Gators feel momentum
Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 2:22 p.m.
The Florida Gators started reclaiming The Swamp during offseason conditioning this past summer and completed the mission Saturday night with a 34-7 victory over arch-rival Florida State.
This latest victory made the Gators perfect (6-0) at home this season and sends them into the postseason (probably the Independence Bowl in Shreveport) with plenty of positive energy. But UF also carries with it a tinge of frustration that likely will hang on through the offseason.
The source of frustration is the fact that if the Gators had not been such a poor road team this season they might be heading to Atlanta this weekend for the SEC Championship Game.
UF seemed to play with a lack of confidence and emotion on the road, where the Gators were a disappointing 1-3 in the SEC. That third loss two weeks ago to South Carolina cost UF the Eastern Division championship when Georgia lost to Auburn later that same day.
UF coach Urban Meyer said learning how to win on the road again will be a major priority this offseason and next season.
"We obviously have an issue with on the road, which will be addressed," Meyer said. "I'm going to evaluate everything from point A to point Z, what we do, what we eat, what kind of butter's on the table, and find out why we're struggling on the road.
"We're going to change up our routine. It's not working. Obviously, our guys know what we're doing at home. We have to figure out how to play on the road. If we had this season we'd have a championship right now."
The Gators didn't win a championship in Meyer's first season, but they did generate some momentum by going 6-0 at home, beating the Big Three (FSU, Georgia and Tennessee) and never trailing in those rivalry games and ending the regular season with a one-sided victory over the Seminoles.
UF now has a chance to go 9-3 with a bowl victory.
Much of the positive energy that dissipated over the course of the season seems to have returned here at the end.
"There's a lot to take from this," Meyer said. "We said we wanted to compete for a championship in November and win all our home games and we did both.
"It's very positive right now. We've got a bunch of recruits in here, a bunch of weight coaches ready to get going in the offseason and a bunch of seniors who want to win a ninth game and a bowl game. We haven't won a bowl game here in a couple of years (since 2001). We want to win a bowl game. There's a lot of (positive) juice right now."
The players say they can feel it.
"Maybe we didn't meet the expectations everybody wanted us to, but I think for the most part everyone has a positive attitude with the turnaround here," sophomore defensive end Jarvis Moss said. "Things are just going in the right direction for us."
Senior center Mike Degory agrees.
"We have momentum going into the offseason. It really does help out," he said. "It's time for a change. (The program) is in the right direction now. This time a year ago, there was a different feeling. The wheels are rolling now.
"We're 8-3, we just missed the SEC Championship Game. If you look at the whole picture, I think things are really going in a positive direction. The Swamp is back. If we can capitalize with a bowl victory, I think next year is going to be a big year."
With Georgia's victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday night, the Gators now appear slotted for the Dec. 30 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, where UF could face Missouri out of the Big 12.
Here's how the rest of the bowl picture for the SEC is shaping up: The winner of the LSU-Georgia game in the SEC title game goes to the Sugar Bowl, with the loser likely heading to the Outback Bowl or Peach Bowl; Alabama is expected to play in the Cotton Bowl, Auburn in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando and South Carolina likely either in the Outback or Peach, where Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks could possibly face FSU and Bobby Bowden.
There's still an outside chance the Gators could end up in Tampa (Outback) or Atlanta (Peach) and South Carolina could be headed to Shreveport because, at 8-3, UF has a better record than South Carolina (7-4).
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