes. I think he felt like a piece of him was out there with me wearing his shoes."

Inspired by the footwear, Harris delivered two of the game's biggest plays.

On third and goal, with the Bulldogs on the 4 in the fourth quarter, Harris broke up a pass intended for fullback Jeremy Thomas and forced Georgia into kicking a tying field goal instead of attempting a go-ahead touchdown.

Harris provided the game's first shift after he delivered a hit on Greene, sacking him at the Florida 14 and forcing the Bulldogs to settle for a field goal just before halftime.

"In this game, things like that happen," coach Ron Zook said about the play of his senior, who had made two starts at defensive end. "This game brings out the best in you. Travis is from Georgia and this was a great opportunity for him, and he played well."

McCray, who was leading the Southeastern Conference in sacks heading in, was suspended for the game after violating the university's class attendance policy.

After watching his defensive teammates sack Greene four times, hold the Bulldogs to 188 yards passing, intercept one pass and break up three, McCray thought twice about how much his presence was missed.

"They didn't need me," McCray said. "They forgot about me. Big players make big plays in the clutch situations. Darrell Lee, Travis Harris and the boys really stepped up today."

Without McCray, the Gators were left thin on a defensive line that has been considered undersized and inexperienced since the beginning of summer practices.

But led by Harris and reserves Steven Harris, Marcus Thomas and Kenny Parker, the defensive line did not wear down as it had and provided a pass rush that was supposed to be nonexistent after the loss of McCray.

Maybe he was fresh, maybe he was inspired to play against a school from his home state or maybe it was the shoes. Whatever it was, Harris responded to the challenge of a starting role.

"This is one of the best feelings I've had (as a Gator)," he said. "It's right up there with winning the SEC championship my freshman year. This is a great feeling and I hope we can build on it."

[Last modified November 2, 2003, 07:26:04]


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