College Football: Florida, Georgia downplaying the Gator Stomp

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Associated Press
ATHENS, Ga. ó Urban Meyer vowed in writing to get back at the Georgia Bulldogs. Now, he dismisses any hard feelings as “old news.”
Mark Richt won’t talk about it either, brushing off questions with an explanation he trotted out three months ago.
Nice try, guys.
They may be two of America’s best college football coaches, but both came across as hopelessly naive with their attempts to muzzle any banter about the “Gator Stomp” ó a still-infamous bit of bravado that sent Georgia’s spirits soaring and left Florida seething for a full year.
Now, it’s time for the rematch, and all those juicy side plots ó revenge, redemption, justification ó are still on the table, along with an inside track to the Southeastern Conference championship game and a possible shot at the national title.
Even those with more pressing issues are eager to see the follow-up, wondering how Meyer’s No. 5 Gators will react when they get another shot at Richt’s eight-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday.
“Something’s going to happen in that game. I’ll guarantee you that,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “Something’s going to happen after what happened last year. You can book that.”
It’s going to be hard to top what happened a year ago. For those who might have been on an African safari or exploring the Amazon, here’s a brief refresher:
Perturbed by a lack of emotion, Richt challenged his players to celebrate so hard after their first touchdown that the refs would throw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. If not, they would face his wrath when they got back to Athens.
The team took Richt at his word, storming the end zone en masse after Knowshon Moreno scored on a 1-yard run midway through the first quarter. About 70 players swallowed up their teammate, jumping up and down in unison while the Gators merely watched, stunned by the brashness of it all.
Even though Georgia drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and had to kick off from its 8-yard line, Richt’s motivational brainstorm served its purpose. The Bulldogs romped to a 42-30 victory over the defending national champions, just the third win against their rival in 18 years.
Richt’s team won the rest of its games, too, finishing No. 2 in the rankings. He was reprimanded by the conference and apologized for his actions, insisting he didn’t mean for the entire team to go on the field. In July, he talked about it again during the SEC’s preseason media bash.
“I was in shock as much as anybody else,” Richt said. “I was a coach desperate to try to get some enthusiasm, and I was willing to take a 15-yard penalty. Now, in hindsight, I asked the team to do an unsportsmanlike act, because it’s called unsportsmanlike conduct, excessive celebration. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t do anything like that again. It could have easily turned into a big, stupid brawl.”
That will have to stand for Richt’s version of events. As soon as the Bulldogs had finished off a 52-38 victory at LSU on Saturday night, the coach was asked about last year’s celebration. He referred the matter to sports information director Claude Felton, who sent out an e-mail shortly after midnight with a transcript from July.
All question since then have been answered with two words, “No comment.”
But a former player, Kelin Johnson, said the Bulldogs have no reason to apologize.
“It was our business,” said Johnson, who played safety in that game. “And we won the game. A lot of people say it was cocky, that it’s not coach Richt’s style, but obviously it worked. … There’s a time and place for everything, and that was definitely the time for that.”
Of course, Florida might see things a bit differently.