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UF keys to victory...

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000


1. CREATE TURNOVERS: Florida's defense has forced 34 turnovers this season, best in the nation, leading to 183 points. And it's a good thing. The Gators do not play dominating defense in the traditional sense. They give up yards by the bushel and an alarming number of third-down conversions, but they always manage to bail themselves out with a turnover, sack or red-zone stand.

2. RUN IT SOME: The Gators have trouble running in big games. Two years ago, Florida rushed 20 times for 17 yards against an FSU defense that dropped eight players into pass coverage. It was a pitiful display. UF passes to set up the run but must have at least the threat of a ground attack to keep the Seminoles' aggressive defense honest.

3. PROTECT WHAT'S-HIS-NAME: Quarterbacks Jesse Palmer and Rex Grossman both will play, but no matter who is in the pocket the Gators must give him time to throw. Protection starts with the offensive line, but tight ends and running backs must be clear on their assignments, also. And while we're at it, the shotgun snaps need to be accurate, too.

4. LOOK FOR LITO: Sophomore cornerback Lito Sheppard likely will play three ways -- defense, punt/kick return and as a gadget man on offense. His knack for making big plays defies explanation. He has four interceptions, two punt returns for touchdowns and a 47-yard reception. He made one big play in each of UF's key victories against Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.

5. BE COOL: Florida has found a variety of ways to lose -- and tie -- games during a 14-year winless streak at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Gators rely on several young players who must block out the overwhelming atmosphere and the pressure of FSU's 51-game home unbeaten streak. Game-time temperatures in the 40s should help.

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