Ask defensive end Mark Campbell. Ask safety Lawrence Wright. Ask linebacker Jason Bates. Virtually every Florida player will tell you the same story.
They still can taste the bitterness of that 31-31 tie with Florida State a year ago. Almost to a man _ even the redshirts who didn't play _ the tie with the Seminoles hurt more than the loss to FSU in the Sugar Bowl.
They still can see Danny Kanell ripping them for 232 yards passing in the fourth quarter. So what if they held Warrick Dunn to 48 yards rushing and Rock Preston to 37? Statistics are for losers, they say.
Steve Spurrier hasn't let them forget that game. Until this week, the Gators coach has stuck to his one-week-at-a-time philosophy. Don't look too far ahead.
Now, though, ahead is FSU, and one of his themes, so to speak, in the locker room this week is "60 minutes," a constant reminder that even a slight letup, a brief letup, can end in disaster.
An offense that can build a 31-3 lead through three quarters should be able to turn it over to a defense for one quarter. "We had that game and we gave it away," Campbell said. "The Sugar Bowl (FSU's 23-17 victory), that was two teams playing hard and one of them just being better. But Tallahassee (where the Seminoles rallied in front of their fans), we had no business letting that one get away."
The Gators are being cautious this week, tiptoeing around questions whose answers might be bulletin-board material for the FSU locker room. They don't want to say they will stop Dunn or get to Kanell, only that they hope to.
Still, there is just a touch of Gators arrogance.
Asked what Florida State does best, Wright replied: "They recruit. They get the best athletes, put them all on the same team and then go out and execute whatever's called for.
"But we practice against our own offense and once in a while we shut 'em down. It's good practice going against the best receivers in the country every day. Heck, we recruit pretty well, too."
A year ago, it was Dunn as much as anyone who wrecked the Gators in the fourth quarter, catching swing passes out of the backfield when Florida was hell-bent on rushing Kanell.
"This year," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said, "they've gone to more better coverages, more deception in their coverages, and the (pass) rush is not as dominating as it was last year."
Wright calls Dunn "their Barry Sanders."
"Low to the ground, great moves," Wright added. "You've got to set your butt down, run to him, through him and beyond him, let him make the move, concentrate on his hips, let him get tired of dancing.
"And we've got to use the field to our advantage, use the sideline as our 12th man. If he goes outside, we can't let him outrun us. We've got to knock him out of bounds. And beat him up. Beat all of them up, not just Warrick Dunn. Punish them and let the fourth quarter take its toll on them."
It is an oversimplification to say if the Gators stop Dunn, the Seminoles will be done. "Not even close," said nickel back Ben Hanks, the Gators' defensive captain. "Their offense is a lot more balanced than that, like a couple of guys (Andre Cooper and E.
G. Green) closing in on 1,000 yards (receiving)."
Said Wright: "We've got to pressure the quarterback and gang-tackle the receivers, bang on them, hit 'em on the hands, get those hands sore so when you hit 'em again the ball comes out. We already know their strengths and weaknesses. Now it's a matter of knowing what they're going to throw at us before they do it."
Junior cornerback Shea Showers watched FSU's only loss, to Virginia, on television. He saw the Cavaliers hold Dunn to 54 yards rushing and 66 receiving, saw one player glued to him all night regardless of where the ball was going.
"If they want me to shadow him, I'll be on him no matter where he is," Showers said. "If he goes to the sideline, I'll be there with him. If he takes a break, I'm going to take a break. When he comes back, I'll come back."
Showers nearly scored Florida's first defensive touchdown of the season, grabbing a fumble in the end zone Saturday against Vanderbilt _ but not before he had begun rolling out of bounds.
"An omen," he said. "That was close. This game is going to turn on a big play by the defense. Somebody's going to score a defensive touchdown. For us, I mean."
And in a moment of candor (or perhaps wishful thinking), Showers said that when he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep, he envisions a scoreboard "and I see a zero on their side."