Moss Knew Someone Would Make A Play

For four quarters and one overtime period, Florida's defense kept searching without finding a way to put the killing dagger in the heart of those pesky Vanderbilt Commodores. Florida's defense was down and almost out, feeling like they'd been run over several times by a fleet of trucks, but Jarvis Moss never lost faith. He knew someone on the defense would step up and make a play that would end Vanderbilt's upset bid on this Saturday night at The Swamp.

Moss admitted after the game that even though Florida's defense took a pounding, they never once thought that Vandy would win the game.

"It [losing] didn't run through anyone's head, we have faith in each other," Moss said. "I have faith in my teammates. I knew sooner or later someone would make a play."

That someone was Reggie Lewis. The junior cornerback from Jacksonville replaced Vernell Brown just into the second quarter when Brown went down after a punt return. Lewis was immediately thrown on by the veteran Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. With Brown gone from the game, Vandy's senior quarterback Jay Cutler kept picking on Lewis. When Cutler wasn't completing passes, Lewis kept the Commodores alive with a couple of critical holding penalties in the secondary that gave Vandy key first downs.

But when it mattered most, Lewis came through with the biggest play of his life, an interception of Cutler on Vandy's first play of the second overtime. That set off a celebration on the Florida sideline. Lewis was mobbed by his teammates.

"I was the first to grab him and hug him and tell him what a good job he did," Moss said. "They told us someone had to step up and make a play and Reggie stepped up there at the end. It just shows his character. He struggled a little bit throughout the game and at the end he came up with a big play for us. We all knew someone needed to step up and make a play. Reggie sealed the deal for us. Reggie made the play. He is the hero right now."

Entering the game, the Florida faithful weren't expecting the game to come down to a critical defensive play in a second overtime. Since 1960, the Gators are now 23-3-1 against Vandy and it has been since 1945 that the Commodores last beat the Gators in Gainesville.

Cutler, chosen preseason All-SEC by the coaches, came into the game as the SEC's leading passer. Against the Gators he was 28-42 for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Moss came away with impressed with the Vandy senior.

"That quarterback was really good and he made some plays tonight," Moss said. "He is a great football player. We were fortunate enough to come out with the win. He made plays for his team and they hung in there.

"It was an up and down game and everyone was fighting real hard. It was a good win for us and we are excited. I give credit to Vanderbilt."

As poorly as the defense performed there were plenty of opportunities for them to make plays. On Vanderbilt's second series, linebacker Earl Everett jumped a flat pass from Cutler and had a chance to intercept and head the opposite way for a touchdown. The ball fell aimlessly to the ground. Cornerback Dee Webb dropped two sure interceptions, including one with the Gators up 35-21 and less than three minutes left in regulation, which certainly would have helped end the game in regulation.

It seemed like the effort was there all night yet the defense just could not come up with drive-killing plays. The Florida defenders knew they couldn't give up, that they had to keep battling.

"We (told ourselves to) just keep playing hard," he said. "Eventually someone would get through and make plays. We were getting through just not making plays at the time. Actually I missed a sack (too)."

Inevitably it was the trademark of a Florida defense that has been opportunistic all season that sealed victory for the Gators. The interception by Lewis was Florida's fourth takeway of the game, giving the Gators 26 for the season against just nine UF turnovers, a margin of 17 that could catapult Florida into first place nationally in that category.

"This defense has character," Moss said. "We rank pretty high in turnover margin and have done that all year long. We do a good job of getting the ball back for the offense."

The first three Vandy turnovers resulted in Florida touchdowns. The fourth turnover gave the game to the Gators.

The offense was always there pumping up the defense to try and get them the ball. Their spiritual leader defensive end senior Jeremy Mincey was also making sure the guys kept an even keel and just played the game like they knew how.

"When they ran off the field they were trying to get us up," Moss said. "Mincey was getting the guys up. This is his last year, so he wants everything to go good, he was firing the guys up and just keeping their heads into it."

So, the Gators are 2-1 in overtime games in their long history after Saturday night. It wasn't expected, but as it is often said, "a win is a win." This win came in a most intense atmosphere.

"I didn't expect the game to go like that," Moss said. "It was the first overtime for me. The atmosphere is different, it keeps everyone on your toes and everyone out there wanted to make a play."

According to Moss they were told all week it was going to be a battle. Coach Urban Meyer was pleased after the game for the emotional win against so many injuries and obstacles the whole game and what has been all season. Moss said Meyer's attitude after the game in the locker room showed just how tough the game was.

"He was just happy," Moss said of Meyer. "He knew Vanderbilt would be tough. They [coaches] told us that all week long."

It would have been nice if they would have clued the rest of us in on all of that in the week leading up to the game.

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