COLUMBIA, S.C. — The stark reality hit the Florida Gators football team last week in Missouri. A blowout loss to a mediocre football team left Florida with three games left on the season and three wins needed to attain bowl eligibility.
The team rallied around that. David Reese called the team out in the media shortly following the game against Missouri. The players all spoke about how important it would be to send the seniors off the right way and their desire to go to a bowl game.
Florida lost that chance Saturday, falling to South Carolina 28-20 at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gators, now 3-6, have lost five straight games and won’t reach the six wins needed to attain bowl eligibility.
Florida, technically, could still go to a bowl game. If all the bowl slots are not filled the NCAA could offer Florida a waiver based on it’s Academic Progress Rate (APR). Florida has a very high APR of 983.
“Unfortunately we lost a game due to the hurricane, which makes that shot harder. I mean, Florida State decided to reschedule their game, I wish we could do the same or something like that. But we’re just focused on going 2-0 in these next couple games and whatever happens, happens,” linebacker David Reese said. “I feel like God has a plan. If it’s our will to go to one, then we’ll go to one. But we’re focused on going 2-0 in the Swamp these next two games.”
Things to be considered would be the Gators would have a new coach who is, first, trying to keep together a recruiting class and build up his staff. Maybe he’d like to see what he has on the current roster by watching bowl practices, but that is far less important than recruiting and filling out a staff.
To their credit, the team played hard on Saturday in Columbia. There was no quit in any of the players that took the field. They just came up short. It’s been a tumultuous season, to say the least, but now the question is what is there to play for in these next two games.
Taven Bryan has an idea as to how Florida has gotten to this point.
“We’ve got some bad stuff on the team, I guess. We’ve been purging it out. We’ve been getting better at it. We’ve been cleaning things up,” he said. “A lot of things have been wrong but we have Coach Rumph and Coach Shannon fixing all that. As you can see today we definitely performed to a higher level but it just doesn’t come over night coming from zero to hero.”
Bryan declined to state what “bad stuff” he was alluding to, “That’s confidential,” he said.
Still, its troubling that, on November 11th, 11 weeks into the season, a player seems ok that the team he is on is just starting to weed out problems. That would bring into question, for the next two weeks, as to how the team would rally for their final two games?
“I’m just worried about sending these seniors out the right way,” redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “You know, they work so hard, man, and they don’t deserve to go out there and get two losses. We’ve gotta go out there and we’re gonna fight. And they deserve to go out the right way.”
Florida has 13 seniors on the roster. Those players have been through a lot in their four years. They’ve had two coaches fired during their tenure and endured two five game losing streaks. They were also a game away from potentially playing for a National Championship in 2012.
Whether it’s for pride, for the seniors or for the outside chance at a bowl game Florida needs to find something to play for these next two weeks to salvage whatever is left of a season that was lost weeks ago.