With just under eight minutes left in the third quarter last
Saturday at Florida Field, Gators junior defensive end Alex
Brown blindsided South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty. Brown
jarred the football loose and crawled along the ground to
recover the fumble. That inspired play helped clinch Florida's
41-21 victory and the SEC East title. It also triggered a faint
memory of the Gators' 23-21 win over Tennessee in September last
year, in which Brown had five sacks, one forced fumble, one
interception and two pass deflections in one of the best
defensive performances in Florida history.
After that game, Volunteers quarterback Tee Martin called Brown
one of the best lineman he'd ever seen, and Florida State coach
Bobby Bowden dubbed him Superman. Though Brown would finish 1999
with a school-record 13 sacks, kryptonite appeared over the last
several weeks of the season in the form of double-team blocking.
Late in the year Gators defensive coordinator Jon Hoke even
criticized Brown's effort. "There were times when I got tired,
took a play off and didn't rush as hard as I needed to," Brown
admits. "I was living off that one great game."
Based on last year's stats, Brown was a preseason 2000
All-America, and he predicted he'd get 20 sacks this year. With
his one sack Saturday he has a more modest total of 7 1/2, but
that still leads the team. "Alex got off to a slow start, but in
the last few games he's turned up the heat," Hoke says. "He
isn't getting a ton of sacks, but quarterbacks are hearing his
Brown, who still regularly faces double teams, says he has spent
most of this year "a half step away" from nailing the
quarterback and insists that his disappointing sack total no
longer stems from a lack of effort. While Brown's early
departure to the NFL after this season has been downgraded from
probable to questionable, nobody understands better than he does
how one monster game can catapult a player's stock. He's eagerly
anticipating Saturday's showdown with Florida State because the
Seminoles are a passing team with a relatively immobile
quarterback, Chris Weinke, and Brown knows the game could hinge
on whether he can put pressure on Weinke. "I remember staying up
late watching the highlights of that Tennessee game because I
never wanted to forget it," Brown says. "I hope to prove I can
make that kind of news again."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG Like old times Showing flashes of his 1999 form, Brown pressured Petty and the Gamecocks.