Mincey: Chance For Gators To Regain Respect

Jeremy Mincey sees Florida's game with Tennessee Saturday night as a chance for the once-mighty Gators to regain some of the luster that has been lost in the football program. Mincey sees this as the first step for Florida in a season of regaining lost respect.

The Gators have allowed only 384 yards in two games against lesser competition so Saturday's game is the first true test for a defense that has been a real surprise. Mincey says that even though the competition will be tougher, he and his defensive teammates have faith that they can rise to the occasion.

"(I only) started thinking about them today (Monday)," Mincey said. "I see them just as another team along the road. We believe and expect to win."

Mincey remembers what it was like to lose in the last seconds to the Vols last year in Knoxville. He remembers the passion of the rivalry and knows how important the annual UT game is ever year. But Florida's greatest rival? He had a candid answer for that.

"I would say Florida State, after that game [in Tallahassee last year] … I have never seen fans cry and I saw fans cry … they were more emotional than I was," he said. "That was huge. I was like wow, unbelievable."

But for this moment, he thinks only of Tennessee, knowing that a win for the Gators will help re-establish the dominance the Gators once enjoyed over the Vols plus move UF up in the polls.

"It will put our mark in the polls and our mark in conference," he said. "If we win this game, it will help us big time."

Mincey doesn't expect a cake walk. He expects the Volunteers to bring their A-game. He knows that both teams are among the most talented in the nation.

"I think the game is going to be a good one, because Tennessee is very talented on the offensive line," he said. "Me, personally, I am up for the challenge. My fellow defensive linemen, we are going to work hard this week and prepare the best we can. We are a lot more physical this year, mentally stronger, physically stronger, so it shouldn't be much of a problem."

Last year the Volunteers started out by shoving the ball right down the Gators throats. In two of the first three series of last years game, the Volunteers threw one time and ran for 157 of 180 yards for two touchdowns. It is the way the Volunteers like to play ball and the Gators allowed them to do it early in the contest before fixing the problem later.

Mincey thinks it is just the way they use their personnel, not necessarily the personnel itself.

"I think it's the scheme," Mincey said. "I don't think they manhandled us. I watched the film from last year, and I think we didn't play as bad as everybody thought we did. There were a lot of missed assignments. We were young at the time. There is a lot more experience this year."

Of course the Gators thought they had the game won last year. The Gator team, staff, and faithful all felt the game was stolen from them in the end by circumstances they couldn't control. The fans and students haven't let the Gators forget the loss to hated rival. It is something Mincey is feeding on.

"It's a motivation…it helps big time," he said. "It's the game everyone talks about. They keep saying 'tell Dallas Baker not to make any more foolish penalties.' It makes me mad because he didn't cause us to lose the game. We missed field goals, touchdowns in the red zone. We made foolish mistakes on defense. It goes back to the beginning of the game."

The knock on the Gators last year was not being able to finish games. The young Gators would get leads in games, much like Tennessee last year, and end up losing or wilting by the end of the game. The Gators lost fourth quarter leads in the Tennessee, Mississippi State, and LSU games. Mincey says it shouldn't happen this year.

"We are working on that," he said. "I honestly feel like we can finish. This team we have now is a really good team.

"We are going to turn it around, that's my word. I don't care if I have to make a huge play. I'm willing to do it. I don't care what I have to do to get the team going. This is a game we have to go all out. We are getting that feeling back, we are going to bring that feeling back this year. This is our house and nobody is going to take that from us. We are going to come out here and make UF look as if it was in '96."

For Jeremy Mincey and his teammates, Saturday is the first real step to getting the swagger back for a program that has been short on the swagger for more than three years now. It's not the opponent. It just happens that Tennessee is the first big opponent on the path to success.

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