Thomas Loves Atmosphere Of This Rivalry

Growing up in Jacksonville as a Florida State fan, Marcus Thomas had a different perspective of the Florida-Georgia game. Now that he's a part of the game as a defensive tackle for the Florida Gators, the perspective has changed. This game is a war on the field and a party to end all parties outside the stadium. It's that atmosphere which makes the game special to Thomas.

"For going on three years now, it's a game I can't wait to play in," Thomas said after practice earlier in the week.

The 6-3, 305-pound defensive tackle is part of a resurgent Gator defense that is ranked fifth nationally in total defense giving up just 271.9 yards a game. Thomas is hoping that the Florida defense will give him reason to cut loose a little bit in his home town Saturday night.

"It's usually fun," said Thomas. "I stayed after the game last year and it wasn't so fun. There was nothing but Georgia fans. Hopefully this year it will be all Florida fans."

Over the past 15 years, it has been the Florida fans staying late into the night to celebrate in the neighborhoods surrounding AllTel Stadium. Florida has dominated the last 15 years with 13 wins including two of three under previous head coach Ron Zook. Zook suffered his first loss to Georgia last year, but that was a tough week for the Gators. On Monday before the Georgia game, Zook got fired and the team was stressed by those circumstances throughout the week. Florida lost for only the second time in 15 years on Saturday.

Florida comes into the game fresh, the result of a bye week last week. The Gators needed that off-week to recover from some injuries to some players whose absence and limited roles have had a very negative effect on the offense. Quarterback Chris Leak, wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius, and a slew of offensive linemen have been nursing injuries that have kept them from practice or game time over the last several weeks and almost all seem to be a little healthier with the time off last week.

"We got to relax and all our sores and stuff," Thomas said. "We basically got a little healthier."

The Bulldogs on the other hand came away with a few injuries they would like to be without. Starting quarterback D.J. Shockley will most likely be sidelined for the game and he is the heart and soul of the Georgia offense. Thomas is disappointed he won't be able to get after Shockley and knows that it is a big loss for Georgia.

"Everyone watched their game," he said. "We hope everything is okay with him and we kind of want to go against him. He's a great quarterback and we don't have to worry about scrambling as much. The difference between the two in scrambling is a big difference."

The Florida defense appears to be as healthy as ever going into the game with Georgia. Starting defensive end Ray McDonald seems recovered form a knee injury he suffered in the Tennessee game and he should see some significant minutes. Jarvis Moss saw significant time in McDonald's absence and now Florida has depth and talent in abundance at that position. Marcus Thomas is hoping that a healthy, rested Florida defense will do its part to deliver a big win Saturday, giving him a reason to celebrate in his home town.

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