Gators primed to host rival Hurricanes
GAINESVILLE, Fla. » It didn't take very long for Florida's focus to shift from beating Hawaii to facing rival Miami.
Maybe even less time than it took for Brandon James, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to score those long touchdowns in the fifth-ranked Gators' 56-10 victory Saturday.
Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow mentioned the Hurricanes several times in his post-game news conference, several teammates from South Florida talked about what it would mean to beat their hometown team, and receiver Louis Murphy clearly has been waiting for this one for a long time.
"We're going to let the dog eat," Murphy said. "It's rivalry week and we're going to come after them. They're going to come into The Swamp, trying to take our swagger, trying to take our throne, but we're not going to let that happen."
Miami has won six in a row in the on-again, off-again series. Florida's last victory came in 1985, before most of the current Gators were even born. So all they have seen is Florida on the losing end of a once-heated rivalry that used to be one of the best in the country.
"It's playing the 'U,'" Tebow said. "I've never done it before. I'm excited about it. I'm sure we'll have about 80 percent of the state of Florida here in Gainesville next week and (ESPN College) GameDay will be here. It'll be hype.
"No matter how good they played other teams last year or whoever they're going to play the rest of the year, they'll play their best game next Saturday versus us. Hopefully, we'll do the same."
The Gators can only hope they play as well as they did against Hawaii. Even with receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Aaron Hernandez and guard Jim Tartt on the sideline and Tebow doing less than ever before, Florida managed 406 yards of offense - most of it coming in the second and third quarters - and dominated every aspect of the game.
The Gators scored eight touchdowns in a 261/2-minute span, getting big plays from offense, defense and special teams.
James had a 74-yard punt return for a score, Rainey followed with a 33-yard TD run, and then Demps trumped both of them with an electrifying, 62-yard scoring run. They Gators also scored twice on interception returns.
"Our speed is crazy," Demps said. "At any time, anybody can score from 80 or 90 yards. It's fun to be around these guys and watch them play."
The Gators could be even faster against the Hurricanes. Coach Urban Meyer said yesterday he expects to get speedy receiver Percy Harvin back in the lineup against Miami. Harvin has been limited since having heel surgery in April. Meyer also hopes to have guard Jim Tartt (shoulder) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (foot) back for Saturday's game.
Meyer said he doesn't know much about the rivalry, which includes the "Florida Flop" in 1971, the "Peach Pelting" in 1980 and the "Bourbon Street Brawl" in 2001.
But he recognizes this:
"I know we have not beat them in 20 or 25 years or some ridiculous number like that and we're 0-6 against them," Meyer said. "I grew up watching Miami. I'm very well aware of what personnel they have. We'll face arguably one of the best personnel teams in the country."
Murphy wasn't so convinced.
He wanted to sign with Miami in 2005, but said then-coach Larry Coker didn't offer him a scholarship. And he's been harboring resentment since.
"At the time I was coming out, they were loaded," Murphy said. "They were actually good then. I wanted to go there and be a part of that receiving crew. They didn't want me. But now we have the best receiving crew here now. Right now, it's fueling me inside."
Murphy even took a shot at Miami's moniker.
"If I'm right, the 'U' stands for the University of Miami. Well, we're the University of Florida. We're the 'U.' I don't refer to them as the 'U.' I refer to them as Miami. If the 'U' is for university and winning and championships, we're the 'U.' They are Miami, and that's what I call them."