With the ULM win tucked away, the Gators, and their followers, can focus on Tennessee.
By DEBI JONES
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001
GAINESVILLE -- The Gators have been keeping quiet all week. Hushing each other and refusing to talk about what everyone knew was coming.
But the silence is over. Tennessee week officially has begun.
Immediately after the 55-6 win against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night, the talk turned to the Gators' next game, against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"I enjoy some competition," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "It definitely has been in the back of our minds."
With their SEC schedule around the corner, the Gators wanted to work on fundamentals against ULM -- specifically defense and the running game.
Florida held the Indians to 105 yards of offense and one score. That score came on a 23-yard drive after a Florida fumble on the game's first play. The defense also forced a fumble and held the Indians to five first downs.
Defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said he was pleased with his defense's intensity -- something it struggled with in the opener.
"I don't know if you are ever where you want to be," Hoke said. "We have started thinking about (Tennessee) a little bit. We watched some games already, getting an idea of what they are doing. And starting to develop some ideas."
With the dominating defense, Florida's tailbacks -- Earnest Graham and Robert Gillespie -- rushed for more combined yards than ULM's total offense.
Graham rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Gillespie added 68 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.
Against Marshall, the Gators rushed for 111 yards.
"The running game was pretty good, we threw a little more than we ran," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We got all week to think about Tennessee, plenty of time. We'll start thinking about that (today)."
Grossman said Tennessee is a "bigger, smarter, faster team."
"We definitely need to work on some things," he said. "The SEC East is pretty much on the line. If we beat them, then we have a good start to get to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game)."
Though Spurrier and the Gators said they would wait another day to begin preparations, fans outside the locker room were not ready to let them ignore next week's game. Players were greeted with a sign that read, "Bring on the Hillbillies."
"It's a relief to get these first two games out of the way," Graham said. "At the beginning of the season, you are looking forward to that third game."