Who would have predicted the Florida Gators football team would win like that on Saturday night? Not many, but times are a changing in Gainesville! And it’s a good thing!
It’s fair to be cautiously optimistic after what has been experienced the past two years, but Florida Gators Head Coach Jim McElwain and this staff have done a phenomenal job restructuring the mentality of this team.
“We have players who have accepted the challenges that we’ve put forth and are really invested in themselves and invested in each other and I think there were a lot of good things that pointed to that in this ball game.” McElwain stated in the post-game press conference.
That investment from the players has boiled over to the fans and the energy around the program is contagious. The last two weeks have been a roller coaster of excitement that has Gator Nation talking championships. While the path seems to be slightly easier, the Florida Gators will once again be tested next Saturday night. Three weeks in a row the Gators have been doubted and have proven themselves to be worthy of a top 15 national ranking. The next challenge will be overcoming complacency. We have seen the potential of this team and when all things are clicking, they have the ability to beat ANYONE.
The new staff deserves a lot of credit along with the players. I appreciate that Coach McElwain has a clear standard he is only setting for excellence. He has not allowed this team to settle for mediocrity, regardless of the output or accomplishment of that mediocrity. For example, as good as Will Grier has been, McElwain has yet to name him the permanent starter. I’m okay with that, because excellence is not guaranteed, it has to be worked towards everyday. It’s a journey. And this journey is full of challenges, with the next one lining up in Columbia.
Although they have not lived up to expectations Missouri will present a different challenge this Saturday. They have struggled all season to a 4-1 record and here come the Gators. They could easily be overlooked and not respected. Florida is the hunted this week and will the Gators be able to hold on to that chip on their shoulder they have played with the last couple of weeks, this will be another lesson and growth point for these young Gators.
Coach McElwain has done a great job coaching the mental and emotional side just as much as the X’s and O’s. In college football the hardest thing to do is maintain consistency week to week. These are young adults and they have a tendency to fall subject to the occasional brain fart or wider known as ‘Clemsoning’ or pulling a ‘Georgia’. McElwain will need to get the focus back again this week to beat a team in Missouri that thrashed Florida the last two years.
This just adds to the journey we are partaking in. This team has grown up so fast in the span of two weeks, and it’s GREAT! It’s easy to find jokes and stats that show how less than stellar the previous staff was, but that’s not what makes it fun and relieving. It’s the fact that we have hope in a promising future, and it’s only five games in!
Are we at the point to say that Florida has completely turned it around? That’s up for debate, but the product on the field is worth watching and investing in. Saturday night the Swamp was alive and well because the Gators actually destroyed a quality opponent. It was refreshing.
We have come to expect that effort from the Gators defense, but when the offense is popping that defense is extremely difficult to handle. Energy and excitement has a funny way of making things happen when you need it to happen. The last six quarters for Gators have had just about everything break right in their favor, save some questionable calls from the refs. That is the quality of football we desire to see.
We as fans get a chance to overreact to both good and bad and two weeks ago after escaping Lexington the instant overreaction was Tennessee and Ole Miss would run over the Gators, now the Gators are the favorite in the SEC East, is that an overreaction?, Maybe, but it’s not as far fetched as it seemed before Georgia got Steamrolled by Alabama.
Florida is not far from that reality, and there is a still growth to focus on, there are still challenges, still Heisman worthy opponents and there are still doubters. But belief has returned to Gainesville, Florida and we can be proud. It’s fun to watch offense again. It’s fun to be in the Swamp again. It’s fun to be a Gator again.