Meyer issues challenge to fans to get involved for 'intense' week
Published: Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 6:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:34 a.m.
Since his arrival in Gainesville, Urban Meyer has always been one of the biggest promoters of Florida's fan base.
He's been blown away by the constant sellouts. The passion Gator fans exude in and outside of The Swamp has left Meyer speechless after games. And he's always been amazed by fans' ability to travel in swarms with the football team.
But Meyer is issuing a new challenge to Gator Nation for Saturday's showdown with No. 22 South Carolina (6-3, 4-3 SEC) for the SEC East trophy.
"I've never really done this, but I want to make this the most intense stadium in the history of Florida football this Saturday," Meyer said during his Sunday television show. "This is for the SEC Championship.
"Get there early. I want everybody to wear blue — head to toe — including our players."
That's right. Meyer has issued a "blue out" as the 24th-ranked Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) look to completely turn around a season that was almost left for dead in October.
If Gator fans need any added motivation, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier returns to the place he christened "The Swamp" with the goal of silencing the very fans who loved and worshiped him during his 12 years as head coach of the Gators.
However, Spurrier, who is 1-4 against his alma mater, said Saturday isn't about him coaching against Florida. It's about South Carolina playing for a chance to go to the school's first SEC title game.
"This is about South Carolina," Spurrier said Sunday. "We want to be competitive and it is pretty neat that we are in this position. I was telling someone else the other day that if we could play Florida for the division every year that would suit me fine. Hopefully we can win a few of them."
Meyer said he expects to see one of the most fiery weeks of practice. Meyer wants his players to feed off the last two successful weeks. After suffering through a three-game losing streak, Florida reshaped its season by winning in overtime over Georgia and dismantling Vanderbilt 55-14 on Saturday.
Offensive tweaking has led to Florida averaging 465 yards the last two weeks and the addition of a three-quarterback rotation has helped release Florida's offense from the throngs of the mundane.
The bending defense that almost broke in October made a statement against Vandy, holding the Commodores to just 109 yards of total offense.
"We're not a great team, but we're getting better," Meyer said. "We're getting better in all areas and I admire guys that fight, show toughness and give everything they have for their university."
Florida enters the conference finale with loads of confidence, while South Carolina is reeling after a 41-20 loss to Arkansas at home on Saturday night.
"Florida seems to be peaking at this time and maybe we're heading the other way," said Spurrier, who expects the Gamecocks to be "huge underdogs."
What has impressed Spurrier the most about Florida's turnaround is how "dominant" the defense was against Vandy. Spurrier said it's "sort of scary" watching Florida's defense at times this year because of the Gators' knack for causing turnovers.
He's also concerned with Florida's quarterback-by-committee plan. While Spurrier doesn't think Florida is throwing the ball as well as it has in the past, the use of Trey Burton and Jordan Reed make Florida's offense much more diverse and difficult to defend, especially with Reed's ability to throw and run.
Sunday, Meyer said he plans to utilize all three quarterbacks against the Gamecocks and could have a few new plays on display. He also reiterated that junior John Brantley is Florida's starter, but Reed will be used more in the passing game.
"He will throw more because he'll make our package that much more diverse," Meyer said.
This week is about turning the corner on a season that was almost a wash, Meyer said. "We see a team that was kind of down. That came back and understand where we are at. We're still developing," he said.
Meyer's goal is to make this weekend one for the history books.
"Gator Nation is a powerful place and those players will play for those people," he said. "That team's going to give everything it's got."