Senior send-off real downer

Some players question teammates' effort.

Florida senior cornerback Keiwan Ratliff throws his wristband to fans for the last time as a Florida Gator after the Outback Bowl.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 2, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 2, 2004 at 1:10 a.m.

TAMPA - This was not the way Florida senior offensive lineman Shannon Snell wanted to go out.

In his hometown, in the final college game of his career, Snell expected more from a group of seniors who pulled the Gators out of a mid-season abyss.

Instead, Florida stumbled through a 37-17 loss to Iowa at the Outback Bowl. Snell didn't name names but questioned the desire and leadership of some seniors he felt didn't approach their last games properly.

"When it's your last game, you've got to let it all go," Snell said. "Some of those guys, the guys that had futures, didn't show that same kind of intensity.

"It was talked about on the sidelines. Hopefully, some of the younger guys will learn from this."

The Gators dropped to 8-5 for the second straight season, a legacy unfathomable when the seniors came to Florida as freshmen during the tail end of the Steve Spurrier era. All five losses this season came within the state, with three at The Swamp, one at Miami and one Thursday in Tampa.

"We thought we were prepared and they came down here and kicked our butts," Snell said. "I've never been beat like this. No matter what we did, it seemed like nothing was working."

The final game for the seniors got off to an ominous start. Seniors Keiwan Ratliff and Guss Scott were held out the first quarter for missing a midnight curfew set by Florida coach Ron Zook. Ratliff said he and Scott went out for chicken wings Monday night and didn't get a cab back to the hotel until five minutes before curfew.

"We tried to push it a bit and didn't get back until late," Ratliff said. "To me, as a senior and defensive captain, it was disappointing because I didn't show better leadership."

With Ratliff and Scott out, Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler threw his lone touchdown pass of the game, a 3-yard pass to Maurice Brown that tied the score at 7.

"It was a little disappointing," senior offensive lineman Max Starks said. "They are grown men and you're not going to hold their hands like children. Ultimately, it was their decision, but it was in poor taste."

Starks said he saw effort from his team even as the score became more lopsided.

"I can't speak for the defensive side of the ball," Starks said. "But I know on offense, we were all giving full effort and it looked like from the sidelines the defense was giving full effort. We just never found our offensive rhythm."

Said Iowa defensive back Javon Johnson, "Some of their guys were lollygagging a little bit, but when you're down 27 points, and it's late in the game, what can you expect?"

As he approached the tunnel for the final time in his career, Starks admitted he felt a little emotional.

"I almost shed a tear," Snell said. "I said to myself I could go pro, but this could have been the final game of my football career. Nothing is guaranteed. That's why it hurts so much."

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