When news dropped Thursday that defensive end Bobby McCray would be suspended for Saturday's game, the immediate question became how much his absence would hurt the Gators.
Turns out, it didn't at all.
Travis Harris, a native of Decatur, Ga., proved Saturday that he remains just as capable of bringing down quarterbacks. Along with Darrell Lee, the Gators didn't miss a beat despite the absence of the Southeastern Conference's sack leader.
Harris started the first four games of the season before being replaced by McCray, who had eight sacks in five games. "This game brings out the best in you," Zook said. "Travis is from Georgia, and this was a great opportunity for him to come in."
Leach turned hero
Following Saturday's win, kicker Matt Leach was hoisted the shoulders of several players. Leach kicked a 33-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining in the game, capping off the Gators' 66-yard game-winning drive.
"He deserves to be on top of a cloud right now," long snapper Casey Griffith said. "He just won the game for us."
The praise is far from what Leach was getting a season ago. The junior missed five extra points and six field goals last year.
He has made all 29 extra point attempts and is 15 for 20 from field goal range. Leach had three field goals Saturday, while he missed one from 48 yards out.
"He had some tough times last year," Zook said. "But we stuck with him, and it's paying off."
Wide receiver Dallas Baker, a former New Smyrna Beach standout, hadn't done much to live up his highly anticipated arrival at the season's start.
Saturday, the sophomore started to reemerge as a potential force. And coaches started to show more of their confidence in his ability.
Baker was given several looks Saturday, while finishing with two catches for 56 yards. His most impressive reception was a pass near the sideline for a career-long 42-yard catch from quarterback Chris Leak.
The reception was the longest of the game for the Gators.
"I was more excited to just get that win," Baker said. "If you can help you're team win, you can't even explain how good it feels. I'm progressing slowly. I need to stop acting young and start acting like a veteran."
Ratliff ties record
With his second-quarter interception, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff entered a four-way tie for the most picks in a season at Florida. The senior has become the defense's leading force, snagging six interceptions in the past three games. He has as many picks as the entire team recorded all last season.
Zook became the first coach in Florida history to lead the Gators to three consecutive wins against ranked opponents. He is now 5-1 against teams in the top 11 away from Gainesville....Tailback Ciatrick Fason has caught a pass for more than 25 yards in each of the last three games. His only catch Saturday was for 28 yards....With his 63-yard boom, punter Eric Wilbur has had four punts for more than 60 yards this season
Crowder, Snell talking again
Georgia natives Channing Crowder and Shannon Snell, who had been gagged from the media by Zook, have returned to their roles as the team's best quotes. Both were given permission to speak after Saturday's win.
Snell, a senior offensive guard, was put off limits to the media after saying he wanted to see Miami quarterback Brock Berlin's mouth bloodied by the Gators defense. Crowder was banned after the Gators win against Arkansas.
The freshman linebacker continued to deliver amusing quotes, following up on his previous comparison between the Gators' recent success and dating. He said an SEC Championship would be like marriage.
With Saturday's win, Crowder is pleased with the progress.
"We're happy to meet the parents," he said. "But anything can happen in a relationship. We've got to take it slow."
Snell said Saturday's win should silence plenty of critics.
"3-0 says ha-ha," Snell said. "It says in your face. It says we're not as bad of a team as everybody makes us out to be."