Florida and Florida State meet Friday for the third time in the 2010/2011 competitive cycle, Florida having won both fall meetings, 18-3 and 22-19, respectively. But, unlike those, this one really matters. The first two were part of a the Florida Union’s Florida Cup, a competition designed for just that - competition.
When the in-state rivals meet in Tallahassee Friday, it’ll be for the first of two South Conference matches, and though Florida has won every rendezvous in recent history (at least the duration of both current coach’s stints) the Seminoles have been closing the gap.
“We’re clawing back little by little,” said FSU coach Tim Russell. “We’re nipping at the heels, and it’s time we give our bigger brother a bit of a slap on the back and see if we can really challenge them.”
If that’s to happen, there’s little doubt Seminole flyhalf Dylan Hamilton will be in the center of the effort.
“He’s a talented runner, talented kicker and all that stuff. He’s got good skills,” said Florida coach Ken Simmons, who coached Hamilton and the Florida All-Star team at the South LAU Championships a few years back.
“Three of our kids got a stomach virus the night before the games, and all of them had to stay in bed except for Dylan. He was puking all night, and he was able to play in that game and did pretty well for us. We put him on the wing, and he was pretty tough.”
Likely lining up across from Hamilton for Florida is freshman Lucas Baistrocchi, who has been impressive in his own right.
“He’s got a hell of a boot on him,” said Russell, “so he’s going to be an extremely interesting threat to us.”
While both FSU and Florida have skilled players at standoff, as well as throughout the backline, the battle in the pack will likely determine Friday’s winner.
Florida features a much bigger pack. “That’s definitely a big plus,” said Simmons. “We’ve got a pack right now that I’m pretty proud of the way they’ve been playing ball. They’ve got good size, good skill and they’ve been working their butts off, which makes it a lot easier to gain possession and maintain it.”
On the contrary, FSU goes with a smaller scrum, but does so successfully. “If there’s anything we have in having a smaller pack, it’s we’re much more loose around the field, we’re able to support quicker and be dynamic in support,” said Russell. “And the two things we’re going to do is attack with speed and apply constant pressure. If we can do those two things we might come out with a win.”
Simmons admits that it’s only a matter of time before Florida State gets the better of his team. Will that time come Friday? If no, it won’t be because of a lack of desire from the Seminoles.
“They can’t wait. It’s been a real tough challenge for us as a coaching staff here to contain it,” said Russell of his team’s eagerness for UF blood. “There have been fights breaking out at practice, they’ve been knocking the snot out of each other non-stop, and we try to hold the reins back a little and restrain them, because they’re ready to explode.”