By ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 10, 2001
GAINESVILLE -- Florida-Tennessee is one of the biggest games of the season for both teams, but after so many battles there won't be many surprises from either side on Saturday, Gators coach Steve Spurrier said.
Sure, either team could pull out a trick play or two. Somebody could go for the fake punt or an unexpected onside kick.
But Saturday's battle for early superiority in the SEC East will come down to whose players execute the best, Spurrier said.
"You can game plan and game plan, but your players have got to step up and play," Spurrier said. "It's the players that make the plays at crucial times that usually determine the winner."
After two games against nonconference opponents, Spurrier's assessment is favorable.
"We have learned we're a pretty good team, not a great team, and that the real season starts right now," Spurrier said. "For us to win the first two the way we did, our guys played pretty well."
BAD TIMING: As if playing Arkansas on the day the Razorbacks christened a refurbished stadium -- and one week before its showdown with Florida -- wasn't bad enough, Tennessee had the extra burden of a 9 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2. Then add weather delays for lightning, and you have ample reasons not to be thrilled about playing the late game, even if it is on national TV.
"I don't particularly care for it, quite honestly," coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Particularly on the road and you're coming back and you get back at 4 o'clock in the morning, then try to go to work the next day with your staff, trying to get ready for the next game. But we don't control that so you worry about the things you can control and not worry about the things you can't."
SHOCK VALUE: With a fumble by the offense on the first play against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, the Florida defense was caught off guard.
"I don't think we responded as well as we could have," said defensive tackle Ian Scott, who earned his first start Saturday. "The game started and before you know it we had to go out there and it was kind of shocking. We can definitely respond better. That's something the coaches tell us all the time, you have to be ready for any situation."
NO HELP: With the miserable weather conditions for Tennessee's game and an opponent whose offensive effort wasn't overwhelming, Spurrier said he didn't learn much about the Vols watching Saturday night's 13-3 win against Arkansas. "The tape will not be very beneficial, I'm sure," he said.
INJURY UPDATE: Spurrier said the Gators made it out of Saturday night's game with no significant injuries. Junior tight end Kirk Wells, however, missed the game with pneumonia.