There was no hiding his raw emotion. There wasn’t even an attempt.
With minutes left in the game redshirt senior C’yontai Lewis sat staring at the scoreboard tears rolling down his cheeks. Lewis was 0-4 against Florida State during his Florida career and 0-5 if you include the 37-7 loss in 2013 when Lewis was on his official visit.
This game meant more to him than he could express into words, so he let his emotions come out and his teammates came by, one by one, to embrace the senior leader.
C’yontai Lewis was on the sideline crying cause this was his first time beating Florida State since he’s been here,” Van Jefferson said. “Everybody just went up to him and loved him so I think this was a real big win for us.”
Florida beat the breaks off of Florida State, 41-14, at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday. The win snapped a five game losing streak, the longest losing streak for the Gators in the rivalry. The win also capped off a 9-3 regular season for Florida, who has a real chance to make a New Year’s Six Bowl game a season after finishing 4-7.
It’s not only wins on the field, but if we’re talking wins Mullen surpassed Ray Graves (1960) for the largest win improvement in school history by a first year head coach.
It’s not just offense, but if we’re talking offense the Gators just finished three-consecutive games with over 500 yards of offense for the first time since Dan Mullen was calling plays for Florida in 2008.
It’s about the entire package. The 2017 season was marred by a credit card scandal. Arrests and suspensions were news throughout the offseason in recent years. Other than a few blips on the radar the Gators have been clean. He’s also done away with the us against the world mentality the last two coaching staffs created and cultivated. He wants Gator Nation to be one and that’s what he’s achieving now.
He sees the achievement but has the big picture in mind.
“I think it’s heading in the right direction,” Mullen said of the program after the game. “I think (a bowl game is) a reward of the guys working hard for a great season, you know what I mean? They get to experience something new. I have no idea where we’ll go. They’ll get to experience something they haven’t experienced before, go to a new location, enjoy it. We have a pretty good schedule for them. Celebrate it. The focus No. 1, though, is winning the game. Make sure we do what we need to do to win. Then we’ll start on the offseason. We’ve got to be a lot better this offseason than we were this (last) year. If we want to be better than 9-3 in the regular season, we’re going to have to work a lot harder this offseason.”
The right direction wasn’t hard to see on Saturday.
Before the game the Noles tried to talk trash and incite the Gators. Junior receiver Josh Hammond said he thought FSU was trying to get Florida out of their focused state they spent all week building but they didn’t.
FSU even kept it a game for a while. The Noles battled against bad field position and played tough defense when they were backed up in the red zone. The two teams went into the locker rooms at halftime separated by just six points.
Florida didn’t give in to any antics aimed at throwing them off their gameplan. They made adjustments and then blew the game wide open.
“Man, if you come out talking before you even make a play, your mind not into it. I think going into the game, don’t feed into the bullcrap,” Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said after the game. “Don’t feed into all that unnecessary stuff that’s not going to win us the game. Just keep your poise. Everybody in this room know I’m a jawer, but I didn’t get no personal fouls today. I didn’t get none of that. I was staying in, playing within my defense.”
Then, as is said, history is written by the winners and Gardner-Johnson had plenty to say.
“To show that these guys are actually afraid of us and they actually didn’t want to be on the same field as us, you could tell going in at halftime, they knew the game was just going to start turning and spiral out of control,” he said.
The Florida Gators finished with nine wins and they have an opportunity to go to a New Year’s Six Bowl game in Mullen’s first season. That’s a great way to end a season but Florida’s season isn’t done. Only one season ended on Saturday night.