Freshmen at UF facing another first

Published: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 at 11:35 p.m.
TAMPA - His young players have experienced all kinds of firsts this season. They have experienced Florida-Georgia, been to Fayetteville and Columbia, Miami and Baton Rouge. They have suffered through heartbreak and reveled in hurrahs.
Today, the freshmen and redshirt freshmen who have been such a big part of this Florida football season will experience something new - their first bowl game. For a bunch of guys who have dealt with so much this season, how can anything be a distraction?
"In the beginning (of the season) we tried to deal with that," Florida coach Ron Zook said of his team's youth. "They've just kind of fallen in. I wouldn't expect it to be any different."
Today at 11 a.m., Florida and Iowa kick off the new year in the Outback Bowl with both teams wanting badly to end their seasons on a high note.
No. 17 Florida (8-5) started the season 3-3, then won five of its last six games. No. 13 Iowa (9-3) is hoping to win at least 10 games for the second straight year.
"We're going to have to be at our best," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, "or it's going to be an ugly game."
More than likely, it will be a close one.
Throw out the blowout wins over San Jose State and FAMU this season and the average score of the remaining 10 Florida games is 24.5-22.9.
Of course, you never know in a bowl game when coaches have a month to prepare just how much trickery will take place. Iowa, a team that lines up in simple formations offensively and defensively and just tries to out-execute the opponent, is less likely to be that team.
"We're not going to outscore anybody," Ferentz said. "The bottom line is trying to find a way to win whatever you have. We didn't set the world on fire offensively. Certainly, we were more of a defensive team and special teams kind of team."
Florida is expected to have a bit of a home-field advantage. Not only did the Gators play in last year's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium, they are expected to have a majority of the fans.
"This is a great Gator area," Zook said. "We're happy about being in the state of Florida."
You can reach sports writer Pat Dooley by e-mail at or by calling 374-5053.

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