GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida has all the motivation it needs against rival Georgia, and coach Urban Meyer doesn’t want to give the Bulldogs any help.
No trash talk. No bulletin-board material. Not even a glimpse of how upset the Gators still are with what went down in Jacksonville last year.
Remember the “Gator Stomp?”
Florida sure does. But coach Urban Meyer’s players aren’t allowed to talk about it. Meyer issued a gag order concerning last year’s contentious celebration, the one in which the Bulldogs responded to coach Mark Richt’s pre-game challenge by running on the field following the team’s first touchdown.
It sparked Georgia’s 42-30 victory — the program’s third win in the last 18 games in the series — and plenty of hard feelings in Gainesville.
“I think it’s old news and I’m sure that old guy warned our players that it has no bearing on this year’s game,” Meyer said Sunday. “It’s two teams battling for the SEC East.”
Yes, the matchup between No. 5 Florida (6-1, 4-1) and eighth-ranked Georgia (7-1, 4-1) likely will decide the winner of the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division. It also could have national championship implications.
But the Gators might have a little extra motivation.
“Georgia is a game that everybody knowingly wants on our team,” linebacker Brandon Hicks said last month. “Everybody wants that game back. It feels like we have something to prove to the world. They came out and everybody thinks they intimidated us. We didn’t play good after the stunt they did.
“That’s pretty much the team that everybody wants on their list.”
The whole thing started when Knowshon Moreno leapt into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter. All of his teammates, about 70 of them, quickly surrounded him and started jumping up and down in unison and celebrating wildly.
The Gators just watched, stunned by the brazen Bulldogs.
The celebration drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and forced Georgia to kick off from its 8-yard line. It also drew Florida’s ire.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes called it a “big disrespect” after the game. He declined comment Saturday night, saying “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Although Meyer has publicly refrained from criticizing Richt, he said in his authorized biography that,
“We’ll handle it. And it’s going to be a big deal.”
Quarterback Tim Tebow, who also kept quiet after the Gators thumped Kentucky 63-5 Saturday night, said early last week that an opponent stomping on the field “means something to you.”
“As a player, it’s just one more thing to fire me up and get my adrenaline going that much more and the intensity,” Tebow said. “I don’t think it’s an extremely smart move to make.”
The Gators, though, don’t plan to orchestrate a similar act in the rematch.
“That’s not been our style,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “When teams do that, they expect not to score. We plan on putting points on the board, so we don’t need that. We don’t celebrate here. We go hug a big man and thank the people that got us in the end zone.”
Florida and Georgia have won three in a row since their only losses of the season. The Gators are coming off consecutive routs against LSU and Kentucky, and have scored 135 points in their last nine quarters. The Bulldogs hammered the defending national champion Tigers 52-38 Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
Both teams quickly turned their attention to each other following the blowouts.
“We feel like we can hang with anybody in the nation,” Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said. “We are going to come out and give our best game and try to do the best we can to stop Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and all those guys. They are a real talented group, and we’re all ready to start preparing.”
Richt, much like Meyer told his Gators to do, declined comment about last year’s celebration in Jacksonville.
But Meyer hinted it might be brought up as a motivational tool later in the week.
“I’m emphasizing with our players that we don’t play this thing until Saturday at 3:30,” Meyer said. “You’re not going to have to turn the music up a little louder ... or a (bulletin) board is not going to be really necessary in a game like this because the implications are that it’s for the SEC East, which is our ultimate goal.
“Those are all great story lines ... but I want to make sure our kids focus on what’s important and not what’s not important.”