Gators prepare for Bama
Published: Monday, September 27, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 27, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.
A little more than two minutes into Florida coach Urban Meyer's post-game news conference Saturday night, he let everyone know where Florida's focus was.
“It's Bama week,” Meyer said.
Alabama's 32-13 rout of Florida in last year's SEC championship game followed the Gators into spring practice. It was on their minds during offseason workouts. Talk of it sprang up during training camp. And now that the rematch is less than a week away, the Gators are anxiously awaiting their date in Tuscaloosa with the nation's No. 1 team.
“There was a nasty taste in our mouth last year with the loss,” defensive tackle Jaye Howard said. “This offseason was dedicated to beating Alabama. We're just going to go out there and let it all hang out.
“To me, it's like the biggest game of the year. Whoever wins out of this game is set on a smooth-sailing path.”
Florida's usual motto of taking each game as it comes has been slightly altered with Alabama on the schedule.
“When you face a great team like Alabama, with great players all over the place, they have great tailbacks, receivers and then their defense is one of the best in America,” Meyer said on his television show Sunday. “There's a great routine started by this group. They understand Tuesday and Wednesday is how you go win a game. It's not the uniform, it's not the helmet. It's the preparation.”
Faint mentions of the Crimson Tide have been sprinkled in by Florida players since July and the coaching staff went as far as to create a formation designed for Alabama's offense.
That formation is known as the “heavy package” that utilizes five defensive linemen and two middle linebackers in order to suffocate the running game. Meyer and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said it was implemented to stop teams that focus on the run.
Players didn't shy away from saying it was created primarily for their Bama plans after the Tide sliced up Florida's front seven last December, pounding out 251 rushing yards.
“The D-line as a unit, we all let down the Gator Nation as a unit,” Howard said. “We're going to go out there and give it our best next Saturday.”
To do that, the Gators must stop the two-headed rushing attack of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and home-run threat Trent Richardson.
Since returning from a knee injury, Ingram has averaged 154 yards rushing and has four touchdowns in two games. While Ingram has shown he deserves to stay in the Heisman race, Howard isn't intimidated.
“He's no different than any other running back,” he said. “We got (Jeff) Demps on our team, Mike Gillislee, so we go against good backs. We're just going to try to bring it to him.”
Florida hopes to continue to have Demps, who left Saturday's 48-14 win over Kentucky with what Meyer called a sprained left foot. He had X-rays of his foot done Saturday night.
But Demps isn't the only Gator ailing. Meyer said each of his offensive linemen suffered either a knee or ankle injury Saturday, but none appeared serious. The Gators hope to get back junior right guard James Wilson, who missed Saturday with a knee injury.
Saturday's game has taken on a new feel in recent years. Since Meyer arrived in 2005, Florida is 2-2 against Bama, including 1-1 in the last two SEC championships. With how intense these games have been of late, Florida's players agreed this week will be treated like a typical rivalry week.
“We're always at the top of the charts when we play them,” redshirt sophomore corner back Jeremy Brown said. “This is going to be a big one.”
Film sessions for the Gators started Sunday, but senior center Mike Pouncey said both teams know exactly what they're up against.
“They've got a great team. We got one, too,” Pouncey said. “It'll be a great game on Saturday.”