By Times Staff Writer
Published September 10, 2004
GAINESVILLE - By the time the football team takes the field Saturday, it will have been 33 days since preseason practices began.
The postponement of last week's season opener because of Hurricane Frances has the players more eager than usual to get the season started.
Florida will play in the midst of chaos around the state, including Gainesville, where thousands remained without power Thursday, and downed trees and flooding are major problems. None of it is lost on the players.
"Everybody is just ready to play," running back Ciatrick Fason said. "We were ready to hit somebody on Sept. 4, but we didn't get a chance because the game got postponed. So now we're ready to kick it off and get the season started. And with the power off for a lot of people, they can come out to the football game and hopefully we can put on a show for them."
Several of the veteran players said the drama of last week was reminiscent of 2001 when the Tennessee game was postponed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Much like that time, the players continued to prepare up until Thursday of game week before it was canceled.
"It doesn't really compare, but it kind of happened the same way," senior cornerback Corey Bailey said. "With that, we missed a week then we came back and played at Kentucky, and we didn't really do as well as everybody thought and it was kind of a tough thing just to get up for the game because of what happened with 9/11. With this, I don't think it's going to be as hard to get up because everybody is so anxious because it's the first game of the season. And a lot of things happened with the hurricane, but nothing as tragic as 9/11."
Saturday's game will be the Gators' latest start for a season opener since 1992, but coach Ron Zook said he isn't overly concerned about the team's preparation. He said he hasn't seen any signs the players are flat during practice.
"I spent (Monday and Tuesday) observing that and, we'll see what happens, but I feel pretty good about things," Zook said. "In fact, I feel like if we were getting stale, it was last week a little bit. I think these days really helped us get fresh. Because, like I said, it was a long, hard camp, a week longer than normal. And they had Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, but they've come back and haven't missed a beat.
ROAD WARRIORS: It's not the way volleyball coach Mary Wise wanted it, but Hurricane Frances has the Gators in the midst of a seven-match road trip. Last weekend's scheduled tournament in Gainesville was quickly revised and became a road trip to Northwestern. Now Florida is in Minneapolis for a three-match tourney in the Diet Coke Classic. The Gators beat No. 15 Kansas State on Thursday, face No. 21 Northern Iowa at 5 p.m. today, then will cap off the tourney with a match against No. 5 Minnesota on Saturday night.
SOCCER HONORS: Senior Ashley Kellgren was named the SEC offensive player of the week after a three-goal performance at the Nike Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill on Sunday. Kellgren leads the team in scoring categories with four goals and three assists. SPECIAL TRIBUTES: Before Saturday's game, there will be a moment of silence and a video tribute to mark the events of Sept. 11. At halftime, the Florida band will present an Olympic-themed show aimed at showing the resilience and spirit of the nation.
MAKING ADJUSTMENTS: New offensive coordinator Larry Fedora will coach from the press box this season as he did in 2003, but Fedora admits that calling plays from up top took some getting used to. In 2002, he was among the coaches on the field.
"I couldn't stand it at first," he said. "Coaching a group of guys, but you still don't get to look them in the eye and that's the tough thing. But Ed (Zaunbrecher) talks to Chris (Leak, quarterback) on every series and I can be on that line so that's not a problem. Ed and I and the quarterback and receivers can all be on the same line so it should all be fine."
- Antonya English covers Florida athletics. She can be reached at 813 226-3389 or firstname.lastname@example.org