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