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December 31, 2005

A soggy shutout

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Goose eggs. Goose eggs. Goose eggs.

That was the chant from the Florida team after they blanked California 20-0 Saturday afternoon in the Air 7 CaliFlorida Bowl at Cal-State Fullerton. While the Florida offense was able to squeeze out enough points in a driving rain storm, it was the defense that stole the show with a feat that had never been done before in the game's seven-year history.

"You guys should be really proud of yourselves," Florida coach David Wilson of Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln told his team after the game.

"You came out and worked hard all week and when it came game time, you did something that no other team has done before in this game. Hats off to the defense, they played great tonight."

Wilson's comments got the Florida team fired up. The defensive players started to celebrate with their own unique dance that they had repeated throughout most of the game. Call them the dancing D, because they definitely got their groove on against a California offense that had plenty of firepower.

For Florida it started up front with the play of defensive tackle Doug Thacker of Sanford (Fla.) Seminole. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder couldn't be blocked the entire game and easily had the best personal performance of anybody out there on both sides of the ball.

"I wasn't doing anything different than I usually do," Thacker said with a smile that radiated despite having grass and mud all over his face.

"I usually get a great push off the line, and today I was just doing the same thing that I normally do. I didn't really do anything special. I just kept going after the quarterback or whoever had the ball. I made it my mission to go get them."

He accomplished his mission time after time. During one stretch in the third quarter, Thacker recorded a tackle for a loss, a sack and another sack on three consecutive plays.

"It felt good to come out here and do this," Thacker said. "I had a good week of practice, and I knew that could be a good opportunity to prove to people that I'm a good player. I took it as a challenge to help get myself better prepared for when I head up to Virginia Tech.

"I can't wait to get up there after something like this. Tell all the Hokie fans I'm coming and ready to help them win a lot of games."

But Thacker wasn't the only big-time defender for Florida.

Jasper (Fla.) Suwanee four-star outside linebacker Dustin Doe had the play of the day when he scooped a fumble up and raced 64-yards for a touchdown.

The play was originally designed as a sweep to the right for California running back Kenny Ashley, but the snap was low and it never made it to the quarterback and it ended up being kicked by Ashley.

Doe then swooped in from the outside and picked it up and scored.

"It was the swoop, scoop and score," Doe said.

"I saw the running back come outside toward me, and I was in position to blow him up. Then I saw the ball there, I picked it up and ran it faster than I had ever run before."

Doe said his teammates had been making fun of him most of the week for his running style. They weren't after he didn't let any of the speedy California players catch him.

"They were saying I ran like a Duck," Doe said. "They didn't give me any static after I scored. I told them I was fast, and I proved them."

Other Florida defenders also contributed heavily to the shutout.

Deland, Fla., three-star defensive tackle Reggie Odom had an impressive interception in the second half.

Odom intercepted Michael Herrick's pass when he tipped it up in the air and came down with it with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter.

Defensive tackles Charles Deas of Ft. Lauderdale Dillard, John Paul of Immokalee and Leslie Stirrups of Tampa Hillsborough consistently beat a very talented group of California offensive linemen, never giving the Golden State team a shot to move the ball on a consistent basis.

"It was all about the defensive line," Paul said while celebrating with his teammates late in the fourth quarter.

"We came out and played together as a team, but we were definitely the heart beat of this squad. Mark it down, nobody will do this again in this game.

"Look at the scoreboard - what do you see? Goose eggs, baby. Goose eggs."


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