Sports

Florida defense ready to avenge Miami loss

(U-WIRE) GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There’s a bet in the Florida locker room – whoever knocks the most opponents’ helmets off this season with train-wreck tackles will hold the highest of bragging rights for a defender.
Apparently, it’s a hard game to win.
“We’ve got some heavy hitters,” defensive end Travis Harris said.
Harris and the UF defense may have a grandiose competition, but just last season, the Gators seemed to tackle nothing but the grass and some fresh air against Miami’s offense.
Every UF fan remembers vividly. Does Willis McGahee ring a bell? The first-round NFL draft pick clobbered the Gators for 204 yards on 24 carries in the 41-16 Hurricanes win.
Maybe poor tackling plagued No. 21 UF. Maybe McGahee was just that good.
Whatever the reason, it’s still painful to recollect, and sometimes indescribable to understand, for many UF players.
“There was nothing wrong with last year’s [game plan]. Sometimes it was like an individual player would jump out of one gap,” said senior defensive end Bobby McCray, a Miami native. “That’s a bust for the whole defense. Each guy has a responsibility, and once one guy collapses, that’s the whole defense.
“This year, we’re playing fundamental football. Once you do that, you can’t do anything against it.”
Just three days away from redemption against Miami in the Orange Bowl, this is the perfect time for the defense to show the reasoning behind its rah-rah motivation.
Ask anybody from the Gators’ secondary, defensive line or linebacker corps, and they’ll tell you they have a solid defense.
Many outsiders, however, don’t adhere because of the inexperience at defensive tackle and the batch of freshmen linebackers. Perhaps last year’s defensive unit had more polish, yet Miami still ran all over the field.
Already, before the second game of the season launches, the stereotypes have begun to droop over the new-look defense.
Defensive end Darrell Lee doesn’t agree with the talk.
“Everybody thinks we’re soft and incapable of stopping the run,” said the senior, whose defense held San Jose State to three points Saturday.
“But last year’s effort on defense [against Miami]was a motivation for this year.”
Now, UF lays its welcome mat for Frank Gore, the newest Miami running back contestant in “Let’s Torch a Gator.”
The sophomore patrols the ground game for the Hurricanes this year, and coach Larry Coker and his staff are enamored with Gore’s ability and quickness.
“If you look in the papers, Gore was starting over McGahee before Gore went down [from a season-ending knee injury],” cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said.
In three days, UF fans will see if Ratliff, strong safety Guss Scott and the rest of the defensive cast can play the perfect Cinderella script and prevail against Gore and Miami’s running attack.
If they deter the run, they still have to clog quarterback Brock Berlin’s passing lanes.
Everyone in the locker room knows a win Saturday will be difficult.
Before the game, though, Harris will just think about the “haters” – those who don’t believe the UF defense will flourish.
“I should write those critics a check, because they’re doing nothing but motivating us,” he said.
The game can be heard on WVUM 90.5.

September 5, 2003

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.