GEORGIA WEEK: Cohen Remembers 2004 Game

One year ago today (October 25, 2004), the University of Florida fired Coach Ron Zook at an afternoon press conference. It was the week of the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville and the firing sent the Gators into a virtual state of shock. Reality didn't set in until halftime and though the Gators fought back to make a game of it, Georgia scored its second win over UF in 15 years.

One of the players who was most affected by the Zook firing last year was defensive tackle Joe Cohen. The bitterness of Zook's departure is gone now. Cohen has become a dependable playmaker on a Florida front four that sets the tone for the nation's fifth-ranked defense. Cohen believes the Gators will be much better focused this Saturday when they take the field at AllTel Stadium to face Georgia.

"Our record shows that we are a better team (than last year)," Cohen said. "We know as a team and they know as a team that it's going to be a fight. We will have to come out to play. We are the Florida Gators. Our fans expect us to beat everybody. We have to come out full speed every play."

Not only did the Gators go into last year's Georgia game reeling from the firing of Zook, but on the heels of a devastating loss to Mississippi State. The mood of the Florida players swung back and forth all week like a pendulum. There was anger, disgust, sorrow and back to anger all over again. When it came to game time, Florida was flat to no one's surprise.

"It was tough on everybody," Cohen said. "Coach Zook was a good guy. We loved him as a coach and for us to have to play with that on our mind, it was tough on everybody. Some guys were (shocked) but some guys kind of knew it was coming after the loss to Mississippi State. We felt real bad but it's a big business and everyone has to do what they have to do."

Still, this was the Bulldogs and playing in the Florida-Georgia game is one of the main reasons a player signs up to be a Florida Gator. No matter how brutal the schedule is each year for the Gators, the Florida-Georgia game is a war that surpasses everything else. It rarely takes any extra motivation for a Gator to get ready for this game.

"We came out slow last year, but I don't want to blame the loss on (the firing)," he said. "It's the Florida-Georgia game. There is no reason to come out slow. We know this year we can't come out slow.

The Bulldogs come into Jacksonville this year with a lot of angst on their side. The Bulldogs will most likely be without starting quarterback D.J. Shockley when the game is played Saturday. Cohen would love to match up against Shockley, but doesn't see the huge drop off when it comes to the Bulldog backup quarterback Joe Tereshinski III. He wants Shockley to play, because he doesn't want the Bulldogs to use that as an excuse if the Gators win Saturday.

"It is always tough to see a great player get hurt, especially one with a big future ahead of him," Cohen said. "(I want him to play), I think just to get rid of doubts if we win, just because (the public will probably say) they didn't have Shockley is why the Gators won. Then again, the backup quarterback played well and passed well (last week)."

For Joe Cohen and the Gators it is an annual battle of titans that will come down to the end of the game to decide a winner. The Gators are going in relatively healthy with a struggling offense and the Bulldogs are coming in a little more banged up with a team ranked fourth in the country. It should be a war.

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