The Florida Gators football players needed this win Saturday night. The coaching staff needed this win Saturday night. Gator Nation needed a win Saturday night.
Florida scored first giving the Gators its first lead in a football game since they went up 17-10 against Texas A&M on October 14 — more than a month ago. The Gators cruised to a 36-7 win. It was their first win in over 50 days. That kind of extended losing streak, including losing a head coach can wear on a team. With no head coach, a five game losing skid and no bowl game to look for it would have been human nature to pack it in and start looking forward to the offseason.
Florida didn’t do that. They played loose, inspired and they had fun on Saturday.
“I just want to throw a shout out to Coach Rumph and Coach Shannon man. Without those dudes, this thing was the Titanic. Those guys have been patching it,” junior defensive lineman Taven Bryan said. “Like, I’ve seen a huge improvement in the team, attitude, play wise. They’ve been patching the ship the best they can. It was the Titanic at first, they’ve been patching it up and we’re floating.”
Not everyone made it off the Titanic. For every Rose there was a Jack. Jack McElwain?
McElwain’s departure put Randy Shannon in charge of a college football team for the first time since 2010. Shannon changed the tenor of the locker room. Yes, there would be competition. You would have to compete for your job but Shannon made sure to remind his players daily that football is a game. It’s meant to be fun and if you ever get to the point where you’re playing a game and not having fun, well, maybe it’s time you stop playing and find something else you enjoy.
“He just got people to not worry about anything and just play football,” senior Brandon Powell said. “That’s what Coach Shannon has been trying to get everybody to understand. Just go out and have fun, enjoy it. That’s what we did tonight.”
The results speak for themself. Florida rushed for 257 yards — the most they’ve rushed for this season. Feleipe Franks, now in his third separate stint as starting quarterback this season, threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The defense stifled the nation’s 28th ranked rushing attack, holding UAB to just three yards. That’s 207.5 less than their season average. The defense also forced four turnovers; the second week in a row they forced four.
This was a team that was down and out. They didn’t have anything to play for other than themselves, their coaching staff, and their families. They played for pride. Sure it was UAB but the Gator team that showed up on Saturday isn’t a four win football team. Saturday you saw, finally, the Titantic before it struck the iceberg. Majestic, regal, so much potential.
“Hey, they’ve got some good repairmen on that Titanic this time,” Bryan said when he was reminded that the Titanic didn’t exactly have a happy ending. “They learned from their mistakes. They’re patching it and we’re floating.”