With the Florida Gators preparing for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Saturday against the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs, a number of players were made available to the media early in the week to discuss how the team is progressing heading into the neutral site game in Jacksonville, FL.
GEORGIA (AND THE ST. JOHN’s BRIDGE) ON THEIR MINDS
All of the players were asked about what Georgia week feels like and if they are especially pumped up for this particular contest.
Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey: “[It’s] a big game, big week. I’ve been in the game twice and have seen what can happen in this game. It’s fun, exciting. [...] This is a big one. This determines if we can still go to the SEC Championship and stuff like that. It’ll be big.”
Junior linebacker Jon Bostic: “It’s a big game. It’s another SEC game. We don’t really look at it as ‘Georgia;’ it’s another big SEC game.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio: “I didn’t realize the stories that they were telling me until I went to an actual Florida-Georgia game my first year. It’s probably one of the best games to play in all year. We’ve been waiting all year for this game, so it’s going to be a good experience this year.”
They also discussed what it is like to cross over the St. John’s Bridge on game day and see the festivities already ongoing and awaiting their arrival.
Bostic: “Going across that bridge – when you see it split down the middle, it really doesn’t get better than that. It’s crazy how it’s split right down the middle. When I first got here as a freshman, I really didn’t know too much about it. A lot of the older guys were telling me. As soon as you go across the bridge, that’s when you really start feeling it. Most of the time it’s when you step in the stadium as soon as you get out of the bus, but there it starts as soon as you cross the bridge.”
Halapio: “That’s when it hits you that it’s the Florida-Georgia game, when you cross over that bridge and all you see is red-and-black and orange-and-blue, RVs everywhere, Georgia flags, Florida flags everywhere. That’s when it really hits you that it’s the Florida-Georgia game.”
Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “[My older teammates] broke it down, but until you experience it yourself, you can’t really know what to expect. You hear about it and, when it finally happens, you’re like, ‘OK. This is more than what they were saying.’ You take it all in. It’s a rivalry game, and you wouldn’t expect nothing less. Once you go over that bridge it’s game time. It’s time to focus and get ready for the game.”
REMEMBERING BEING DISRESPECTED IN 2007
Rainey: “All I can remember of this team is when they were dancing on us. That’s embarrassing and we lost that game, too, at the same time. [...] It stays in my head when people do something like that to me.”
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard: “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen anything like that. I had never witness that in a football game before. Just to see it was like they don’t care about Florida really. It’s respect. You don’t do anything like that. Total disrespect. We went out there and made a statement the following year. Just keep the tradition alive and get a win this year.”
Hammond: “That definitely plays a role. I was in high school when that incident happened, but I came that following year. I feel that and I know what some of the players went through that are actually still here that actually experienced that. It definitely makes that rivalry game have that intensity. [...] Every week we play against Georgia they replay it. We’ll probably end up seeing it today. They replay it just as a reminder of how that team – obviously it was unnecessary – and they went ahead and did that. Just stay professional and just play football the way it’s supposed to be played and move forward.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd on what his unit worked on during the bye week: “We didn’t just focus on what the D-line had to fix. As a defense we worked on fundamentals, tackling and form and everything over the bye week. We knew it was going to be tough going into it, so we just got our minds right, dealt with it and did what we had to do. We prepared well and did a good job as a whole during the bye week.”
» Floyd on Georgia’s offense: “I really didn’t see nothing outstanding. I’m just ready to go, do my job, worry about the offensive line first and play everything else after.”
» Rainey on the team’s mentality heading into the UGA game: “It’s hard that we lost three games, but all we can do is keep our head up, stay focused, stay positive and just get ready for a big game and hopefully we can pull out with a win.”
» Rainey on how Tim Tebow looked this week: “It’s just like he did back here. He’s a leader, works hard, never gives up.”
Bostic on what his unit worked on during the bye week: “The whole bye week we just worked on fundamentals. Everything – hand placement, tackling, playing smart, trying to focus on not getting as many penalties as we’ve had in the past.”
» Bostic on needing to create turnovers: “We’re just trying to play hard, do our job. Turnovers are going to come. They may not come as much as we like every game, but we just got to keep playing like we’re playing knowing they’re going to come.”
» Howard on the defense needing to create turnovers: “We need to get turnovers badly. We haven’t had a turnover since the Kentucky game, and we have to get that back going to be successful and give our offense a chance.”
» Howard on how sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell is playing: “He’s doing fine. He’s playing well. He wasn’t able to travel with us last week, but he’s growing each week. He has three sacks on the year so far, so the production is there, but he’s young and still learning the game. He’s just going to keep getting better the more he plays.”