Safety Cory Bailey is haunted by three missed big-play opportunities.
By BRIAN SHAFFER
Published October 31, 2004
JACKSONVILLE - Cory Bailey enrolled at Florida while Steve Spurrier was at the helm, embraced Ron Zook while a nation doubted him, and became a team leader during his senior season.
And that is what he hopes Gators fans remember.
Unfortunately, the safety's legacy could be forever marred by three plays against three conference opponents in three devastating losses.
Bailey's latest moment occurred with 8:37 remaining Saturday against Georgia as he and his teammates were attempting to make a comeback. On third and 9 from his 15-yard line, Bulldogs quarterback David Greene threw a pass intended for wide receiver Fred Gibson. While it momentarily appeared Bailey was going to make a play on the ball, Gibson darted in front of him, snatched it and strolled into the end zone to put Georgia ahead 31-21.
Bailey had previously been in position to make interceptions against Tennessee and Louisiana State. But as was the case Saturday, what could have been momentum-capturing turnovers ended up as touchdowns for the opposition.
"It is very frustrating because as a defensive back you feel that you want to make every play that you can," Bailey said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well and those plays stick out in my mind, and that's a bad thing. Over my whole career, I feel that I have played well, but those three plays will stick in my head forever. I will never forget those three plays."
Much like Bailey's career, the Gators' season could be remembered for just a few plays that went wrong. In each of their four losses, the Gators failed to make what could have been game-changing late defensive stops.
Against Georgia, Gibson's touchdown might have been an emotional back-breaker, but a Bulldogs conversion on third and 1 with less than three minutes remaining ended any hopes of a comeback. It was one play in a season full of one-play games that led to another Florida loss.
Linebacker Travis Harris said that the Gators are 10-12 plays from being undefeated, and the frustration of being so close so often is apparent. Linebacker Brandon Siler, who replaced an injured Channing Crowder after the first quarter, said it is difficult to convince those on the outside looking in that the Gators are a good team, despite their 4-4 record.
"One play in the Tennessee game, one play in the LSU game and one play in this game has really made the difference," Siler said. "They are the difference between people saying, "We were wrong about the Florida Gators' and us losing a coach.
"It could've been three plays and this whole season could be slapped around, and it hurts. It hurts because you know you are good and you just keep coming up short."