Gators best team on NIU schedule

By David Lance

When the Huskies first got their football schedule, they knew Saturday’s game with the Florida Gators—a team with its key players returning—wouldn’t be easy.

Now, with so much on the line for Florida, NIU (1-5) knows the game will be a downright killer.

The Gators (5-1) knocked Tennessee from the list of unbeatens last Saturday with a 35-18 victory before a Florida Field record 85,135. The Gators, averaging 32 points per game, are now ranked No. 6 in both the Associated Press and USA/CNN Coaches poll.

“I think I know why our schedule is the fourth toughest in the country,” NIU head coach Charlie Sadler said. “Florida is one of the top teams in the nation. Their resounding defeat of Tennessee proved that.

“They will vie for the SEC championship and quite possibly the National Championship. Florida is the best team on our schedule; better than Iowa. Good players? I saw about 22 of them on film.”

One of those good players is All-American candidate Shane Matthews. The junior quarterback heads the team’s “Fun and Gun” attack, and started the week No. 9 in NCAA total offense (270.5 yards per game) and No. 13 in passing efficiency (151.6).

The offense is rated 10th in passing (289.3 ypg.). Matthews will be trying to add to his school-record string of 11 straight 200-yard passing games.

“His experience, leadership and knowledge of the offense makes him a better player than last season,” Florida head coach Steve Spurrier said.

Spurrier has been Florida’s head coach since the 1990 season, but he had long since introduced himself to the campus.

From 1964-66, Spurrier was Florida’s starting quarterback. He won the Heisman Trophy in ‘66.

On defense, the Gators are led by tackle Brad Culpepper. The senior has 41 career tackles for losses.

Florida is 14th in scoring defense (14.0 ppg.) and 17th in rushing defense (105.7 ypg.).