Fowler breaks out, ready for more

Walking off the field at Sun Life Stadium following Florida's loss to Miami, Dante Fowler couldn't erase the frustration. Through the first two games of the season, he had just one tackle for a loss and five total tackles. He was the talk of fall camp with offensive linemen even calling him unblockable, but it hadn't translated to the game. That changed against Tennessee last weekend.

The frustrations drove Fowler in practice. He thought the 2013 season would be a breakout year, but through the first two games, it didn't show up.

"I wasn't in my groove, not feeling right, being able to play fast," Dante Fowler said. "I take that very seriously. We lost the game. I had a bitter taste in my mouth and felt like I could've done some things that could've prevented us from losing that game.

"I could have done some things that could have prevented us from losing that game. I just wanted to come out and play fast, like Dante is supposed to do."

It didn't take long for the different Fowler to show up. On Tennessee's second offensive play of the game, the sophomore defensive end found himself unblocked. He showed his elite burst to get into the defensive backfield just as Tennessee quarterback Nathan Peterman was handing the ball off to Rajion Neal.

Fowler blew the play off, sending the ball bouncing down the field before he recovered it himself. After two down games to start the year, he wanted to show that the first two games were a fluke.

"I was like, ‘Oh snap. I'm gonna blow it up,'" Fowler recalled thinking when noticing he was unblocked. "He had fumbled the ball, and I picked it up and a lot of things was running through my head -- it was the second play of the game, it was a sold-out crowd. I actually sat down on the bench like, ‘Dang, did that just happen?' My first forced fumble."

His teammates were happy to see it, too.

When Fowler showed up on campus, Ronald Powell noticed plenty of similarities in Fowler to the year he showed up on campus at Florida. Powell didn't understand what it took to be a difference maker, and he wanted to speed up the learning curve for Fowler to make that difference.

Saturday was as proud of a moment for Powell as it was for Fowler.

"It's good to see Fowler -- definitely like a brother to me -- and to see him out there playing fast and stuff like that, it's good to see," Powell said.

When Fowler made his way back to the locker room after the game, he went up to defensive tackle Dominique Easley and thanked him for facing a double team throughout the game and allowing Fowler the space to get into the backfield.

"He busts his stuff up and I'm on the outside, so when they see everything clogged up, the first thing they're gonna do is bounce outside, and that's all me," Fowler said. "I get to make all the plays."

With Easley out for the season with a knee injury, the focus could shift back to Fowler on the outside. He expects that after putting an impressive game on tape against Tennessee.

Even if he faces more blockers now, Fowler has the talent to still make an impact. Showing it on the field went a long way to reaching the potential his teammates and coaches see every day on the practice field.

"It was great," Durkin said. "I think Dante really let it loose. That was more indicative of what we feel like we can see from him every week. He has that ability, and I think he's just scratching the surface for what he can do and he's starting to realize it. We're going keep pushing him and coaching him like crazy."

Fightin Gators Top Stories