Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF's Response Is Togetherness; Gators Say They're Not Panicking after Loss; Team Unity Never a Question

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF's Response Is Togetherness; Gators Say They're Not Panicking after Loss; Team Unity Never a Question

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

GAINESVILLE -- There won't be any players-only meetings this week, no inspiring speeches in the locker room, no emotional outbursts on the practice field.

The Florida football team doesn't need them.

Saturday's loss to Tennessee, plus the officiating blunders that may have contributed to the Gators' loss, still sting, but this isn't a crisis situation. This isn't like 2003, when the Gators were 3-3 (1-2 SEC) and the outlook was bleak.

UF coach Ron Zook said he believes his players will respond to the Tennessee loss the way they did to the .500 record last season, but there isn't a need to galvanize the players. They're already standing arm-in-arm.

"We don't need to have a meeting about how everybody needs to come together," defensive tackle Ray McDonald said. "Everybody is already together."

That kind of unity was not a part of the 2003 team -- until that players-only meeting in the wake of a loss to Ole Miss at home. That brought the team together and sparked Florida's run that included wins at LSU and Arkansas.

This year's team, McDonald said, is much closer than 2003. That team didn't come together until the loss to Ole Miss. The 2004 Gators have been close since spring practice began.

"We were close last year, but this years team is a lot closer," McDonald said. "We jell together a lot more. Guys hang out more, hang out together a lot. We know what each others' tendencies are. We just like to play with each other."

Linebacker Channing Crowder said he saw the same kind of resolve on Monday during practice that he saw in the second half of last season.

"You could see in practice [Monday] that guys are serious," Crowder said. "When you see potential, it sticks out."

Zook saw it too on Monday, and that's why he believes his initial thought that the Gators would act like they did last season is still correct.

"Don't worry about this football team coming together," Zook said. …

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