Sunshine Network with David Steele (play-by-play) Nat Moore (color) and Steve Babik (sideline) will show the game at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31 on Sunshine's "Breakfast with the Gators." The show will also air on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 10:30 p.m.
The University of Florida opens the 2003 campaign Saturday, August 30, 2003 at 6 p.m. against San Jose State. The game will be the season opener for the Gators; however, the Spartans began their season as they shutout Grambling, 29-0, in the Literacy Classic on Aug. 23, 2003. The contest marked the first NCAA college game of the year. Florida is coming off an 8-5 season in 2002, which concluded with the program's 10th straight January bowl game. San Jose State is led by third-year head coach Fitz Hill.
SJSU finished last season with a 6-7 overall record and a 4-4 Western Athletic Conference mark, which tied the Spartans for fourth in the league.
OPENING THE SEASON
The Gators will enter their second year under head coach Ron Zook looking for their 14th consecutive season and home-opening victory. Florida has won an SEC-best 13 straight season opening games.
UF's last loss in a season opener was in 1989 when it suffered a 24-19 setback to Ole Miss at Florida Field. Current UF offensive line/running game coordinator Joe Wickline was coaching the offensive line with the Rebels at the time.
UF's last loss to a non-conference opponent in a season opener came against Miami in 1987 (31-4). Florida is 73-24 in its previous 97 season openers including a 55-6 mark in the 61 openers that have been held in Gainesville.
Furthermore, UF is 33-1 in the last 34 season openers, which have been held in Gainesville, a mark that dates back to the start of the 1949 season.
NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED
Florida enters the 2003 sesaon with no players who have started at quarterback or at defensive tackle. Dating back to the 1980 season, this will be the sixth time UF has entered the season with a quarterback without any career starts.
This game will mark the first for the Gators in the newly renovated Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The project, which began in May 2001 and was completed in August 2003, increased capacity to 88,548.
The fifth renovation in the history of the stadium focused on expanding the Press Level, which is complete with more than 200 working press seats and six TV/radio booths. The level is double in space and seating compared to the prior facility.
In addition, more than 2,900 chairback seats were added on a new club level, which stretches along the West side of the stadium. The 28 prior existing suites were renovated and 34 additional suites were built.
The Bull Gator Level of the Skybox Tower tripled in size, and the President's Box area increased by nearly 50 percent. The entire project cost $50 million and was built with no state money. The University Athletic Association, Inc. financed and paid for the project with a bond that was approved by the State Board of Regents on Feb. 15, 2001.
A historical look at the stadium shows the first game ever played in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was a 20-0 loss against Alabama on Nov. 8, 1930, and the original cost of the facility was $118,215.80.
NEW FACES AND NEW ROLES
For the third time in as many seasons, Florida will have a new defensive coordinator as Charlie Strong rejoined the staff on Dec. 27, 2002. Strong took the post after serving at the same position for South Carolina for the past four seasons. In addition, Bill Miller was named the Gators' linebackers coach on Jan. 10, 2003. Miller was a defensive coordinator for the last 17 seasons, four of them at Miami and the last four at Michigan State. UF made its most recent hire on Feb. 21, 2003 with the addition of Mike Locksley who will coach the running backs and serve as the recruiting coordinator. Locksley spent the past six seasons at Maryland where he served in the same capacity. UF also reassigned several coaches who were already on staff. Dwayne Dixon was named Assistant Head Coach/Inside Receivers Coach after working with the receivers a season ago. Larry Fedora was renamed Perimeter Game Coordinator after serving as the Run Game Coordinator/Running Backs coach in 2002. Joe Wickline picked up the role of Running Game Coordinator and continues to work with the offensive line after leading only that unit a season ago. Mike Woodford has added the additional responsibility of Special Teams Coach and he will continue to work with the defensive backs.
AN EARLY OPENER
This is the fourth time since 1996 that the Gators have opened a season in August after opening in August just once (1986) in the previous 89 years of play (1906-95). The Gators have never lost a contest in the month of August, as they have combined to outscore opponents 165-44 in the three previous contests that occurred during the month.
A SIMILIAR SITUATION
For the second time in school history the Gators will be hosting San Jose State and there are plenty of similarities between today's game and the first meeting on September 7th, 1991.
SERIES NOTES - FLORIDA VS. SAN JOSE STATE
The game will represent the sixth time in Florida history a team from the West Coast has visited Gainesville. Previous visits by West Coast teams include: 1932 - a 12-2 win over UCLA, 1974 - a 21- 17 win over Cal, a 17-9 win over USC , 1987- a 65-0 win over Cal-State Fullerton, 1991 - a season opening 59-12 win over San Jose State. The Gators are 5-0 at Florida Field vs. teams from the West Coast.
The game will mark just the fourth time in school history that Florida has opened a season vs. an opponent from the West Coast. In 1974, the Gators defeated Cal, 21-17, in Gainesville, and in 1980, Florida posted a 41-13 win over Cal in a game played in Tampa. Overall, this game is just the 15th time in school history Florida has met a West Coast team. Florida is 10-4 against teams from the West Coast in its football history.
From 1992 to 2000, San Jose State head coach Fitz Hill was a fixture on the University of Arkansas staff. Through three different head coaches and four post-season bowl appearances over the eight season span, the one constant assistant coach was Hill. During his time, he was part of Arkansas squads that went 0-3 against the Gators.
During the span, UF first defeated the Razorbacks 34-3 in the 1995 SEC Championship Game. A year later the Gators made a trip to Fayetteville, Ark., where they came away with a 42-7 victory. In 1997, Arkansas visited Gainesville to play then top-ranked Florida, which took out the Razorbacks, 56-7.
Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and San Jose State Head Coach Fitz Hill both grew up in Arkansas. Strong spent his childhood in Batesville, Ark., while Hill grew up in Arkadelphia, Ark. The two towns are separated by 160 miles.
During his college days, Hill was a member of the Army ROTC in order to augment his football scholarship. In order to pay back the Army, Hill was active in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. A decorated soldier, he received a Bronze Star and U.S. Army Commendation Medals during his nine months of active military service in 1990 and 1991. UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley also has ties to Desert Storm as his younger brother, James, commanded troops during the opera tion and won two silver stars. In Foley's UAA office, an orange UF sweatshirt worn by his brother at the Kuwait International Airport, is encased in glass.
San Jose State Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Line Coach Earl Buckingham was an All- Southwest Conference defensive lineman for Arkansas during his collegiate playing days. In fact, it was in his final college game that he helped Arkansas defeat Florida, 28-24, in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl. In that game, the Gators took a 17-7 halftime lead against the Razorbacks before being edged. Wide receiver Dwayne Dixon was named Florida's MVP after catching three TD passes. Today Dixon is the Assistant Head Coach for the Gators.
There are two members of the San Jose State football roster with Florida connections as junior safety Katrell Collier is from Miami, Fla. and junior wide receiver Clarence Cunningham is originally from Ft. Myers, Fla. There are also a pair of Gators from California as junior college offensive linemen transfers Billy Griffin and Anthony Guerrero signed with UF last December. Griffin attended Ventura Junior College, while Guerrero spent two years at Cerritos Junior College. A native of Lakewood, Calif., Guerrero attended the same junior college as San Jose State senior defensive end Philip Perry, who is the cousin of William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
1991 - UF 59 SJSU 21
This game was the first in a newly expanded Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and was played in front of a crowd of 83,067. At the time this game was played, it was not only a record for Florida Field, but a record for the entire state of Florida.
The Gators wasted little time breaking in their new digs as on their first play after a Spartan turnover, Shane Matthews threw a 22-yard TD pass to Harrison Houston, for Houston's first collegiate touchdown.
The two would hook up on a second TD pass, less than three minutes later, to put UF up 14-0. After the Spartans closed within three points at 17-14, the Gators scored 28 points in just under eight minutes, to put the game at 45-14 at halftime. Included in the onslaught was a 24-yard touchdown strike from Matthews to Willie Jackson, which was Jackson's first collegiate touchdown.
After halftime, Willie McClendon and Aubrey Hill each caught a TD pass, giving the Gators a then school record six scoring catches on the afternoon.
SCOUTING SAN JOSE STATE
Last season San Jose State won twice as many games as they did in 2001 (from three to six), upset Illinois of the Big 10 Conference and finished in a tie for fourth with Nevada in the WAC. The Spartans begin the year in search of just their second winning season since 1992. Like the Gators, the Spartans also will have a new defensive coordinator in second-year assistant Chris Wilkerson.
Now one game into his third year at San Jose State, head coach Fitz Hil will go up against a member of the SEC for the first time while with the Spartans. In the previous two years, Hill's Spartans have met up with members of the Pac-10, Big 10 and Big 12. In those contests, Hill has gone 1-7 with the sole victory coming by a 38-35 margin at Illinois a season ago. San Jose State has been outscored 318-135 against members of these conferences.
The 2746.69 miles between San Jose, Calif., and Gainesville is almost the farthest East the Spartans have ever traveled to play a game of football. The farthest trip San Jose State has made has been to Miami. The last time SJSU faced the Hurricanes was in 1989, four days prior to the major earthquake that delayed the World Series.
A season ago, the Spartans had 61 scholarship athletes. The Spartans signed 33 new players, including three junior college All-Americans. The Spartans welcome back 44 returning letterwinners, 15 of whom were starters on the 2002 team. Joseph Hayes, San Jose State's most experienced lineman, is one of the 36 players on the 2003 Outland Trophy "watch list" announced by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
DE Philip Perry and Safety Gerald Jones are the top returnees from a defense that ranked fourth nationally in turnovers gained (38). Jones tied for second nationally with eight pass interceptions and Perry tied for third in the country by forcing three fumbles.
Senior quarterback Scott Rislov finished second in the WAC in pass efficiency (132.0). Rislov set a school record for total offense in 2002 (3,264 yards) and returns with four of the offensive linemen who blocked for him a season ago.
Next up on the schedule for the Spartans is a Sept. 6 meeting with Stanford. Former UF assistant coach Buddy Teevens is in his second season ast head coach in Palo Alto. Teevens is one of 12 former UF assistant coaches to leave Gainesville to accept a head coaching position. Teevens was with the Gators from 1999-2001 and held multiple duties with the offense during the period.
A season ago, SJSU gave up an average of 493.4 yards a game, with 192.9 of that coming on the ground and 300.5 coming in the air. Only twice in 2002 did the Spartans manage to hold an an opponent under 20 points.
San Jose State went from having no byes during the 2002 season to having three byes this year.
THE GATOR OFFENSE
In 2002, Ron Zook's first season in Gainesville, the Gators led the SEC in passing offense (270.7) and total offense (406.9). The Gators have led the SEC in passing offense each of the last two years and eight of the last 13. In addition, UF has led the league in total offense in four of the last eight seasons.
Florida enters this season looking to build on its mark of converting on 41 of 49 trips inside the red zone in the Ron Zook era (.837).
UF has lost five starters on offense and five letterwinners. However, the Gators return six starters and 16 letterwinners to the offense. In all, the unit combined has 118 career starts to its credit, 82 of which came during the 2002 season. A season ago at this same point, the offense also returned five starters to go along with 22 letterwinners off the 2001 squad.
The Florida offense has totaled 40-or-more points in its season opener in each of the last five season openers.
The offense comes into the game looking to replace its top skill players at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. However, the returning members of the Florida offense accounted for 54.1 percent of the scoring a season ago.
For the first time in 1,046 days the Gators will have a new starting quarterback in a regular season game. Although Rex Grossman did not start the 2002 Orange Bowl, the last time someone other than Grossman started a regular season contest was when Jesse Palmer took the snaps at Mississippi State on Sept. 30, 2000.
Florida quarterbacks have a combined 10 career pass attempts, all by sophomore Ingle Martin. In his Florida career, Martin has connected on seven of those 10 passes. Three of those seven completions came against Auburn last year.
UF has thrown for at least 263 yards per game for 13 consecutive years.
WHAT'S NEW WITH THE GATORS?
WR DALLAS BAKER
Nephew of former Florida great and NFL wide receiver Wes Chandler.
WR CARLOS PEREZ
Until he was 14, planned on pursuing a professional baseball career.
WR JEMALLE CORNELIUS
Also played defensive back in high school, and picked off the first pass thrown his way during the 2001 1A state championship game.
WR KENNETH TOOKES
Volunteered as a mentor for younger kids while in high school.
OL MAX STARKS
Could not play Junior Midget League football because of his size in junior high and didn't start playing the sport until he was a freshman in high school.
OL SHANNON SNELL
Favorite class at UF was College Algebra and plays the alto saxophone.
OL LANCE BUTLER
Was a member of the Beta Club, which requires a 3.6 GPA, in high school.
TE BEN TROUPE
At six-foot-five, 240-pounds, played on high school tennis team because he liked how it helped his hand-eye coordination.
TE DARRELL CARPENTER
Father Darrell played football for UF from 1973- 76 and sister Kimsey currently attends Florida.
TB DESHAWN WYNN
Consensus All-American at Reading HS in Cincinnati, Ohio.
TB RAN CARTHON
Father, Maurice, was a standout fullback for two-time Super Bowl champion New York Giants and is currently the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator with head coach Bill Parcells. Maurice Carthon was a fullback for Parcells during his tenure with the New York Giants and played on Super Bowl championship teams in 1986 and ‘92.
TB JIMTAVIS WALKER
Wears a James Brown T-shirt under his jersey every game.
WR/CB KEIWAN RATLIFF
Father, Charles, was classmates with former UF defensive coordinator Bob Stoops at Cardinal Moody High School in Youngstown, Ohio.
WR KELVIN KIGHT
Never made an official visit to UF, due to a snowstorm.
RB Ran Carthon, who led the team in average yards per carry in 2002 with 5.4, will return to lead the running backs. In all, the Gators return 36.3 percent of the UF rushing yards in 2002. However, those athletes got just 35 percent of the carries in 2002. Carthon is the only returning RB with more than 10 yards in a game.
RB Ran Carthon is looking to eclipse his career total of 758 yards this year. Carthon, who has averaged five yards per carry in limited action his first three seasons, missed a considerable amount of spring drills with a left foot sprain.
The Gators averaged 136.2 yards on the ground last year, finishing 10th in the SEC. However, this still was the second-highest total in five seasons for Florida.
For the first time in three seasons, the Gators will not return their leading rusher from the previous year, as Earnest Graham led the backs for the last three years.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
Florida returns 12 of the 16 receivers who caught passes in 2002. Those who return caught 58.9 percent of the throws last year. Every receiver in the UF system that is returning caught more passes last year than they did in their previous career combined.
Carlos Perez, who was second on the squad with 58 catches last season, should headline the unit. All but 10 of his receptions in 2002 (48) came over the final seven games he appeared in. Perez returns to the receiving corps after missing the Florida State and Michigan games last season due to a broken right fibula in the South Carolina game.
Perez and Kelvin Kight emerged in the Georgia game last year as the two combined for 21 receptions in the 20-13 victory, and 16 more over the next two games.
The tight ends caught 45 passes last year, more than any season since 1990. Of those 45 catches, 18 were hauled in by returning tight ends. Aaron Walker is gone after catching more passes (27 for 376 yards, 4 TDs) than any other TE since 1990.
In 2002, Ben Troupe's average of 13.3 yards a catch was higher than the team average of 11.9 UF has started seven games in a two tight end formation in the Zook era.
Heading into the 2002 season, the Gators had to replace 132 receptions and 23 touchdowns from the season before at the wide receiver post. This year the Gators have to replace 73 receptions and eight touchdowns.
Max Starks, Shannon Snell and Mike Degory started together 11 times last year and will provide experience to the line in 2003. Snell and Starks have been playing since their freshman seasons and have combined to start 47 games in the past three years.
One of the strengths of the team this season should be the line as the Gators return six of their top seven offensive linemen from a year ago. Only David Jorgensen is gone; however, Florida added three junior college players to add depth.
Max Starks played more downs than any other player on the roster last season (1,044).
WHAT'S NEW WITH THE GATORS/UNIT NOTEBOOK...
LB TAUREAN CHARLES
Admires former UF great Jevon Kearse, and when Kearse and fellow Titan teammate Samari Rolle showed up at Charles HS spring jamboree, he was so shocked he couldn't even go down to meet them.
DE DARRELL LEE
Once shattered a backboard performing a 360- degree reverse dunk.
DE TRAVIS HARRIS
Wears his hair in dreadlocks to honor his Godbrother Maurice Martin who died of leukemia.
DT ERIC HOLCOMBE
Signed with Florida, got married and became a father all in one week.
DT RAY MCDONALD
Father, Ray McDonald, played wide receiver for the Gators in the mid-80s, and was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated after catching both scores in a 14-10 victory at Auburn in 1985. Little Ray was only one at the time.
LB BRIAN CRUM
Cousins Travis Taylor (Ravens), Champ Bailey (Redskins) and Sam Cowart (Bills) all play in the NFL. Taylor was an All-American wide receiver at UF in 1999. Father Boston Crum played football at Delaware State.
CB JERMAINE MCCOLLUM
Committed at the same time as twin brother Tremaine, who also plays defensive back. The twins never considered attending separate schools.
CB DESHAWN CARTER
Ran track at Ponchatoula High in Louisiana. During his freshman season, he advanced to regionals in the 400m before losing to former FSU standout Travis Minor.
LB MATT FARRIOR
Younger brother of James Farrior, former Virginia All-America linebacker and 1997 first-round draft pick by the New York Jets. James is his role model because he has seen all the things that James has accomplished, and that makes him want to be as successful.
LB TODD MCCULLOUGH
Father, Todd, played for Coach Zook at Murray State in 1979.
DT KENNY PARKER
Lived in Homestead, Fla., for a week in August 1992 before Hurricane Andrew destroyed the family house.
DT RONALD DOWDY
Didn't play football until senior year of high school.
SS GUSS SCOTT
Enjoys chess, basketball and video games.
Although the Gators return three of their starting five defensive backs, eight defensive starters are gone due to graduation and the NFL Draft.
For the third time in as many seasons UF has a new defensive coordinator. Formerly in the same post at South Carolina, Charlie Strong took the position over when John Thompson left Florida at the end of last season to become the head coach at East Carolina. Thompson had replaced John Hoke who held the position from 1999-2001. The last time Florida had three different coordinators on the defensive side of the ball was from 1989-1991. Gary Darnell held the role in the 1989 season followed by Jim Bates in 1990 and Ron Zook in 1991.
Despite totaling only seven interceptions in 2002, the UF defense ranked seventh nationally in passing yards per game allowed with just 162.4.
The linebacker unit will have to replace 316 tackles between departed seniors Bam Hardmon and Mike Nattiel. The last time UF was this inexperienced at the position based on replacing starters, in 2000, it allowed 133.1 rushing yards per game and permitted Mississippi State and Tennessee to combine for 570 yards on the ground. Nattiel and Hardmon combined for a quarter of Florida's tackles in 2002 with 316 tackles of Florida's 1,307.
New linebacker coach Bill Miller will replace Jerry Odom, who departed Florida for East Carolina following last season. Miller spent the last eight seasons as a defensive coordinator as he served four years at Miami before moving to Michigan State in the same capacity. Miller is one of six coaches on staff to have squared off against Florida while with another school. Charlie Strong, Ed Zaunbrecher, Red Anderson, Joe Wickline and Mike Locksley have also done so.
Combined they went 5-11-1 against UF.
The Gators lost four senior defensive tackles from a year ago, as the interior linemen enter the year with one career tackle between them.
UF lost its top five tacklers up front and seven of its top nine. Bobby McCray's 10 tackles against Auburn were four more than any other returning DL registered against anyone in 2002. Fifteen of Florida's 17 scholarship linemen have never started in Division I.
Seven players on the line who accounted for 80 percent of UF's snaps last season, including two juniors who left early, will not return.
UF picked off seven passes last season, and the returnees were responsible for four of those. Senior Daryl Dixon, a former starter who missed all of 2002 with a shoulder injury, replaces All-SEC safety Todd Johnson.
FS Daryl Dixon returns to the unit in 2003 after being redshirted after his junior year to rehabilitate from shoulder surgery in January 2002.
Guss Scott is Florida's top returning tackler with 102 stops in 2002. He had a team-high 11 deflections in 2002 and returned a critical interception against Georgia to help the Gators to a 20-13 victory.
Forty-eight of the 73 career starts on defense are by defensive backs (66 percent). In addition, 32 of the 44 returning starts from 2002 come from the unit (76 percent).
The last three times Florida has blocked a punt (Vanderbilt, 2001; Miami, 2002; Michigan, 2003) Guss Scott has played a part in it. Todd Johnson blocked the punts against Vanderbilt and Miami, and Scott was there to recover the ball. Against Michigan, Scott partially blocked a punt.
The last eight games, opponents' average kick return was just 15.3 yards per return, and only two of 22 returns went for more than 18 yards.
The Gators blocked five kicks in the 2002 season (3 punts, 2 field goals).
With Ron Zook as the special teams coordinator at Florida in 1994 and 1995, the Gators blocked 12 total kicks, and the 1994 unit blocked a school-record five punts. In 1995, Zook's special teams blocked seven kicks in the regular season, including four punts, two field goals and an extra point.
Three of the blocked punts led to Gator TDs.
(Special thanks to Terry Potts for helping us dig up most of this information. See his prediction below for the Florida game!).
I was in the Swamp in 1991 when Florida was better than they are predicted to be this year.
Matt Veach was the Spartan Senior QB and Bryce Burnett was our great junior tight end. The two light up the Florida DBs in the first half including a 60+ yard TD bomb.
I believe the score at half-time was 14-6 Florida. This was a day game in September. Since it starts later this year and there usually is a late afternoon shower it may help.
Bryce played two weeks later in Minnesota against the Golden Gophers and their safety chop blocked him in the first half on the turf, blowing out his knee for the rest of the season. He was never the same but did get a look from the Niners on their Practice Squad after his senior year at SJSU.
Bottom line is this is the SEC and we are not playing Vandy or Kentucky so I think it will be a three touchdown victory for FU.
I hope I am wrong!