Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

No. 1 Florida Gators say they won't become complacent

GAINESVILLE — For months, beginning with spring practices, you could ask any Florida player what the goal was for this year's defending national champions, and the answer, inevitably, would be the same:

"We want to get to Atlanta."

The prevailing feeling was if the Gators could make it to the SEC title game and win, a trip to the BCS title game would be secured.

With four regular-season games left, No. 1 Florida has clinched the SEC East title and the trip to Atlanta. Now a season filled with twists and turns adds another challenge for Florida: making sure it doesn't get complacent on the way to the league title game.

"There could be some danger in that," junior defensive tackle Terron Sanders said. "But I feel that our team is mature enough to know that we still have some business to take care of.

"Just because we've clinched the East doesn't mean we've reached where we want to be. One loss could take us off track of … being in the bowl game that we want to be after (the SEC title game)."

The focus was evident Sunday after the win against Georgia, when the subject was purposely avoided.

"The word 'Atlanta' didn't even come up in the team meeting," defensive line coach Dan McCar­ney said. "We're not even talking about it. We had some hard lessons a year ago. We've had some hard lessons this year. You learn from them. You see what happens around college football, and you see what happens in the SEC.

"And the bottom line is, I think our kids have a deep respect for all of our opponents in this conference. It is the best conference in college football. If you're not ready, you'll get beat. If you're ready, this team has a real good chance to win each week."

On paper, the road to Atlanta appears fairly uncomplicated. The Gators' final four opponents are a combined 14-20. Florida hosts Vanderbilt (2-7) tonight, travels to South Carolina (6-3) and closes with home games against Florida International (2-6) and Florida State (4-4).

But Florida's season has been as much about navigating off-field drama as it has been red-zone scoring.

You name it, it has been an issue: constant national scrutiny; multiple planes to transport sick players to Kentucky; quarterback Tim Tebow's concussion Sept. 26 at Kentucky and subsequent debate over when he would return; a lackluster offense adjusting to a new coordinator; the team facing its former offensive coordinator at Mississippi State; senior linebacker Brandon Spikes' team-issued one-game suspension this week for unsportsmanlike conduct against Georgia.

Nothing has come easily, which is why the players insist there's no chance they'll become complacent now when they've already overcome so much, and so much remains at stake.

"We're 8-0, and we're excited about that," Tebow said. "We have an opportunity to be 9-0 and keep getting better. That's what keeps you motivated.

"If you can't be motivated and focused when you are 8-0 and have a chance to be 9-0 and everything you want is right there in front of you, when everything you want is a possibility … I would be shocked if anybody on our team wasn't motivated or focused on our next four games. If they weren't, I would be very disappointed."

Then there's that other goal. The one they backed away from earlier this season but now seemingly are embracing.

"We're trying to work on a good season this year and stay undefeated, so we've got to win," junior offensive lineman Mike Pouncey said. "(Atlanta) was one of our goals in the offseason, and an undefeated season was, too.

"Now that Vanderbilt is in our way this weekend, we've got to go out and play our best ball. Last year around this time, we hit our stride, and we started playing our best ball. And that's what we hope to do this year."

Antonya English can be reached at or (813) 226-3389. Follow her blog at blogs.

No. 1 Florida Gators say they won't become complacent 11/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2009 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'


    The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

    "We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.
  2. Lightning wing J.T. Brown on why he donated to remove Confederate statue


    Lightning wing J.T. Brown was back in his Minneapolis offseason home over the weekend when he saw on TV the violent protests in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue.

    J.T. Brown decided to get involved, donating $1,500 to assist in removing a Confederate statue in Tampa.
  3. Rays, Bucs and Lightning join Dungy in donating to move Confederate monument


    The Tampa Bay area's three major league sports teams have pledged their financial support in moving a Confederate monument out of downtown Tampa.

    Tony Dungy in 2011. [Getty]
  4. Tim Tebow came into their life, and never left


    There are a lot of stories about Tim Tebow connecting with people during his life, Tebow inspiring them and Tebow being inspired.

    Boomer Hornbeck of Naples, Fla., has battled cerebral palsy and undergone surgery after surgery in the hopes of allowing him to one day walk. Inspired by Tim Tebow, and encouraged by his relationship with him, Hornbeck has become a motivational speaker.
  5. For starters: Rays at Jays, with Longoria moved to No. 2 spot in order


    UPDATE, 3:10: Cash said the change was made primarily for two reasons, to change the look for several of the hitters and to get back to alternating lefty and righty hitters to make it tougher for opposing managers to match up relievers. Cash said he plans to stick with this structure for a while but doesn't …

    Evan Longoria was moved from his usual No. 3 spot in the batting order up to second.