Something many questioned if the Florida Gators still had after a homecoming loss to Missouri. Something head coach Will Muschamp even admitted may have been an issue.
Following a 38-20 defeat of Georgia last Saturday, the question now is if the team may be riding too high as they prepare for this weekend’s contest against Vanderbilt.
“We don’t have anything to be overconfident about,” Muschamp said. “I think that one of the things you talk to your players about is how you respond after a loss and how do you respond after a win.”
The cause for concern stems from past experience. Last year the Commodores played homecoming spoiler for Florida, winning 31-17. It was Vanderbilt’s first win in Gainesville since 1945. The Gators had 39 yards rushing and four turnovers in the loss.
However, the two teams that will take the field Saturday night look much different than they did a year ago. The Commodores are 3-6 and are 10th in the SEC in rushing defense, something the Gators will look to take advantage of on the heels of a stellar rushing performance against Georgia. On 60 carries the Gators had 418 yards rushing, controlling the clock and taking the will of the opposing defense. Florida also cut down on the turnovers, fumbling the ball away once on a mistimed handoff.
The ball control allowed Florida to run the offense they wanted, something the team wasn’t able to do in previous games. Muschamp said he is looking to form some consistency in what they do and believes they will be able to, due to the team’s work ethic.
“I mean, we had 15 turnovers in the previous four games,” Muschamp said. “When you don’t have ball possession, it’s hard to continue to do that. The game before Georgia game, the scoreboard changed quickly on us, and we had a hard time staying in some running-game situations.”
Coming off a big win, there isn’t any concern about a let down against Vanderbilt. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard said the team has a point to prove to every team left on the schedule.
“In the meetings, it’s very intense when everybody [is] in there, from the young guys to us veterans, and making an emphasis on we want to go out and win and make it look good especially on the defensive side of the ball. Stop whatever they throw at us.”
For a team with a lot of outside talk surrounding the program, Florida may not have silenced all of the critics, but they quelled the overall noise for now. The Gators are still in the SEC East hunt, and while the team has seen the scenarios in which they could make it to Atlanta, nothing can happen without a win against Vanderbilt.
“Yeah, Missouri has to lose to Tennessee and another SEC opponent,” Offensive lineman Max Garcia said. “I think Georgia has to lose again, also. So you know it’s not in our hands, but none of that matters if we don’t win out either. So like I said, we want to do our part and that’s going five straight.”