Increased Practice Effort Led to Win

Earl Okine sensed a different vibe on the Florida practice field as the team prepared for Vanderbilt. Whether it was a sense of desperation or an increased focus, Okine knew the Gators would come out with a more determined effort against the Commodores. The defensive lineman knows it was the team's attitude in practice that produced Saturday's win.

"We were just more concentrated because we were tired of losing," Earl Okine said. "We had our backs on the wall, and there's only one thing you can do and that's fight back and swing when you're in a corner."

The scene in the locker room after the game was unlike past Vanderbilt games. The Commodores have been a doormat for the Gators in most years, but Vanderbilt made the Gators play a 60-minute game on Saturday.

Once the clock ran out, there was a celebration that didn't care about who the opponent was. After a four-game losing streak, the Gators would take any win they could get.

"I will never take winning for granted again," Okine said. "Our whole team is just pretty relieved."

Okine admitted that there were some nerves for the team early in the week. They had lost four straight games and had one of the best Vanderbilt teams in recent memory coming into The Swamp. Before Florida started practice in preparation for the Commodores, minds started to drift.

Players started to wonder what it would be like if they lost to Vanderbilt. A Florida team hadn't lost to them since 1988, but the Gators didn't have any positive momentum and could've been the ones to end the streak.

Okine credits Florida head coach Will Muschamp for helping the team refocus.

"Coach Muschamp just helped us push through those notions about Vanderbilt and everyone saying we might lose on homecoming," Okine said. "He just kept our practices so intense and physical that we were just getting better. It paid off.

"We can't go to the SEC Championship anymore, but we can't feel like the season is over and body feels that way on the team now. Everybody is really positive."

Okine's production this season hasn't been dominant, but it has been the most productive season at Florida. Despite limited playing time, Okine is actually tied for the team lead with four quarterback hurries.

He's just happy to be on the field this season.

"It has just been a long climbing process," Okine said. "It's a completely different position and more of a pro-style offense. Dan Quinn has a very complicated defense, and it took me a while to keep progressing. Coach Muschamp and Coach Quinn have been pushing me this entire season, and that's why I'm improving."

It's just a better schematic fit for Okine this year. He is playing defensive end only after splitting time between that and defensive tackle in previous year. However, things didn't start off well. The complication of the new defense forced Okine to play slow as he tried to pick things up.

"It wasn't at first because I didn't really understand it since the defense wasn't this complicated in the previous year," Okine said. "As I started to understand it and sat down with Dan Quinn, he explained to me all the fundamentals of this defense. It's actually a very good fit for me."

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