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Spurrier: room to improve

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 4, 2000


GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Steve Spurrier saw his team make plenty of mistakes in Saturday's season-opening 40-19 victory against Ball State. At first, it was frustrating.

Then, it was reassuring.

"Well, actually, you probably do want to struggle a little in your first game, though maybe not as much as we did," Spurrier said Sunday after reviewing game tapes. "If we'd have peaked (Saturday) night, we would think we didn't have a lot of room for improvement."

The sloppy play should lead to an intense week of practice as the Gators prepare for Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, the final tuneup before a Sept. 16 game at Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee. The Volunteers, who beat Southern Mississippi on Saturday, have an open date this weekend.

"I think we need another game before we start the conference season," Spurrier said. "We're going to try to play a lot better. Historically, it seems we play a little bit better the second game."

DAVIS OUT: Junior middle linebacker Andra Davis will have surgery after injuring his left knee and likely miss the rest of the season, Spurrier said. Davis was hurt late in the first half when his cleat stuck in the turf.

Junior Travis Carroll, a transfer from Alabama, is a likely replacement, but Carroll is suspended two more games after sitting out the opener, Spurrier said. Sophomore Mike Nattiel and freshman Travis Harris, who forced a key fourth-quarter fumble, will fill in.

PALMER REVIEW: Spurrier continued to endorse senior quarterback Jesse Palmer, who set career highs for completions (21), attempts (46), yards (327) and touchdowns (3). He did not throw an interception.

"Sometimes the quarterback is about as good as everybody around him," Spurrier said. "When everybody around him was pretty good, Jesse was pretty good."

BEST LAID PLANS: Spurrier had hoped to play backup quarterback Rex Grossman in the third quarter, leaving time for true freshmen Brock Berlin to play late in the game. Because the game remained close in the fourth quarter, Palmer played all but the final series. Spurrier said he will try again this week.

GILLESPIE OR GRAHAM?: Junior tailback Robert Gillespie, who rushed for a career high 112 yards and two touchdowns, is questionable for Saturday after spraining a toe. Sophomore Earnest Graham, the starter until Gillespie won the job in preseason camp, likely will start.

BOO WHO?: Spurrier was unhappy that fans in the Swamp let loose with a few boos Saturday, the most vocal round coming after punter Alan Rhine had a kick blocked for the second time.

"I understand that's part of sports, but usually it's the pro sports they boo," he said.

"Hopefully, the fans will give our youngsters a little bit more of a chance before they boo too much."

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