One For the Thumb

As the clock struck zero for the end of the third quarter of the Florida-Florida State game, Gator fans embraced each other and began swaying to "We Are The Boys". At the same time, the Gators on the sideline raised their hands with four fingers extended signifying the onset of the fourth quarter and another quarter of out-pacing the Noles. At the end of the game it was four fingers and the thumb.

If there were rings given out for victories in this game, the redshirt seniors on this Gator team would have a ring for every finger and their thumb. So goes life when you are a Florida Gator right now.

This used to be a match up that had Gator fans convinced they couldn't win on the road in Tallahassee. Three trips in five years to Tallahassee may have changed that mindset for what should be quite some time. Still, there are old time Gators that take great pleasure in seeing the Gators take care of business in the state capital. Former Gator Will White, who was a devastatingly hard hitting safety at Florida from 1989-1992, was in attendance and White and can't get enough of beating Florida State.

"It's life or death, even as a 35 year old man, it's still life or death," White said immediately following Florida's 45-15 thrashing of the Noles. "It's one of those games that everyone knows each other. It's a very exciting game and we live for these things. I am from Tallahassee and I love seeing us kick some butt."

The fact is, the gulf in talent and coaching between Florida and Florida State has widened so significantly, the Gators were a double digit favorite by the Las Vegas odds makers before the game. Actually, they were more than a two touchdown favorite.

Florida's most dynamic player on offense carried the ball a total of six times in the game before getting injured. Florida junior Percy Harvin totaled only 13 yards and a touchdown Saturday, yet the Gators still managed 502 yards and 45 points on the day against a defense that was the core of the hope for FSU in the game.

The problem for FSU isn't the last five years, the problem for FSU is there are only five total seniors that start for the Gators. That is on both sides of the ball. There are 13 juniors in the two deep at Florida and so in essence 26 or so of the two0-deep of a team that just beat Florida State in their own home by 30 points should be around for another two years.

On top of that is the greatest thing about this team in 2008 is how much they improved from a group a year younger in 2007. That improvement could be exponentially better two years down the road.

No where has the improvement been more apparent than in the secondary. A season ago, Florida's secondary was torched by many of the teams they faced. This season, they improved beyond anyone's imagination. Saturday night against the "best coaching staff ever assembled", these Gators held the Seminoles to 10 completions on 32 attempts for 140 yards and three interceptions. They never got a sniff of the end zone.

Maybe more impressive than the raw numbers was the physical play of the secondary, who was going against a bigger and supposedly more physical group of receivers. Will White saw all he needed to see form his alma mater's secondary Saturday.

"I think they've grown up," White said. "I think (Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong) has done a great job. Just the tenacity, and just the way they fly around to the ball is a good thing. I enjoy seeing them.

And from the looks of it, Gator fans will enjoy seeing them for a long time to come.


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