Injuries bring new pain for this season


Running back Skyler Thornton picks up some of the pace in Jacksonville on Saturday after injuries to Ciatrick Fason and DeShawn Wynn.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 1:14 a.m.

Facts

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  • WHO: Florida Gators (4-4, 2-3) at Vanderbilt Commodores (2-6, 1-4).
  • WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m.
  • ON AIR: Sunshine Network tape delay, 11 p.m.

  • In this season where so much has gone wrong, the Florida Gators could always find solace in the fact they at least had their health. Now, that's taken a major hit, too.
    On Sunday, star linebacker Channing Crowder was wearing a cast on his injured right foot, tailback DeShawn Wynn was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his injured groin, linebacker Travis Harris had a protective boot back on his sprained ankle, starting tailback Ciatrick Fason's knee was sore, wide receiver Dallas Baker was limping around on a sprained ankle, starting center Mike Degory was nursing a dislocated finger and linebacker Earl Everett had a headache.
    The Gators, who have managed to avoid injuries most of the season, are hurting quite a bit after Saturday's physical game against Georgia, a 31-24 UF loss.
    "It's late in the season, guys are tired," UF coach Ron Zook said Sunday. "It's football. Everybody's going to say you'll have your share of injuries. That's just the way it is."
    The injury creating the biggest concern is the one that knocked Crowder out of Saturday's game in UF's second defensive series. Zook said team doctors think Crowder has a sprained arch, but won't know for certain until his cast is removed Wednesday and the injury is re-evaluated. It appears doubtful Crowder will play against Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday and his status for the remainder of the season is uncertain.
    With Crowder out of the lineup and Everett exiting the Georgia game after taking a blow to the head, the Gators played with a linebacker unit consisting of junior Todd McCullough (who has been hampered by a lingering shoulder injury), true freshman Brandon Siler and Harris, who played with a sprained ankle after missing most of practice last week.
    Now, Harris is back in a protective boot and his status is questionable. The Gators are looking to get another true freshman, Javier Estopinan, ready to play this week.
    "Hopefully, Earl will be all right and he'll be back," Zook said. "We need to get the swelling out of Harris' ankle. We'll get Javier ready. Brandon played pretty well. That's the group you've got and that's the group you've got to get ready to play."
    The Gators also could be very thin at tailback Saturday. Fason left the Georgia game in the fourth quarter with a bruised knee and Wynn injured his groin in the first half and did not return. UF got a lift off the bench from Skyler Thornton, who rushed for 34 yards and caught a pass for nine yards in the second half.
    Zook said Fason's bruised knee does not appear serious. Wynn, however, could be sidelined this week.
    "Skyler did a really nice job," Zook said. "He's been practicing well. He'll have an opportunity to move up and get more playing time."
    Zook said the injuries to Baker and Degory are not considered serious.
    This week, Zook also will have to deal with some bruised egos and battered psyches coming off another tough loss, one that drops the Gators to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.
    "These guys are 18, 19 and 20 years old and there are a lot of emotional things they're going through right now," Zook said. "We'll try to keep everybody working on the same page and working together. We want to continue to do the things we're supposed to do and make the Gator Nation, the true Gator people, proud.
    "There are still three games to be played. It's important that we go out there and do what we do. As a coach and as a player, you've got to have pride in yourself and in what you're doing and try to get it done."
  • NOTES: Chad Jackson, who lost the starting punt returning role after his struggles against Mississippi State, was replaced on the kick return team Saturday after taking the opening kickoff several yards deep in the end zone, then coming out after hesitating and getting tackled on the UF 12-yard line. "He's got to know where he is when he catches the football. It doesn't mean we've lost confidence in him. He's got to be able to make the right decision, particularly when it comes to field position," Zook said. ... Zook wasn't the only prominent coach from the state of Florida trying to recover from a loss Sunday. So were Bobby Bowden at Florida State and Larry Coker at Miami. The Seminoles and Hurricanes were upset in ACC play Saturday. It was the first time since the 1978 season that UF, FSU and UM all lost on the same Saturday. "I'm just worried about one team in Florida. (But) it goes to show on any give Saturday anybody can beat anybody. That's what we've been saying here for a while. I think it's hard to maintain the level of intensity you have to maintain. It happens on every level. It's just a coincidence (the three big state schools all lost on the same day)," Zook said.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.
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