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College football

Fason proves to be a keeper

The RB, who once thought of transferring, continues to give Gators' ground game a boost.

By BRIAN SHAFFER
Published November 16, 2003

COLUMBIA, S.C. - If Ciatrick Fason wanted to transfer from Florida, he was going to have to go through coach Ron Zook.

After not recording a carry Sept.27 against Kentucky and serving a suspension the next week during a loss to Mississippi, Fason was out of patience.

He sat down with Zook to discuss the possibility of leaving.

"Zook told me, "You aren't going nowhere. Neither one of us is leaving this office,"' Fason said. "He said that we could fight right there in the office and that we would be there all day. He just hoped that I brought my lunch pail."

Zook convinced the sophomore to stay with the team, and they ironed out their differences. Fason since has become one of the Gators' top running backs. He has 446 yards in the past five games and has helped propel Florida to a share of the SEC East title.

Against South Carolina, Fason averaged 9.5 yards and compiled 190 yards on 20 carries. While he did not score, he tallied 100 yards on the Gators' first two touchdown drives, including three runs of 20 yards or more.

"(Zook) knew I never really wanted to leave," Fason said. "My heart has always been with the Florida Gators, ever since I was in the 10th grade. He knew how much I love the game and he just told me to be patient and I would get my opportunity."

With senior Ran Carthon nursing an ankle injury and redshirt freshman DeShawn Wynn fumbling in the first half, Fason became the go-to man.

Before Saturday's 20 carries, Fason's career high was 11. Though his production did not decline as the game progressed, he did fight fatigue in the fourth quarter and was replaced several times as he headed to the sideline.

"I was a little tired out there," Fason said. "That is the most times I've carried the ball since high school. But today they put the load on my shoulders. I got a little tired and winded, but I knew that at big moments I had to step up and stay in the game."

Part of Fason's motivation came from South Carolina media, which wrote the Gamecocks had a clear advantage in the running game with better tailbacks and a stronger offensive line.

"We took that to heart," guard Shannon Snell said. "We read that right before we took the field. We went out there and we were like, "Okay, we'll show them who has a better (rushing) offense."'

After Saturday's performance, there is little doubt in Fason's mind about how he stacks up against the rest of the nation's running backs.

"If you leave that question up to me, I'd say I'm the best," Fason said. "I always have confidence in myself and I feel like I'm one of the best in the nation."

[Last modified November 16, 2003, 01:34:40]


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