Friday, December 30, 2005

Columnists' Corner

Berry Tramel, Oklahoman: A team that was lost in September’s swelter has been found in December’s salt breeze. Oklahoma beat No. 5 Oregon in a rousing Holiday Bowl that showed why the Sooner tribulations of 2005 should be a one-year aberration (registration).

John Canzano, Oregonian: Even if Oregon had pulled out the Holiday Bowl victory and eked past Oklahoma in that final, magical drive, it would have gone down as a qualitative loss, which means the Fiesta Bowl selection committee got it right weeks ago.

Terence Moore, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: How do you say rinky dink, as in something called the Emerald Bowl, as in why is the ACC even sending one of its members to this thing? (registration).

Kurt Kragthorpe, Salt Lake Tribune: Something that was believed entering the Emerald Bowl was absolutely true: One of the participants was a team that nobody should want to play at this time of year. Except it was not Georgia Tech.

Jim Souhan, Minneapolis Star Tribune: It's a lose-lose situation. Minnesota has offered a great deal of money to a coach, Glen Mason, it doesn't seem to like, a passive-aggressive maneuver that, even if Mason agrees to those terms, will leave sour tastes all around (registration).

Mike Hlas, Cedar Rapids Gazette: Florida players insist it will be different this time, that the 37-17 loss to Iowa two years in the Outback Bowl wasn't a true representation of Gator football (subscription, so story is in comments).

1 comment:

dawizofodds said...

Both Teams Hungry This Time?

Mike Hlas
Cedar Rapids Gazette

TAMPA, Fla. — Apparently, Iowa barely had an opponent at the Outback Bowl two years ago.

To hear veteran Florida players tell it, the Gators left their ‘A’ game on the streets of Tampa and took something far less to Raymond James Stadium. The Hawkeyes flattened Florida that day, 37-17.

‘‘You’ve got to give Iowa credit,’’ Gators quarterback Chris Leak said Thursday before an Outback Bowl luncheon. ‘‘Iowa played a great game. They made plays.’’

But while Leak was as tight with his words as he is with his spirals, some of his teammates basically said UF took the 2004 Outback Bowl about as seriously as its season-opening 65-3 win over San Jose State. It wasn’t a matter of underestimating the Hawkeyes, they insisted. It was just not caring enough.

‘‘Guys are coming out actually to practice this year,’’ Florida senior safety Jarvis Herring said.

And two years ago?

‘‘We were a bunch of irresponsible players. Nobody really cared. We just hung out all night. We just had fun. We were like the bowl game was just like a vacation instead of a business trip.’’

Nobody said Ron Zook’s name out loud, but the message was clear. Two years ago, Florida was coached by Zook, now trying to dredge Illinois from its football swamp. Gator fans would rather dodge lost tourists than revisit the three-year Zook era that produced nothing but five-loss seasons capped by bowl defeats.

One of the nation’s elite college football programs became ordinary under Zook. Urban Meyer was hired last winter to restore pride to all who enjoy shouting ‘‘Gator Bait!’’ at rival fans.

With a 34-7 win over Florida State Nov. 26 to close an 8-3 regular season, Meyer has gained traction with fans. It sounds like he has his players’ attention this week, too.

‘‘Everybody takes everything seriously,’’ said senior cornerback Vernell Brown. ‘‘The preparation is a lot different. When it’s time to have fun, we have fun. When it’s time to come out and work to get better, that’s what we come out and do. In the past, I think people kind of got the times mixed up.’’

Simple as it may sound, the first key to winning a bowl is wanting to win it. Nebraska was a double-digit Alamo Bowl underdog to Michigan Wednesday, but the Cornhuskers played with a passion the Wolverines didn’t match.

‘‘Michigan’s head coach (Lloyd Carr) made some comments in the media leading up to the game about where they thought they should be and where they were,’’ said Iowa senior center Brian Ferentz. ‘‘I don’t think they played like they really wanted to be there. Nebraska wanted to win. Nebraska was hungry.’’

This year, we are told Florida has a similar desire. Ask Florida State if that’s a good thing for a foe to get from the Gators.

‘‘I think they definitely have a new outlook, a new mindset,’’ Ferentz said. ‘‘It seems like their players have a renewed sense of energy and determination. They play hard, they play physical, they play non-stop. That’s the thing I’ve really been impressed with on tape. Their guys play every down. Every single down, without let-up, which is a real credit to their coaching staff.’’

A skeptic could say that’s a player playing political football the way his dad, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, does with ease. But Brian sure sounded candid about what he saw from Florida the first go-round down here.

‘‘I think they probably lacked a lot of leadership from their upper classes,’’ Brian said. ‘‘It seemed like a football team that kind of floated through their week and floated through the game. To me, they got what they deserved and we got what we deserved that year. This is a whole new year. Those guys aren’t taking us lightly, I know that.’’

Similar things were heard from the Gators, leading one to believe Monday’s game will find Iowa lined up against a team that pushes back this time.

‘‘We came out this week and have had some great, competitive practices,’’ Brown said. ‘‘You can tell everyone’s focused on working, on the practice field and in the meeting rooms.’’ ‘‘Guys are in a couple of hours before curfew,’’ Herring added, ‘‘making sure they get their proper rest, being hydrated and all those things. We’re in good shape. Guys are rested and ready to go out and practice.’’

Does Florida want to be here? ‘‘We want to be here,’’ Herring replied with conviction. ‘‘We’re happy to be here. Very happy.’’

Does Iowa want to be here? ‘‘We’re ecstatic to be here,’’ Brian Ferentz said.

It just might be a ballgame.

mike.hlas@gazettecommunications.com