A Different Feel

The Florida Gators have reached their SEC finale and the much-anticipated matchup with the Head Ball Coach that made them great. This year's meeting between doesn't have quite the same kind of firepower that existed in the last two years, but there will still be some interest in this year's edition.

Two years ago was obviously the first time Steve Spurrier coached against his alma mater, plus the Gators were playing for a chance to win the SEC East. Last year was all about the HBC's return to The Swamp, although it was his third trip of the season. Spurrier made two earlier trips to Gainesville to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 1996 national championship team and then to be entered into the Ring of Honor.

This year's meeting has the Gators again fighting for a spot in the SEC East, while the Gamecocks find themselves stumbling to the finish line, losers in their last three games. Urban Meyer recognizes the differences between this year's meeting and games from the last two years, but with a national title under his belt, Meyer feels a bit more confident this time around.

"It's completely different, but I guess that there are some similarities," he said during his Monday press conference. "As far as knowing a team and having a little more confidence and trust, this game is a lot different in that regard."

Last year's game has become legendary on the Gators' road to the national championship. Had it not been for the 36-inch vertical leap of Jarvis Moss, the Gators never would have made it to Glendale.

"We don't bring it up much, but we have pictures all over the place," Meyer said. "Obviously, that was a great day in Florida football history, and it propelled us to Glendale, Arizona. If I remember right, I think the SEC East was already won. That gave us a chance on the national level. It was a great individual effort by a great performer."

Florida/South Carolina may have lost it's luster from the past two seasons, but as long as Spurrier is in Columbia, it will always have some level of sentiment.

"I could say it is just another game, but it is not," Meyer said. "Also, the last three years it has come down to something far greater than all that, which is the fact you are playing for the SEC East Championship in November. Like I said in year one we got an F and in year two we did it now in year three we'll find out. In the first year, that's all the discussion. That's disappeared around our team, but it will always be there."

New life on defense

Some may attribute the inclusion of Michael Pouncey on defense as the difference maker on Saturday, but the Gators' defensive effort goes much further than that. There was no closer relationship last season than Meyer's with linebacker Brandon Siler. Meyer pointed to Siler's weekly preparation as the key to his success, and it was an element missing from Brandon Spikes.

But after a disappointing performance against Georgia, Spikes has adjusted his pregame preparation.

"He was a player who thought that you just went out and played a game without thinking of preparation," Meyer said. "He took responsibility that he let the defense down against Georgia. It's not because of effort, it is because of preparation and going above and beyond what his job responsibility is. The middle linebacker is like the quarterback of the defense, so we want him to be that leader that Siler was."

Spikes was named defensive player of the game after his game-high 14 tackles against Vanderbilt. But Pouncey did earn praise as well, grading out as a champion in his first start as a Gator.

"He was unbelievable," Meyer said. "He had a deflected pass, two tackles for a loss and two assists. He graded a champion at Florida after two days of practice."

Justin Trattou, Dustin Doe, A.J. Jones, Wondy Pierre-Louis, Joe Haden, Markihe Anderson and Tony Joiner also graded out as champions.

On the offensive side, Eric Rutledge, Jason Watkins, Jim Tartt, Maurkice Pouncey, Jarred Fayson, Tim Tebow, Kestahn Moore, Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell and Drew Miller all graded out as champions.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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