The Gators need to make a complete game of it this time if they are going to be successful in Knoxville. Crowder wants the responsibility. "Last year we kind of shut their running game down in the first half," said Crowder. "We are putting this game on the front seven. I talked to Earl and Travis, this is our game. This is a linebacker's game; you just have to play hard."
Crowder knows it is going to be a war out there with one of the better teams in the SEC. "They just want to out tough you, they don't do anything special. They just run straight at you. You just have to be a tougher man and hit them harder than they hit you." How does he think his troops can handle this or any opponent? "I don't think anyone is tougher than us, you think you are the toughest guy, you think you are the best team. I'll put our front seven with anybody."
Crowder is really looking forward to the knock down drag out type game. That's his style. He especially likes playing a team with a hard-nosed running game. "I love a team that runs. I love a team that puts eight down, a tight end, two running backs, and comes straight at you. You know what they are going to do. They are going to come straight at you down-hill and they are going to knock you out if they are a better man than you. You just have to knuckle up and play. That's pure football. All this design and criss-crossing routes, blah, blah, blah. Head straight down hill, I'll hit you in your helmet, you hit in me on my helmet, whoever goes backwards, the other one won."
Having only played Eastern Michigan, which wasn't exactly a great barometer, the Gators aren't sure what they have as far as a run stopping unit. Crowder understands that, but there is a subtle calm about the season that is about to unfold for these Gators.
Said Crowder, "We haven't been tested like we were last year. We were pretty good last year, but we have a lot of guys back. We have me and Earl coming back as returning starters, Ray and Marcus as returning starters. Travis played end. So we have a lot of guys that have been on the field. Now we know how it feels. We have been working and getting stronger. Now we can let the guys that haven't been out there, what it's about. We can buckle down and just hit them."
For Crowder and the rest of the team it's all about getting everyone involved in the right way. "We have to play like a (complete) defense. If you can't stop the run, they are going to score. If you can't stop the pass, they are going to score. Everybody has to believe in everybody, and know they are going to be there and handle their responsibilities." The Gators are poised to continue their season in a pit of 110,000 screaming and obnoxious fans with the refrains of Rocky Top blaring throughout, but don't count Crowder as intimidated.
"I like playing away. I like to play anywhere, but away is fun, having 100,000 people sitting there looking crazy. It's fun just to beat up on another team, play somebody else. I do (like it when they boo). I think it is funny," said Crowder.
Crowder is no stranger to great experiences on the road in hostile territory. Take LSU for example. "I had a great time at LSU last year, with their real hostile fans. They hate whatever you do, good or bad, they hate you for it. It's funny that they take it that serious. I love Florida fans, they are so dedicated. They love their team and that's just great about college football. All the road game means is you have to travel and they don't, and they have their fans with them. But, if you just love football and you are going to just beat them up, you are playing 11 people, not 90,000. It doesn't matter what the people in the stands say."
This is a huge game for the Gators in many ways. It's on the road, it's a conference game, it's a team they have beaten on the road the last two times, and many more reasons. The Gators are still looking for that little bit of validation that things are going right. This is a game that can do it for them.
Crowder agrees: "This is the game that lets everyone know that we are contenders. That we have a chance to go to Atlanta and we are a team to watch." After the loss early last season, it certainly left a bitter taste in the mouths of Gator fans and players. Vol quarterback Casey Clausen directed the band in "Rocky Top" after the game, much to the chagrin of some in the stands. Crowder was asked if he wished Clausen was the opposing signal caller. "It would be nice to get him back. But, it was no problem. I didn't really take it to heart like a lot of people tool the directing the band to heart. Now we have two new guys to beat up on." Does Crowder want to wield the baton and lead the band in the "Orange and Blue" fight song? He shook his head and replied, "We try to be a little classier than that."
He'll just do the talking and directing on the field. Crowder is known for his banter and certainly isn't afraid to use his mouth to try and get to his opponents. Let it be known that he is looking forward to facing two freshmen quarterbacks on national television. "I'm going to try, it's inevitable. Some guys are born with it, some guys let it get to them, and we'll have to see how it goes. Any quarterback, if you hit them a couple of times, they start thinking about you coming. They have a passing quarterback and one more of a running quarterback and either one, if you put the hammer on them a couple of times they will start slowing down and worrying about you instead of their receivers and that's football," explained Crowder.
Now's the time for Crowder and his gang to step up to the plate and make it happen for the Florida Gators this Saturday night in what many are calling a massive SEC clash for all the marbles to represent the conference in the Championship game. Both teams are riding the backs of their stars, young and old, to make this a victorious game for their team. On defense, Channing Crowder will most likely be the biggest star on the field. Be assured he will show it and let you know it.