© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2001
Saturday's 76th annual homecoming is a big deal for fans and Florida alumni, but for most of the Gator players, it's not. From barbecues to banquets, the players don't have that much involvement.
"Not really," quarterback Rex Grossman said when asked if homecoming is any different. "I'm too busy to get involved in all the things the students do. To me, it's just another game, another week."
For the seniors, however, it's a different story.
"The parade and stuff is going to be nice to watch," center Zac Zedalis said. "It will be fun to see what the seniors do on that night. It will be interesting to see the crowd and introduce the seniors. That will be nice."
The traditional ride in the homecoming parade is no longer an option, but seniors will be allowed to attend Gator Growl, the largest student-run pep rally in the nation, where each will be introduced.
Coach Steve Spurrier can't run in the 2-mile Gator Gallup anymore because of back and knee surgery, but he does get to choose which player will speak at Growl. The formula for deciding?
"We try to pick the one who is a pretty good speaker and who doesn't talk too long," he said. "It is an experience for our seniors. It is probably the biggest ovation they will ever get in their lives."
After starting every game at center last season, David Jorgensen found himself the odd man out this year when Zac Zedalis returned injury-free and with a sixth year of eligibility.
But with the offensive line struggling to produce in the Auburn loss, Florida's coaches decided to shake things up. Jorgensen was back as the starting center against Georgia, Zedalis moved to right guard and the running game operated smoothly again.
"It feels great," he said of the start. "It is something I've been waiting for and hoping for a while. It felt real comfortable out there the other day, and I think everyone else did too."
While standing and watching on the sideline was tough the first six games, the events of Sept. 11 have been a stark reminder to Jorgensen that football is just a game. A native of Connecticut, Jorgensen's sister lives 15 blocks from the World Trade Center and his mother used to work on the 102nd floor of Building 2.
"It doesn't matter how far away you live, if you live up there, you have some kind of tie to New York," Jorgensen said. "My father's whole side of the family is from New York and I have a lot of friends that I went to high school with that were working down there."
The pass is still king.
All season, coach Steve Spurrier has talked about the Gators' increased effort to incorporate the running game into their offense. But the statistics show the pass is still the weapon of choice.
Seven games into the season, Florida has run 497 total plays, and 294 or 59.2 percent have come through the air. Last season's 56.3 percent passing ranked as a Spurrier-era high.
Here is a season-by-season run-pass ratio since Spurrier arrived in 1990.
Year Run Pass
1990 51.5 48.5
1991 50.5 49.5
1992 45.9 54.1
1993 45.0 55.0
1994 48.9 51.1
1995 47.3 52.7
1996 51.8 48.2
1997 50.7 49.3
1998 44.7 55.3
1999 46.8 53.2
2000 43.7 56.3
2001 40.8 59.2
Vanderbilt hasn't beaten Florida in the past 10 years and comes into the game at less than full strength. The Commodores' leading rusher, Lew Thomas, broke his ankle during the third quarter of last week's win over Duke. However, his backup, Rodney Williams, just missed a career-high rushing game with 155 yards on 18 carries.
Vanderbilt quarterback Greg Zolman is second on the team's career touchdown list (36) and is the Commodores' leader in career yardage.
Vanderbilt will have to defend the nation's top passing offense with the nation's 91st pass defense. Florida ranks No. 1 in total offense, and Vanderbilt is 105th in defense.
"Last year we weren't penalized that much. If I answered that the way that I felt, it wouldn't sound very good. I'll stay away from that one. I don't think our players commit more penalties than other teams. You can quote me on that."
-- STEVE SPURRIER, when asked his theory on why Florida is one of the most penalized teams in the league every year.