Originally created 11/05/99

Gators must take care of business before Atlanta

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For the next two weeks, No. 5 Florida has a new motto: First the business, then the trip.

Buried somewhere beneath the critical victory over Georgia last week was the fact that the Gators (7-1, 5-1 SEC) have to win two more games to make it to Atlanta and the SEC title game.

It begins Saturday against much-improved Vanderbilt (5-3, 2-3) and continues a week later at South Carolina.

The Gators also have a game with national title implications remaining -- Nov. 20 against Florida State -- giving them plenty of reasons to look ahead and jeopardize the whole thing.

"It's human nature to look ahead, but the good teams just go out and execute," said Gators running back Earnest Graham. "I don't think you have to be pumped up like we would be against Tennessee, because that's not going to happen. You just have to go out and be disciplined and execute. Then, good things will happen."

Fortunately, Florida is coached by a man who does not believe in letdowns.

Steve Spurrier's line of thinking is that since football teams only have 12 or 13 games a year, there is no reason to be emotionally down for any of them. That helps explain how the Gators have gone 68-0 against unranked teams since he arrived in 1990.

Spurrier has another weapon in his arsenal -- the truth.

"We haven't done anything that should make us sit around and think we're real hot," Spurrier said.

Indeed, the Gators have struggled on offense in large portions of their last three games. Last week, they won despite netting not a single passing yard in the second half. They had similar second-half letdowns against LSU and Auburn.

Spurrier has put the burden on himself and receivers coach Dwayne Dixon to get better production out of quarterback Doug Johnson and receivers Travis Taylor and Darrell Jackson.

Johnson completed just two passes in the second half last week. Jackson made five of his six catches in the first half. And Taylor, coming back from a high ankle sprain, caught just one pass last week and has only 19 receptions all season.

"Why have the guys not stepped up? I don't know," Spurrier said. "Poor coaching. That's what we always say around here. Me and coach Dixon, we've struggled this year. We're going to try to coach better this week."

Vanderbilt hasn't won at Florida since 1945, but the motivation this year is unlike any other. The Commodores are one victory away from becoming bowl eligible. An upset at The Swamp would undoubtedly put them into the postseason for the first time since 1982.

"I think our guys are very hungry," said Vandy coach Woody Widenhofer. "We're very excited about the possibility of having a winning season. We know that would put you in a bowl game. That has gotten everyone's attention at practice. The effort is very good and that's a good thing now."


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