D-Line continues pace of excellence in 2005

For some this is the game. The Florida / Georgia rivalry is usually a war and some have to live with the consequences of a win or loss every day of their lives. The annual game played in Jacksonville can be particularly rewarding or painful for someone living in Jacksonville. For a Georgia born player on the Florida roster a loss can mean years of abuse from fans in his home state.

Luckily for Jacksonville native Marcus Thomas and Georgia native Jeremy Mincey, they will get to do the talking, at least for the coming year.

Thomas has been steady if not spectacular for the last several games on defense for the Gators. The 6-3, 305 pound Thomas is a force to be reckoned with and the former Jacksonville-Mandarin star didn't slow down in front of the home town folks he played in front of Saturday.

"Its great for me to let all the people that can't usually travel get to see me," Thomas said after the game. "It's great to play in front of all my family."

Marcus Thomas was one tackle off the team lead in tackles for the game on Saturday with six. Thomas had a critical tackle for loss on Georgia's opening drive of the third quarter when he stopped running back Danny Ware for a one yard loss. The Bulldogs were moving right down the field and Thomas tackle on first down caused a huge stall that resulted in a missed field goal. Gator Defensive Co-coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Gregg Mattison must be proud of his warrior. Thomas says he owes most of his great play to Mattison.

"When (Mattison) came in, we thought we were better than what we were," Thomas said. "He just let us know how much better we can be, we are proving to him that we can make big plays and show up. Coach Mattison is the best coach I've ever had. I love him to death. The first person I hugged after the game was Coach Mattison. He coaches his heart out and has changed the whole way I have played the game. I feel like I play for him, he has given me so many chances and I feel like I just can't let him down."

Gator Head Coach Urban Meyer was very proud of the defensive effort after the game Thomas shared the Mayer's words to the team in an all out team effort for a close win on Saturday.

"We did it and everything is all good," Thomas said. "(Meyer) was telling us how we are all playing for each other and a family now."

It's a far cry from a defense that struggled most of last season before turning it on somewhat against South Carolina in 2004. Thomas says it is a new attitude getting the defense to play with the intensity it does.

"Now we feel like it can be done," Thomas said. "Last year every time it came down to the wire, there was that chance like we might lose it. Now we feel like there is a chance we will win. We felt like we were going to win this game."

Thomas of course couldn't do it alone. One of the most dominating defensive linemen this year has been Jeremy Mincey. The Statesboro, Georgia native has been a key fixture on defense all season and had a good game on Saturday as well. Thomas knows Mincey is a huge part of the success of the Florida front.

"He is a real crunk person on the defensive line," Thomas said of Mincey. "He really gets it up all the time. I just knew he was going to come up and do something."

Something may be an understatement when it comes to Mincey. Mincey leads the team in tackles so far in 2005. led the team on Saturday with seven tackles and had two of the biggest plays of the game late when he had an eight yard tackle for loss in the next to last Georgia drive. That stop meant a longer field goal try and inevitable miss by Georgia field goal kicker Brandon Coutu. He also tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage in Georgia's final drive of the game.

"I am trying to do something no one else has done," Mincey said. "I have set some personal goals and so far I am doing pretty well."

"I watched the linemen, and when you look at linemen you can kind of read them," Mincey said about the play on the big tackle for loss. "I kind of figured they were running the ball to my side and I just kept my eyes on the back."

Mincey understood going into and during the game just what kind of talent he was going to face on Saturday. The respect was always there.

"The more they ran the ball it seemed the more confident they got," Mincey said. "Georgia is a really talented team, we were prepared for the worst and we just did all we could."

As talented as they were, there was a little bit of animosity and special meaning in this game for Mincey. It is something that is not lost on a lot of players that participate in this border war.

"Coming out of high school in Georgia, they never gave me a chance and now it was time for payback," Mincey said after the game. Last year this game came down to heart and they had more and out hustled us."

The Florida defensive line continues on it's pace of playing very well in 2005. Marcus Thomas and Jeremy Mincey are two huge reasons for the outstanding play. Both had lots of incentive to perform well on Saturday in front of friends, family, and foe. Both came out of the game with huge smiles on their faces.

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