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Gators downplay football skid against Miami

GAINESVILLE — There's history, and then there's just old news.

Deciding which is which sometimes is a matter of perspective.

Case in point: Is the fact that Florida hasn't defeated Miami in football since 1985 part of history or old news? And what about the Hurricanes' six-game winning streak? Or the fact that the last time Miami came to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2002, it left with a 41-16 win?

When you're dealing with a group of players who were either toddlers or not born at all the last time the Gators defeated Miami, it's apparently more like old news.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said based on his perception of his players, they won't carry any burden of the history of this series when the No. 5 Gators host Miami on Saturday night.

"I don't feel that at all," Meyer said. "It's a generation (thing). It's the way it is. It's probably the way we all were at that age. It's, 'Hey, let's get to the game. Let's go play because I know this kid, we beat him in a high school championship game or something.' It's Miami. I don't think they could care less about (the losing streak)."

Playing it big: One of the goals entering Saturday's opener against Hawaii was to use Florida's phenomenal speed to score via big plays. The Gators had five offensive plays of 20 or more yards, three that went for touchdowns. And they returned a punt and interception for touchdowns.

"We've got so many players who are capable of making big plays, it's unbelievable," senior WR Louis Murphy said. "It's going to be hard for teams to stop this offense if we play like we did (Saturday)."

Limited Harvin: Florida WR Percy Harvin is expected to return this week after missing most of fall practice and the opener with a heel injury. Exactly what his role will be and whether his plays will be limited remains to be seen.

"My concern has always been not just the injury, it's the other part of it," Meyer said. "Whenever you've got a racehorse athlete, I've seen it probably 50 times, all of a sudden a hip flexor goes, then a hamstring goes, because he's favoring one thing or another. So we'll watch that real close.

LB Ryan Stamper will wear a cast on his broken left thumb but "should be ready to go in some capacity," Meyer said.

Pick us: Nothing brings out a stadium full of recruits like an in-state battle, and the Gators welcome a large contingent Saturday. Meyer believes recruits can be won or lost in games such as UF-Miami, and a win could give the Gators much-needed help in their South Florida recruiting.

"Coach (Charlie) Strong told me all about the FSU kids and how that has played such a major role on the in-state kids," Meyer said. "This will be my first experience with Miami, and I can only imagine this will be the showcase of the state, really the showcase of the country with ESPN (College) GameDay coming. So I think it will be a tremendous boost for recruiting in South Florida."

Did you know?: The past three Florida "Mr. Football" winners will play Saturday at Florida Field. Florida QB Tim Tebow (St. Augustine Nease — 2005), Miami QB Robert Marve (Tampa Plant — 2006) and Miami QB Jacory Harris (Miami Northwestern — 2007). The award is given annually to the top high school football in the state. Tebow is the Gators' starter, Harris started for Miami in its opener last week, and Marve is expected to start against Florida after serving a one-game suspension.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Gators downplay football skid against Miami 09/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 1:36pm]
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