Landlords: Gators have pieced together 12-game home winning streak


UF junior linebacker Brandon Siler makes his way around Florida Field after a win against Alabama on Saturday. More college football, 5C

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

Facts

The streak

Florida's 12-game home winning streak, including a 10-0 mark under coach Urban Meyer:
2004
Middle Tennessee, 52-16
South Carolina, 48-14
2005
Wyoming, 32-14
Louisiana Tech, 41-3
Tennessee, 16-7
Mississippi State, 35-9
Vanderbilt, 49-42, OT
Florida State, 34-7
2006
Southern Mississippi, 34-7
Central Florida, 42-0
Kentucky, 26-7
Alabama, 28-13

Compared to The Swamp's glory days, Florida's current home winning streak is rather modest.
But, it's a promising start for a program that completely lost its home-field edge in three years under Ron Zook.
"Getting The Swamp back to where it was. ... That's the goal," junior wide receiver Andre Caldwell said. "We see it's coming back. We have not lost here in a while. We're going to try and continue that tradition.
"We feel like nobody should come on our home turf and beat us. We're starting to get that feeling back that whenever we step on that field we can't be beat."
The Gators have been searching for that feeling because it became lost under Zook's watch.
In Zook's three seasons, the Gators lost six games in The Swamp. That may not sound all that atrocious until you consider the Gators lost only five games at home in 12 seasons under Steve Spurrier. Four of those losses were to top six teams - No. 1 FSU in 1993, No. 6 Auburn in 1994, No. 1 FSU in 1999 and No. 5 Tennessee in 2001.
From Oct. 29, 1994 to Sept. 18, 1999, Florida did not lose at home. The Gators ran off a school-record 30-game home winning streak.
Under Urban Meyer, the Gators have started streaking again in The Swamp. Meyer is 10-0 at Florida Field, and the Gators have now won 12 consecutive games at home dating back to the end of the 2004 season.
It's a start. "I think we're getting it back. We're still in the process," senior wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius said. "The fans are into it now. The bigger the game, the louder the crowd and that helps us.
"That's something we definitely take pride in. ... Defending The Swamp."
In 2002 through 2004, the Gators failed to keep The Swamp swagger alive. They lost two home games in 2002, three in 2003 and one in 2004.
When Meyer arrived in Gainesville the poor home record was one of the first things he set out to fix. Winning at home has been emphasized ever since.
"He was embarrassed by some of these past years and how many games we've lost at home," sophomore defensive tackle Javier Estopinan said. "We're the Florida Gators. We're not supposed to lose, especially at home."
Meyer knows something about winning at home. In his five-plus seasons as a head coach (Bowling Green, Utah and UF), he has won 32 of 34 home games, one of the best home records in college coaching.
"Winning at home was the big focus for him when he got here," Caldwell said. "This is our home field and we have to protect this house. That was the big focus in the offseason."
Said senior defensive tackle Steven Harris: "You're not supposed to lose at home. Coach Meyer has stressed that a lot."
The Gators have been perfect in The Swamp under Meyer.
"I think we've gotten The Swamp back to some degree," senior center Steve Rissler said. "We're not saying it's back yet, but we're well on our way."
Meyer's first big home win came early, a 16-7 victory over Tennessee in the third game of the 2005 season. Then came one just as big at the end of the season, a 34-7 drubbing of arch-rival Florida State.
Now comes the next protect-this-house test - No. 10 LSU on Saturday.
Not only are the Tigers the last team to beat the Gators in The Swamp, they've won the last two times they've been here.
LSU routed Florida 36-7 in 2002 and came from behind to win 24-21 two years later.
The Tigers will be going for The Swamp trifecta Saturday, while the Gators strive to keep their promising, young home winning streak alive.
"This is a big game to let everyone know The Swamp is back and we can't be beat here," Caldwell said. "It's going to be a big test and we're going to try and win."
A victory Saturday would restore some of the old Swamp mystique.
But would it bring Florida Field back to where it was in the magical 1990s?
"I don't know if we've earned that yet," Cornelius said. "In the 1990s, they were dominant at home. We have to win a lot more games to get to that stature. We have to win some big games against some top schools. We need to keep playing and winning (at home), then we'll have that stature."
Contact Robbie Andreu at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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