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Zook keeping his cool under fire

Published October 25, 2004

The hourlong delay at the Golden Triangle Airport in Starkville, Miss., Sunday afternoon made an already miserable weekend that much worse for dozens of Florida fans.

One day after Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3 SEC) stunned the nation with its 38-31 win over then-No.20 Florida, coach Ron Zook and his program are the hottest topic in college football. From national television sports analysts to ordinary Gator fans trying to make it back home, everyone seems to have an opinion on whether Zook will, or should, be fired.

Everyone, but Zook himself.

"I can't do anything about that," Zook said Sunday afternoon during his weekly teleconference. "I just have to worry about this next game; that's all I have any control over."

Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, some fans have had enough.

"I'm not going back this year," said Sonny Scaff , a season-ticket holder from Jasper who believes Zook must be fired. "This trip is already bought and paid for, but after this game? I'm not going back to Gainesville."

Schaff gave his Middle Tennessee tickets to friends and said, "I'll give the next four to somebody else."

But longtime Tampa Gator supporter Tommy Faulk hasn't given up hope, though he is concerned. He said he won't stop supporting the program, and boosters he has talked with haven't spoken of pulling their financial support.

"It's always about the program, don't ever forget that," Faulk said. "Nobody's bigger than the program."

The Pinellas County Gator Club still plans to charter a bus to Jacksonville for the Georgia game this weekend and president Katie Zimmer said Sunday she hadn't received any cancellations. She is among those who believe Zook must be given an opportunity to finish the season. Florida (4-3, 2-3) still has games against Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida State.

"I think they need to make some game adjustments, but the season isn't over," said Zimmer, who said she was "disheartened" by Saturday's loss. "We lost three in a row last year, then we finished the season well. You never know. ... If we don't finish the season better, then I can understand it (a coaching change) because college sports is a business. But I still won't like it. Ron Zook is the most wonderful person I have met up there."

As the Gators prepare to play Georgia, one of the biggest concerns among fans is whether the players can pick themselves up and rally.

"We know we've got good talent, and I'm just wondering if we can come back," Faulk said. "I hope we haven't lost control of the players. I'm saying I hope that Ron hasn't lost control. I think next week will tell the story if he can come back against Georgia."

Zook said the team's only goal is to win the next game.

He added that after watching tape Sunday, "I didn't see a total lack of effort and guys just cashing it in."

He spoke briefly with athletic director Jeremy Foley on Sunday and said there were no discussions about his job status.

Most of all, Zook said he isn't concerned about his team.

"These guys will fight," he said. "They'll come back and give us all they've got and we'll give them all we have. That's all we have is each other and we'll circle the wagons and be prepared to be the best team that we can be."

INJURY UPDATE: Senior linebacker Travis Harris has a high ankle sprain and is day to day. Offensive lineman Jonathan Colon also injured his ankle but is expected to to play this weekend.

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