By JOANNE KORTH
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000
GAINESVILLE -- Bent over backward, trapped by the weight of his teammates, Andra Davis felt something in his knee pop, something in his stomach turn and something in his heart sink.
"I thought my career was over," Davis said.
Davis was relieved to learn the injury to his left knee sustained during No. 8 Florida's season-opening victory against Ball State would not end his career.
It did, however, end his season.
"At first I was real frustrated, but as the night went on and all my teammates came to my house, they encouraged me to keep my head up," said Davis, whose MCL was completely torn. "I feel a little better. I'm looking forward to next year."
The Gators, meanwhile, are looking for a replacement. Davis, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound junior from Live Oak High in Suwannee, was the only returning starter at linebacker. Of his 120 career tackles, 109 came last season.
Travis Carroll, a transfer from Alabama, plays the middle, but has two games left to serve of a three-game suspension. That leaves freshman Travis Harris and redshirt freshman Matt Farrior to fill the gap.
"Obviously, injuries are a part of football, and players just have to go on and play the game," defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said. "Andra was a good settling force on the field. He called the defenses and ran the huddle, what huddle we do have. He was a veteran guy who has been in a lot of big SEC games, and you miss that."
Davis, scheduled for surgery today, plans to remain an influential member of the defense even though he must wait until spring to put on a uniform again.
"I'm going to talk to guys, go to meetings, telling them things to look out for," Davis said of continuing the mentor role he started with UF's young linebackers. "I can't play, but I can be a leader off the field." TRUTH BE TOLD: While Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee enjoys an open date this weekend before the Sept. 16 showdown in Knoxville, Florida will again try to remain focused on an inferior opponent. Coming off a 40-19 victory against Ball State, the Gators play Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.
"I'm not saying these games don't count, but we know who our rivals are and who we really go at it with," junior offensive lineman Thomas Moody said.
LONG, LONG SLEEVES: Gators fans critical of coach Steve Spurrier for wasting a nifty play like an onside kick for the opening kickoff against Ball State, fear not. There's plenty more where that came from.
"With Coach Spurrier, there's always trickery," sophomore center David Jorgensen said. "Tennessee and those guys prepare for it more than some of the smaller teams, but we're always trying to come up with something that they're not prepared for. I'm sure we'll have something for all those teams."
HIGH MARKS: The Florida women's athletic program is ranked No. 2 nationally in the issue of Sports Illustrated for Women magazine that hits newsstands today. Stanford is No. 1.
The second annual survey judges schools based on championships won; Sears Director's Cup points; varsity, club and intramural opportunities; graduation rates; financial aid and fan support. Completing the top 10 were Texas, North Carolina, UCLA, Georgia, Arizona, Penn State, Princeton and Maryland.
OFF AND RUNNING: The men's and women's cross-country teams open the season today as hosts of the 10th annual Twi-Light Invitational on the grounds of the University Golf Course. The field includes the Florida State B-team, Bethune-Cookman, North Florida, Jacksonville, Flagler and Tampa. The women start at 6:30 p.m., men at 7:15 p.m.
- Contact Gators beat writer Joanne Korth at (800) 333-7505, ext. 7306, or by e-mail at Korth@sptimes.com.