Time for UF to empty Cane baggage

Published: Monday, September 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 at 12:20 a.m.

It's not their fault.

But it is their destiny.

In a way they are the opposite of last year's team, the one that was standing at third without hitting the triple. For the 2008 team, this week is about baggage weighing on the backs of players who didn't pack the bags.

Because it's not their fault.

But it is their responsibility.

Florida has not beaten Miami since 1985. Florida has also not beaten Virginia Tech since 1985. And they've played Miami only six more times since then as they have the Hokies.

So Miami has won six straight against the Gators. That means little to players who were not even born when Kerwin Bell led UF to a win in a stadium that is now dust.

"I was barely born the last time they played," said strong safety Ahmad Black.

That would have been on the last night of 2004 on a painful night for the Gator Nation because a mediocre Miami team handled a Florida team whose head coach had lost a contest of wills with the UF athletic director. Two current Gators were on that team as back-ups — Tate Casey and Phil Trautwein.

It wasn't their fault that some of Florida's assistants didn't want to be there and wore Illinois shirts during practices.

It's not their fault that probation had sucked the life out of the Florida teams that played Miami in 1986 and ‘87.

Or that when Florida football was on its amazing roll in the 1990s, Florida and Miami did not play.

Or that by the time they did again in the regular season, Ron Zook was a first-year coach in his second game going against an experienced team that would lose the national title in overtime.

It's just the way it has worked out.

It's not their fault.

It's not their fault they won't get another crack at the ‘Canes for five years barring a bowl match-up.

But it's still there.

The baggage.

The baggage is filled with a lot of Miami fear and loathing. It's filled with a lot of history. It's filled with a lot of hard feelings.

Quick story: A bunch friends were meeting in Jacksonville to go to last year's Florida-South Carolina game. We media boys were in one plain car and the other car was covered in Gator paraphernalia. A guy with a Hurricanes bumper sticker pulled up, opened his window and started cussing the women about the Gator Flop. That was 37 years ago.

Florida has played Kentucky more than it has played Miami over the years but there is no series with more venom. Some of it is difficult to explain. Some of it can be attributed to jealousy. Miami won five national titles before Florida won its second. Yet no matter how many the Hurricanes win, Florida is still the big school in the state.

The hatred has been there for a long time, from the Gator hanging by his neck in the office of Miami head coach Charlie Tate in the 1960s to Jim Kelly's "Gators Eat Boogers" T-shirt. For South Florida fans of UF, it has been insufferable to listen to Miami fans crowing about the six in a row even as their once-proud program tries to climb out of the Pit of Irrelevancy.

My, but the Hurricanes would love to make it seven straight. It would announce to the world that the U is back.

That's what makes the Gator Nation nervous.

UF fans know this is a must-win. In every one of the half-dozen games between ‘85 and today, Miami was the higher-ranked team.

"I've seen them play a few times," said Tim Tebow. "And they were not good games."

Florida is better. Florida is at home. This Miami team is not ranked.

It's time to empty the baggage.

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