FOOTBALL: Weathering the Storm

And so the song goes, "In all kinds of weather, we'll all stick together." While the Gator football team won't have their traditional 90,000 chomping followers or the warmth and comfort of an ecstatic Mr. 2-Bits, the rain could very well affect how the 'Boys of Old Florida' perform come Saturday night.

As of Wednesday morning, the weather channel and the national hurricane center has the storm passing over Knoxville early Saturday afternoon. It's hard to tell how each team will respond, but having a lack of practice in the rain won't be an issue for this young Gator team. Coach Zook, who had the advantage of practicing during the rain for a good part of Summer A and Fall practice, isn't scared of a little water.

"We'll probably get up there and the hurricane will arrive at the same time," Zook said. "We'll still deal with it."

If Zook deals with it like he did last time he visited Knoxville, then the last few minutes of the game will be highlighted by plenty of blue polo's and ponchos. UF pulled out a 30-13 victory in a downpour over Neyland Stadium that included 5 fumbles in almost 5 minutes.

Though wary, Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer won't use a drizzling atmosphere as an excuse. UT has already begun preparing for the wet conditions in this week of practice leading up to Saturday night.

"We had a little wet-ball work yesterday-- brought the hoses out on the centers and quarterbacks after practice," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "But one of them (Schaeffer) is from Fort Lauderdale and one of them (Ainge) is from Portland. Come on, if they haven't played in the rain by now ... They're much more comfortable with the rain because they grew up with it."

While it may be fun playing with a hose after practice, it might not be such a sprinkler party come kickoff time when freshman QB's have the likes of accoladed sophomore LB's Channing Crowder, Earl Everett and senior Travis Harris there to cause fumbles.

Swamp-thing Special:

As far north as the Gainesville Sun and as south as the Miami Herald, much has been made of junior Running Back Ciatrick Fason's emergence as the go-to-guy in the backfield. Fason's 2 TD performance was impressive against Eastern Michigan, earning him offensive player of the game honors.

Defensively, captain, motivator and tackling machine Channing Crowder garnered the honors. Crowder, a sophomore linebacker, flew around the field not missing a beat. The Georgia continued to set the trends that he started in 2003 when he was second on the Gator defense in stops with 106. Crowder notched 10 total tackles and a fumble recovery on Saturday and will look to equal or improve upon his 11 total tackle performance a year ago against UT in Gainesville.

When it's all said and done, Chad Jackson might be the coolest player on the UF squad. That's right…coolest. A fan favorite -- to downplay his following, Chad finally emerged on Saturday. While doing it against Eastern Michigan should be taken lightly, performing is performing and Chadie J. earned special team player of the game honors. Jackson's 47-yard return was the longest by any athlete in the SEC this season and Gator fans will take this stat and run with it.

Coach Zook also named his captains for the UT game. Offensively, Chris Leak and Mike Degory will walk out to midfield for the coin toss with defensive captains Channing Crowder and Jarvis Herring.


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