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Florida A&M Seeks Perfection Vs. Gators

September 12, 2003

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ So, what exactly would Florida A&M have to do right to pull an upset over No. 19 Florida? ``Everything,″ Rattlers linebacker Shedrick Copeland said.

By almost any measure, he is not exaggerating.

When FAMU meets Florida on Saturday, it will find a bigger, faster, more athletic team on the other side of the line _ one that still has some anger left from last week’s late-game collapse in a 38-33 loss to Miami.

The Rattlers, meanwhile, have a great band (The famous Marching 100) and some big-time talent at a few positions (safety Levy Brown has 11 interceptions in two seasons). And then there’s the $400,000 check the program will receive for showing up, which is the main reason games like these are on the schedule.

FAMU can use the money and the experience. The Rattlers (1-1) are moving from Division I-AA to Division I-A next season and will find themselves up against teams like Florida more and more. They opened last season with a 63-17 loss at Miami.

``To achieve greatness, of course, in our culture, you have to have a challenge,″ A&M coach Billy Joe said. ``Once you overcome that challenge, you’ll be deemed great. So, we have that opportunity. And we’re willing and ready to take on that challenge.″

Florida (1-1), meanwhile, is looking for a tuneup and an ego boost as it gets ready for next week’s Southeastern Conference opener against Tennessee.

The game is considered such a mismatch that major sports books don’t even have a line out on it. Florida coach Ron Zook said there are still improvements to be made, and he’ll be able to judge them regardless of the score.

For the record, Florida was a 42-point favorite in a similar game last season against Ohio. The Gators won 34-6 but looked awful and didn’t put the game away until the fourth quarter.

``You look for consistency, lack of mental errors, those kinds of things,″ Zook said. ``Good, crisp tackling and kickoff coverage, obviously.″

The Gators have allowed kickoff returns of 97, 68 and 57 yards this season and will make some adjustments on the coverage team.

Zook said quarterback Ingle Martin, who left last week’s game with a concussion, is cleared to play and should get the start. But he’ll continue to rotate with Chris Leak, and possibly Gavin Dickey.

Florida may have redefined its season when it dominated the second-ranked team in the country last week _ albeit for only 2 1/2 quarters en route to a 33-10 lead. A team that wasn’t expected to do much this season suddenly looks like it has talent. A team that many pegged for .500 looks a bit more like an SEC title contender.

``We came out and proved not only to the country, but to ourselves, how good we could play on any given Saturday,″ cornerback Keiwan Ratliff.

Of course, if the Gators need any special motivation for this game, they can pick and choose from a selection of fun bulletin-board material being doled out by the Rattlers.

``I’m looking forward to having a great game,″ cornerback Edward Kwaku said. ``I know I’m having an interception. However it goes, I’m going to take it back for a touchdown.″

Then there was the preseason boast of defensive tackle John Edwards, who claimed not a single team on FAMU’s schedule this year would produce a 100-yard rusher. So far, he’s been right. Neither Alabama State nor Morgan State did it in the first two games.

``I really don’t have a comment on that,″ said Florida tailback DeShawn Wynn, who ran for 100 yards last week. ``I guess we’ll see Saturday how that works out.″

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