Ga­tors aim to close with em­phatic win

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - Egth­omp­[email protected] or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

Mean­while, FSU’s third game since Wil­lie Tag­gart’s fir­ing is the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time for Hag­gins, the 52-year-old for­mer Semi­noles’ nose guard and long­time de­fen­sive line coach. An up­set of the Ga­tors might give FSU de­ci­sion-mak­ers pause when look­ing out­side the pro­gram for a new head coach.

Mullen ex­pects Hag­gins and his staff to coach as if they have noth­ing to lose.

“The head coach is al­ways go­ing to have a lit­tle bit of in­flu­ence on the per­son­al­ity of the team and how they’re do­ing it,” Mullen said. “When you re­move that, if you take me out and just take me away from the team this week, there’s go­ing to be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity with the team. Now theirs’ is prob­a­bly go­ing to be a lit­tle bit more of a dras­tic per­son­al­ity be­cause you’ve re­moved the head coach, who’s not com­ing back. It’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity that can come out with how they call, how they game plan, how they scheme and play.

“That’s what we’ve got to be pre­pared for.”

A few new wrin­kles and dev­il­may-care attitude still might be enough for Hag­gins’ Semi­noles to up­set the Ga­tors.

But UF is not tak­ing the chal­lenge ahead lightly.

Star tail­back Cam Ak­ers (1,042 yards, 13 touch­downs) and re­ceiver Tamor­rion Terry (892 re­ceiv­ing yards, eight scores) have the at­ten­tion of a Ga­tors’ de­fense tied for first nationally with 15 in­ter­cep­tions and fifth nationally with 38 sacks.

“Cam, that’s a ballplayer,” said Greenard, who lined up twice against FSU while at Louisville. “They’ve got some re­ally good play­ers over there de­spite the sea­son they’re hav­ing. The in­ter­nal stuff, they can’t con­trol that. They’re go­ing to come out with ev­ery­thing, all their punches, just like we will, too.

“Ex­pect a dog fight.”

The Florida-Florida State game stirs the pas­sions of play­ers and fan bases alike. Yet lately, the Ga­tors-‘Noles clash has rarely pro­duced stir­ring foot­ball.

Since 2000, just four games have been de­cided by one pos­ses­sion, most re­cently a 24-19 Semi­noles win in 2014.

Dur­ing the 1990s, Steve Spurrier and Bobby Bow­den’s teams went toe-to-toe dur­ing one of col­lege foot­ball’s pre­miere ri­val­ries, with the Semi­noles hold­ing a 7-4-1 record. Since then, ei­ther one pro­gram or the other one of­ten has held a dis­tinct up­per hand.

Af­ter snap­ping a five-game los­ing streak last Novem­ber with a 41-14 win in Tal­la­has­see, it ap­pears to the be the Ga­tors’ turn to seize con­trol of the se­ries and end a four-game skid at home, dat­ing to Tim Te­bow’s fi­nal home game in 2009.

“It’ll def­i­nitely put a lit­tle chip on our shoul­der, just to go out there and ex­e­cute,” UF se­nior re­ceiver Josh Ham­mond said. “We’re not a team that wants to lose at home.”

If the Ga­tors were to need fur­ther in­cen­tive, an ex­pected sell­out crowd on Se­nior Day at night in the Swamp should pro­vide it.

“I ex­pect it to be ex­trav­a­gant. I ex­pect it to be big, loud,” UF se­nior de­fen­sive tackle Adam Shuler said. “Last one at home, last one of the sea­son, try­ing to beat FSU. I think it’s go­ing to be a good one.”

JAMES GIL­BERT/GETTY

UF re­ceiver Tyrie Cleve­land (89) is ea­ger to close his se­nior sea­son with a high­light play against ri­val FSU Satur­day in the Swamp.

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