Florida Follow-up

It didn't take long for Florida to turn its focus to Tennessee. Already, coaches have put Saturday's win in the past....

Flowing from the offices at Florida Field, the buzz has already begun. Forget Florida A&M. The Gators let that win go faster than they could say "Phillip Fulmer."

Tennessee's got next, and Gainesville knows what that means.

It's the start of Southeastern Conference play; the start of everything that matters. And as coaches have already acknowledged, this is no easy way to begin.

"We're walking around the office right now saying they look better than Miami," Coach Ron Zook said. "And we know how good Miami was."

That could be the attitude the Gators will need to take if they aren't going to let recent history repeat itself. Because of the 23-point meltdown in Miami, Florida knows it can't become apprehensive – ever.

The Gators have blamed the late defensive collapse in that 38-33 loss on fatigue. Two weeks later, Zook expects the lesson to be fresh in their minds.

"That's one of those things we'll talk to them about," Zook said. "It's going to be an electric atmosphere. They need to save some of their energy. I'm hoping that it's only been two weeks, so they'll remember that."

And there's something else they'll remember, as well. Last year.

After Saturday's game, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff was quick to remind reporters about all of the negative publicity they received prior to last season's Tennessee game.

The Gators had knocked off two cupcakes but lost to Miami. As a result, everyone except the players and their mothers picked the Volunteers to dominate.

"Nobody gave us a chance, so we went in with an ‘us-against-the-world' mentality," Ratliff said of the 30-13 win. "Everyone said Tennessee was too powerful for us."

While the Gators appear to be receiving more respect because of their 33-10 third-quarter lead against the Hurricanes, Ratliff doesn't care.

"We were picked to finish third [in the SEC East] at the beginning of the season," he said. "So no matter what the media says now, we know what they really thought of us before. And that's motivation for us going into this game."

But there are two major differences between last year and this year. First, seemingly advantageous to the Gators, this year's game will be play in Gainesville.

However, they'll also be playing with a much different, much younger roster. For the team's youth, this experience will be like no other game they've played so far.

"These losses right here mean something," Ratliff said. "We lost to Miami, but we can still run the table in the SEC. Our goals start on next Saturday."

So will Florida's freshmen be able to handle the hype surrounding the Tennessee game? Against the Hurricanes, they couldn't.

But as a result, they've become more accustomed to what is expected. And against the Rattlers, it showed. For instance, tailback DeShawn Wynn certainly gained confidence as he became the first freshman in Florida history to score four touchdowns in a game.

Now, Wynn and the rest of the Gators' youth must prove they are quick learners.

"We have a real killer instinct going into that game," sophomore tailback Ciatrick Fason said. "It's a rivalry game. It's an SEC game. Tennessee's going to be ranked higher than we are, and they're going to think it's going to be a run-over. We're going to prove we're better than where the rankings put us."

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