As the stands emptied the chants of “Fire Muschamp” echoed throughout Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. A homecoming crowd had just witnessed the Missouri Tigers score touchdowns in four different ways (rushing, punt return, kick return and interception return) in an embarrassing 42-13 beat down.
It was Florida’s second consecutive homecoming loss and, for some fans, the straw that broke the camel’s back. For the players, the loss was embarrassing. Heads hung low in a church quiet locker room.
“It was bad. It was quiet; you could sense guys kind of losing hope, giving up,” junior safety Keanu Neal recalled. “That’s kind of expected in a sense, losing at homecoming in a home game.”
That game a year ago is a distant memory to most, one that has been suppressed in the dark recesses of the mind. The Florida Gators 5-0 start in 2015 has helped fans move on from the last few years and this team is giving fans something to cheer about.
After years of dominating the SEC, the last two years afforded teams in the East to get one over on the Florida Gators. Lost weekends turned into lost seasons and flipped the SEC on its head with Florida being at or near the bottom of the East. Newcomer Missouri has really benefited from playing a couple of down Florida teams.
“I’m sure based on their history, they felt pretty good about us being their homecoming,” Jim McElwain said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday.
This season however, Florida is restoring the order that was set in the ‘90s and the players on the team haven’t suppressed the memories of other teams celebrating on Florida field. In fact, some have even made a list and circled dates on their calendar, waiting for an opportunity to get revenge.
That was homecoming, we came in and just let that team take everything from us,” defensive lineman Alex McCalister recalled of the 2014 Missouri game. “It’s definitely a big game. It was a big game on my calendar, going to Missouri and really taking it back from them.”
The players feel like they have a score to settle. Missouri has outscored Florida 85-54 since they entered the league three years ago. Jim McElwain wasn’t here for those Missouri manhandling’s, but he does know a thing or two about homecoming games.
I just remember the teams back in Montana that we played when I was in high school that was our homecoming game. I always felt pretty good that we had a chance,” said McElwain. “No disrespect to the Libby Loggers or anything like that, but I always felt like that was a pretty good schedule. Yes, the Libby Loggers are a real high school team, so, as McElwain said, no disrespect to the mighty Loggers.
Florida may have seemed like a good idea last year, a nice team to invite in to cap off a week of homecoming festivities but these Gators are ornery and despite what Bobby Boucher would say, it’s not because they have all those teeth and no tooth brush, it’s because they have revenge on their minds and Missouri is up next.