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After Bucs game, a scramble to ready stadium
By ANTONYA ENGLISH and FRANK PASTOR
Published January 2, 2006
TAMPA - While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense was coming up with one big fourth-quarter play after another in its 27-13 NFC South clinching victory over New Orleans Sunday afternoon, crews were outside Raymond James Stadium cleaning the parking lots.
The NFL game ended a little after 4 p.m., just under 19 hours before Outback Bowl kickoff.
The bowl being played the day after the NFL regular season ended meant extra work and long hours for stadium employees and Outback Bowl officials.
"There are a lot of time-consuming things a lot of folks don't think about that have to take place after the game," said Mike Schulze , Outback Bowl public relations director.
A second wave of bowl staff and other stadium officials began arriving at 8 p.m. Sunday to begin set-up preparations for the game-day operations.
Even ESPN had to wait its turn.
"ESPN had their truck at the media hotel during all of its preproduction work, then once the Fox trucks pulled out at the stadium, they headed over about 6 p.m. to set up," Schulze said. "Again, that's something they usually do the day before at the stadium, or even two nights before so they have the entire day before to test everything out and get their cameras set up. So a lot of people (worked) through the night to make it happen, but we're very confident it will go smoothly."
Fans shouldn't expect to see team logos in the end zone.
"They're just going to have Tampa Bay in the end zone, we're not going to be able to put the team names in the end zone because that just takes way too long," Schulze said. "They will put our (Outback) logo in the middle of the field. They'll cover up the Bucs logo and paint ours on there and that's going to take some time."
Stadium staff had to quickly change all of the banners from Bucs to Outback Bowl, Gators and Hawkeyes, and the restrooms, press box and stadium seats had to be cleaned, along with concession areas.
JACKSON TO START: Sophomore Kyle Jackson , who was benched this season because of inconsistent play, will start at free safety for the Gators in place of the injured Reggie Nelson .
"He needs to tackle," coach Urban Meyer said. "He's a guy that we have worked, and he has worked extremely hard on that. Your safety has got to be your eraser. If a linebacker misses a tackle it's a 12-yard gain. If a defensive lineman misses a tackle it's a 4- or 5-yard gain. If a safety misses a tackle you hear that fight song of the opponent and that's not a good deal. At times he's done very well, other times he's missed some tackles. He's worked very hard at it."
Meyer said several young players will see playing time, including redshirt freshman quarterback turned receiver Cornelius Ingram , freshman cornerback Avery Atkins , sophomore offensive lineman Drew Miller and freshman running back Kestahn Moore , who will start today. Redshirt freshman defensive end Derrick Harvey will miss the first half after he was ejected in the FSU game for fighting.
THANK YOU GIFTS: Players received about $450 worth of gifts, including a Sony mini-digital video camera and a large Outback Bowl backpack. The past few years, players received a ring, watch, hat and souvenir football with the Outback Bowl logo. Schulze said while those may have had more long-term sentimental value, today's players seems partial to electronics.
TOUGH WORDS: Florida has beaten two BCS teams (Georgia and Florida State), but Meyer said Iowa presents an obstacle the Gators have not faced this season.
"This will be our greatest challenge as far as toughness, because the team we're playing has a reputation for that," Meyer said. "All you have to do is watch the videotape. They're a tough outfit."
Said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz , "I thought LSU, Georgia, some of those teams are pretty tough, too. If we're even close to being in that neighborhood, that would really be a compliment."
Toughness is a tradition at Iowa, Ferentz said, that was solidified when college Hall of Famer Hayden Fry coached from 1979-98.
"I think we realize at Iowa if we're going to have a chance, we're going to have to play mentally and physically tough," Ferentz said. "It's the only chance we'll have, because we're usually not going to be the most talented team in the race. I don't think we try to emphasize it. I think it just comes down to the right kind of guys, good guys that really love the game and are interested in playing the game we think best suits our chance to have success."
NO WORRIES: Ferentz shrugged off suggestions from Florida players that the Gators weren't prepared to play during their 37-17 loss in the 2004 Outback Bowl. Iowa outgained Florida 328-57 on the ground and held the ball for nearly nine more minutes.
"If we don't perform well, that's my responsibility, and so that's what I worry about," Ferentz said. "We have no control, like (today), we have no control how Florida is going to play. I'd anticipate them to play extremely well. When you have the talent that they've got and they play well, that's scary for us, so that's what we're expecting, and our job is to find a way to try to match that tempo and try to find a way to minimize some of the advantages they may have. So, that's our goal. I don't worry about the other stuff."
GETTING BYE: Two of Florida's biggest wins, over SEC champion Georgia and ACC champion Florida State, followed bye weeks. Meyer said he likes the week off because it allows his team to address its weaknesses.
"Going into the Georgia game, there was a serious weakness, and that was the offense, so we did some things to, obviously, become more functional," Meyer said. "FSU, we tried to get guys healthy and we can also work on our weaknesses, and we had a lot of discussion about how to prepare for games, because I really felt we failed as coaches and the leadership of our team did a poor job because the week before (a loss to South Carolina) was a bad deal."
In the 41/2 weeks since the FSU game, Florida has had more than enough time to prepare for Iowa, Meyer said.
"You can see a couple different things, and I'm sure we'll see on the opposing side as well, because you have time to do it," Meyer said. "Basically, on a game week, you have Tuesday and Wednesday to practice. Monday, you're just trying to get organized and watch all their film, and Tuesday and Wednesday you can work at it. We've had three good weeks of looking at things we wanted to."