Toledo seniors sound off on Florida

Florida and Toledo have combined to play 203 seasons of collegiate football but August 31, 2013 will be the first time the Rockets and Gators meet each other on the field. In fact, Toledo has never played any team from the SEC, so head coach Matt Campbell and the Rockets will be killing two birds with one stone next Saturday in The Swamp.

For the Rockets, the game in Gainesville represents not only a chance to upset the No. 10 ranked Gators in The Swamp, but for three seniors it represents a chance to go down as the first team to beat an SEC opponent in school history.

Gator Country had the opportunity to sit down with Bernard Reedy (WR,PR/KR), Christian Smith (DE) and Terrance Owens (QB) to talk about the matchup, how they are game planning for the Gators and what it would mean to kick off their final collegiate season with a win.

On how the team has been preparing for the heat in Gainesville and if they think it will play a big impact on Saturday.

Bernard Reedy: “Right now it’s averaging about 90 degrees in Toledo right now so we’ve been practicing out in the heat and out on the turf and it’s like 10 degrees hotter on the turf so there ain’t no telling what the temperature is. Other than that, we shut the doors in the indoor facility and turn up the heat in there and get it as close as possible to how the environment is going to be down there. I always feel like it’s going to be a different type of heat, we just want to get it close to there.”

Christian Smith: “We got a lot of guys from Florida on the team. They tell us what to expect from the game as far as the environment and the weather and all that. I’m from Oklahoma City, so I know a little bit about the heat.”

Terrance Owens: “We’ve been preparing for it, we’ve had a lot of hot weather this summer up here and we’ve practiced in the indoor facility a few times with the heat turned up a little bit, just trying to get a feel for the atmosphere down in Florida. Our coaches have been preaching hydration.”

On being a double-digit underdog.

Owens: “Yeah it motivates me. You know it’s a big program [Florida], SEC conference, so we pretty much expected to go down there as underdogs. But we can use it as motivation.”

Smith: “When we play a big school like Florida, I know we’re going to be underdogs but we haven’t really paid attention to Vegas or what people are saying about the game. You can expect that [going in as a 3-touchdown underdog] but we can’t do anything except play our game.”

Reedy: “Our coaches never brought that up. They say that the Florida Gators are a good team; SEC and they’re going to play to win just how we’re going to play to win. We never bring up anything point-wise from the opponent; we just see it as another game, another team. It’s just a bigger stage, bigger than the MAC, so we just see it is, if you put in the preparation and the time you’ll be successful.”

What would it mean to start your senior season off with a win against Florida?

Smith: “It would set the tone for the season, measure how good we are and where we stand at right now playing against a great team like that. I know the people in Toledo believe in us but other people are saying we’re going to get blown out. We can’t let that get to us, we just gotta play our game.”

Reedy: “I would say that it would be a big accomplishment. I think this is the first time Toledo has faced the team in their history, so that would be a big accomplishment. The years before me they couldn’t play an SEC school, so I just feel like it will be a big accomplishment and would give us a start to a successful season.”

Owens: “It would mean a lot. It would give us a lot of confidence going into the rest of our season and it would mean a lot for our program.”

How are you preparing for Florida?

Owens: “Florida has pretty athletic guys. They lost a lot of guys on defense but it seems like they still have a lot of experience, those guys are good. They play a lot of cover 3, single safety look and we gotta be aware of that and take advantage of that.”

Smith: “They’re a very fast and physical team but I feel like we have a lot of fast guys and we’re physical as well. It’s going to be a lot of emotion flying, a lot of energy, first game of the season, a lot of people, we have a lot of guys who didn’t get the opportunity to play last year, so they just have to go out there and prove themselves. Everybody has been working out hard all summer, it’s going to be a great day.”

What are you looking forward to most?

Smith: “I’m looking forward to everything. I love playing in front of big crowds like that, we played at Ohio State a couple of years ago, just that atmosphere, I just love that. It’s just a great opportunity to play a great team in the Florida Gators and I’m looking forward to that.”

On head coach Matt Campbell

Owens: “Our coach is 33 and he relates to the young guys, he understands what we go through. He’s a great coach.”

Smith: “We have a great relationship with our coach. He’s young and he was in our position not too long ago, so he knows how our bodies react to camp two-a-days and all that stuff. He does a great job of letting us get rest and keeping us under control.”

Owens on preparing for Florida’s defense

Owens: “Florida has pretty athletic guys. They lost a lot of guys on defense but it seems like they still have a lot of experience, those guys are good. They play a lot of cover 3, single safety look and we gotta be aware of that and take advantage of that.”

On Pass Rush: “We have to game plan for those guys. Just basically, right now we’re watching film, continuing to get better at practice and execute, that’s the main thing we need to do, execute.”

On Cornerbacks: “Those guys are pretty athletic. They have some good height on them but it really comes down to execution.”

Score Prediction?

Owens: “I don’t have a score prediction. We’ll just have to find out on August 31.”

Smith: “Na, I don’t have a score prediction, I’ll just go out there and play. I ain’t trying to make no headlines.”

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC