Originally created 09/15/99

Gators dump humble act for Vols



GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida dropped its humble act. Not that anybody really bought it anyway.

This is, after all, Tennessee week. And national championships aside, the No. 4 Gators made it clear they still think they're better than the Volunteers.

Coach Steve Spurrier gave his team the green light to jabber this week. It was a marked difference from last year, when Tennessee came into the game with a five-game losing streak to Florida but in possession of the Southeastern Conference title.

The Vols finally beat the Gators last season. All that did was inspire Florida to return to its old ways. The swagger, it seemed, worked better.

"I just told them to try to temper what they said," Spurrier said Tuesday. "Hopefully, we won't say more than we can back up. But I read in the paper today that we were favored by two points. So, how are we supposed to act?"

So, away they went.

"They won the national title last year, so I guess they have a little rap right now," safety Marquand Manuel said. "They can rap as much as they want. But they have to fly down on Saturday and prove their point. We're going to prove ours, too."

The Gators say they don't have enough bulletin-board space to post all the comments they've seen flying out of Knoxville lately.

Among the most infuriating material included one statement made this week by Vols offensive lineman Cosey Coleman, and another made last month by receiver Cedrick Wilson.

"I don't think they'll be as good as they were last year up front," Coleman said, referring to Florida's young defense. "Most of the guys that are starting now were in the rotation last year, but they weren't as good as the guys starting. So, you're looking at the second string."

Last month, Wilson was asked about playing at the Swamp, where Florida carries a nation-best, 29-game winning streak into Saturday's game.

"Playing Florida in the Swamp doesn't mean any more to me than playing Kentucky in Lexington," Wilson said. "It doesn't mean anything to me at all."

Gators defensive lineman Alex Brown took issue with the lack of Tennessee's respect for Florida Field, where the Vols haven't won since 1971.

Like many teammates, Brown also brought up last year's meeting with Tennessee, in which Florida committed five turnovers and missed a field goal in overtime in a 20-17 loss.

"When they come in here, I expect the streak to get to 30," Brown said. "They don't have room to talk. We slipped up last year. They won in overtime and they won the national championship with an undefeated year. Great. Do it again. Beat us here and then you can get all the respect you want. We don't lose here."

The dig on Florida's talent was equally galling to several Gators, who insisted Tennessee's victory last year didn't prove much.

"That's extra incentive, I'll put it that way," Manuel said. "They happen to get a muff here, a muff there and win the game and they're superstars? We'll just go out there and do our job."

For the most part, the trash talkers at Florida drowned out the calmer voices.

There were, indeed, several players who refused to get baited into the conversation. And there were plenty others who preferred to talk about not talking.

"If you're from a tough place and you talk a lot, you learn that talking doesn't win you a fight," running back Earnest Graham said. "You can talk, but when it's time to fight, you have to be tough and know how to win."