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Secondary jelling in spite of defeat

After Florida's season-opening victory against Eastern Michigan, safety Cory Bailey said that the revamped Gators secondary needed time before it became a big-play unit.

One week later, Bailey's prediction still rings true.

Florida's defensive backfield dropped two interceptions and allowed the predominately run-oriented Eagles to throw for more than 200 yards in Week 1, and against Tennessee on Saturday, they continued to show signs of being a green unit.

Through the first three quarters, however, it looked as though the Gators' secondary had corrected its mistakes in the span of just seven days.

In the middle of the early action for the Gators was safety Terrence Holmes, who totaled three tackles, one interception and provided the physical presence Florida lost after the departure of Guss Scott.

Holmes, a converted wide receiver, was playing in just his second career game and the interception was his first as a Gator. While the sophomore teammates call Hot Tamale plays what he calls the "boundary safety" and is not a regular starter, UF coach Ron Zook used his nickel package almost exclusively, which kept Holmes on the field.

With the score tied at 14 with less than six minutes remaining in the second half, Holmes ranged to his left and intercepted a errant Erik Ainge pass, which set up a go-ahead Gators score. Then, on Tennessee's first drive of the second half, Holmes put a hit on Volunteers wide receiver Chris Hannon that broke up a long completion and sent Hannon to the sidelines after having the wind knocked out of him.

However, the six-defensive back look Florida used throughout the night was not enough to stop Ainge and the Volunteers late in the game. After Tennessee forced the Gators to punt with less than a minute remaining, safety Cory Bailey allowed Ainge to complete a pass in the middle of the field to set up the game winning field goal.

And again, the unit is asking for Gator Nation to be patient while it continues to develop.

""It seems like every game we play together, we learn from it and it helps us get better and better," Holmes said. "This was the first big game that a lot of us have started in and it gave us a lot more confidence to know that we can go in there and play with the best of them. Going into next week, we can use this as a stepping stone."