Lewis Gets Season Off To A Very Strong Start

Florida cornerback Reggie Lewis is best known for his game-ending interception of Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler last November. But if Saturday night is any indication, Lewis may be making more headlines in 2006. The Gator senior had a strong opening day performance in helping the Gators beat a solid Southern Miss team 34-7.

Lewis' night didn't start off great. He was on the field for the first Golden Eagles offensive snap when confusion (not Lewis' fault) led to an easy pass to set up their only score. He was also called for a dubious holding call mid-way through the opening quarter giving the Golden Eagles good field position with a 7-0 lead. But he bounced back with a pass break up, quarterback pressure and later added an interception that set up the clinching touchdown for the Gators.

After the game I spoke with Reggie about his performance and that of the Gator defense.

LARRY VETTEL: Reggie, talk about the defense's performance tonight, how would you assess it?

REGGIE LEWIS: I would rate it good but not great. Our defensive line, linebackers and secondary did a decent job, but we expected to do more than we did. Even though we got three interceptions, which was great we still expected to come out with more turnovers.

LV: What was happening the first time you were out there and it looked like there was a lot of confusion.

RL: We weren't expecting to go out there that quick and we had adversity right off the top. Coach is always preaching to us that adversity is going to come and you never know when it's going to come. As you could see they scored pretty easy and we just said we weren't going to let them score no more.

LV: You talk about overcoming adversity, you had to do that after getting called for a holding penalty but you broke up the next two passes that came your way. Is that an example of overcoming adversity?

RL: Yeah. You know being a defensive back things are going to happen. You going to have scores and calls on you and you just have to get amnesia and go on to the next play. That's what I did; I put it behind me and went forward.

LV: Tell me about the interception.

RL: Yeah, I wish I could do that all over again. I wish I could have gotten into the end zone, but I got tackled outside the five. The next time I'm getting into the end zone.

LV: It looked like your new corner buddy (Ryan Smith) got in the way there at the end of the play.

RL: (chuckling) Yeah. He was trying to help me, but I was trying to make a move. Someone on the other team came at a better angle and he tackled me.

LV: You mentioned the three interceptions. The Gator secondary is totally rebuilt from opening day last year (four new starters), yet you had a pick that set up a touchdown and Reggie (Nelson) had one that took a TD away. What does that say about what this unit is capable of?

RL: It proves everybody's wrong that said entering fall camp we were the weak link of the team. We used that as motivation to push us through camp. I think we came out today and showed the world that we can play with anybody out there on that field. It's going to carry over to the next week against UCF and we're going to try to do the same thing.

LV: With the '96 team celebrating the anniversary of the national championship did that provide any added motivation to show the champs what you could do?

RL: Yeah, Coach Meyer said "let's go out there and show the world what we're made of" and we did a decent job of that. But we can always improve and we have to go out there this week and improve on the mental mistakes we made in this game.

Certainly the Gator defense will have to improve significantly to get ready for the likes of Tennessee and the rest of the SEC slate. And that Gator secondary will soon see much better receivers than what Southern Miss was able to run at them. But it was a good start for the rebuilt back line of the Florida defense and particularly for senior co

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