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UF has fun not being No. 1

Published Oct. 8, 2005

It was, everybody agreed, an honor to be on the No.

1 team in the nation. It was intoxicating and exciting.

It was also a lot of pressure. Maybe too much pressure for Florida.

After a 52-14 victory against Georgia on Saturday night, UF players and coaches agreed they were as loose and ready to play as they have been in a while. And perhaps it's not a coincidence that they'd recently yielded that No.

1 ranking with a loss to Auburn.

"We tried not to get too up for this game," UF coach Steve Spurrier said. "I heard the Colorado quarterback say he thought his team was too emotional against Nebraska (Saturday).

"I'm not saying that was the problem for us against Auburn, but sometimes you can get too up for games. You forget your assignments and forget to have fun and enjoy the game."

Florida was beaten two weeks ago when Auburn came up with clutch plays. Saturday, it was the opposite. Florida's defense came through with turnovers for scores and Florida's offense came up with big third-down conversions.

"We could have done this against Auburn," UF safety Michael Gilmore said. "The coaches had us prepared and had us in position, we just didn't have our heads focused on the game."

It has only been in the past five seasons that Florida has consistently ranked in the top half of the polls, but already the Gators understand the pressure of being on top.

"When the expectations are very high, if you don't stay there you're going backward," Spurrier said Sunday. "Sometimes the most fun years are when you're not expected to do well and you do. We've been big favorites in most of our games this year, so we know what's expected of us."

A helping hand: If it seemed like it was divine intervention that allowed Darren Hambrick to elude four would-be tacklers while not stepping out-of-bounds on his 81-yard interception return, Spurrier has a more practical explanation. Illegal, but practical.

Spurrier said UF safety Lawrence Wright had run out of bounds while trying to block on the return. While out-of-bounds _ and officially out of the play _ Spurrier said Wright nudged Hambrick to keep him from stepping on the sideline.

"It was one of the most spectacular plays I've ever witnessed," Spurrier said. "Gosh, there were about four guys waiting on Darren in front of our bench, but he made a little fake and one of their big linemen froze and screened off the other guys.

"The other amazing thing is Lawrence Wright trailed him on the play and when he ran out of bounds he put his hand out and gave Darren a gentle little shove. I don't know whether that's legal or not. But Darren tightroped it about two steps while he was about 3 inches from being out of bounds," Spurrier said.

The reincarnation theory: Georgia center Scott Brownholtz was penalized for clipping UF defensive tackle Ellis Johnson during Gilmore's 59-yard fumble return late in the second quarter. It was an unusual call since clips are usually committed by blockers and Brownholtz was supposedly a tackler.

"I must have done something to him in a previous life," Johnson said of Brownholtz. "He really didn't like me at all. He was trying to low-blow me the entire game. Gilmore was already in the end zone when he came up and hit me from behind for no reason.

"As a whole, Georgia played a very classy game. But he was as low-class as any football player I've seen," Johnson said.