Gators given time off

Published: Thursday, October 24, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 at 10:59 p.m.
After what several Florida players said was the hardest two practices during an off-week they had experienced, coach Ron Zook canceled today's practice and gave the Gators the rest of the week off.
"It's a time when you let some bumps and bruises heal up, No. 1," Zook said. "No. 2, you get a chance to catch your breath a little bit."
And with quarterback Rex Grossman, free safety Todd Johnson and defensive end Marcus Oquendo-Johnson missing practice due to injuries once again, Zook said the time off could not have come at a better time.
"I don't want to take any chances now, and I'd prefer to let them get healed up," Zook said. "An open date, you can use it to your advantage or it can possibly be a disadvantage if you got some momentum going, but there's no question in my mind, this is definitely an advantage for us."
He expects all three to be ready to play Nov. 2 against Georgia, Zook said.
"It's hard not being out there with my teammates and not being able to play," Johnson said. "I definitely want to be back for this game and get in and have fun with the fellas."
Aside from the grind of what Zook called "one of the better practices" the Gators have had in a while, the rest of the players will be able to enjoy a long weekend injury free.
"I got kicked around in practice a little bit," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "I'm sore, but it's nothing a little R and R won't cure."
And because of defensive end Bobby McCray, who blocked Auburn's potential game-winning field goal, Starks and the rest of the Gators will be able to rest a bit easier.
"It's much better not thinking about a loss," McCray said. "We won, and when you win, you got to keep that in your mind. You want to keep thinking about winning every week. You don't want to think about losses."
McCray's effort earned him as much praise from teammates for winning the game as it did for easing their minds.
"It definitely will be a lot easier as opposed to losing with this bye week," defensive end Arpedge Rolle said. "It's a lot easier."
If McCray had not gotten through to Damon Duval, the Gators would have a week to stew on a third straight conference loss, leading up to the rival Bulldogs.
"I wouldn't say it saved the season," McCray said.
But it may have changed the direction Florida was heading.
"Going into the off-week with a win, it's a good feeling and it helps you keep momentum going into the next game we got to play," running back Ran Carthon said. "The team's attitude is a lot better. It's upbeat because we are just coming off a win."
While McCray's heroics won him defensive player of the week honors from Zook and congratulations from the players, they may not have earned him a starting job. With former starter Oquendo-Johnson expected to return for the Georgia game, who lines up with the first team has not been decided.
"I've said all along we consider them all starters and obviously, they all got to play," Zook said.
Not that it is causing any friction between McCray and Oquendo-Johnson.
"It doesn't matter who starting really. When he's in, I know he's going to make big plays and he should know that I'm going to make big plays when I'm in," McCray said. "It's an advantage for us. It's going to be a disadvantage for offenses. You'll have two fast, athletic guys in there just getting at you."
  • PUNTING DUTIES: With Grossman sitting out, third-string quarterback Jeff Creveling (P.K. Yonge) saw more action in practice this week.
    "Jeff was getting the reps that (backup quarterback Ingle Martin) normally gets and Ingle's getting the reps that Rex normally gets," Zook said.
    With Martin spelling Grossman twice against Auburn, Zook opted to go with Sean Morton over Martin, who had punted in the previous two games. Both could see action against Georgia.
    "I think you'll have a chance to see both of them," Zook said. "Ingle can still punt. With Rex being OK there will probably be a good possibility of Ingle going back to punting. Last week, because of the pressure he had on him, I felt like it was enough."
  • NOTES: Since 1990, the Gators are 17-5 following a bye week and 7-2 when the next game comes at a neutral site. Florida is 8-1 against Georgia when the Bulldogs are the Gators' first opponent following a week off.
    For the first time since Oct. 31, 1992, Georgia, ranked fifth, will enter the contest as the higher ranked team. In that game, No. 20 Florida defeated No. 7 Georgia 26-24. Florida is 3-17 against the Bulldogs when Georgia is the higher ranked team.
    'Cats and 'Dawgs
  • If the limping Georgia Bulldogs needed any extra motivation for their trip to Lexington on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats have given it to them. Robbie Andreu's SEC Notebook, Page 5C.
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