BATON ROUGE, La. — The Florida Gators fell short at Tiger Stadium. They put up a fight, went toe-to-toe against the nation’s best offense and matched them blow-for-blow for 52 minutes. At the end of the night, they lost to the better team on the field.
The season isn’t over. It’s not time to pack up the pads, pull up recruiting rankings and start counting down the days until National Signing Day.
The Gators can still win the SEC East. They can still get to Atlanta, which means they can still end the season as SEC Champions. Nothing about the loss Saturday changed any of those goals that the team set before the season.
“It was tough,” Kyle Trask said after the game. “I think there’s two ways you can go. You can either lose and start pointing fingers or you can lose and come together. I think we have a great group of guys and at the end of the day it’s just going to make this team better.”
Senior center Nick Buchanan understood that as well.
“If this would have been a win we would have enjoyed it tonight and then get over it tomorrow and start focusing on the next team. In a loss, you feel the pain tonight then wake up and tomorrow is a new day. Focus on a new team,” he said before continuing. “This was kind of like a freebie. When you lose one game everything is still in front of you. You lose two games and then you start having questions about where you want to be at the end of the year. We can’t let this one game affect us and get us down. We’ve got to know that there’s a sense of urgency to make sure we get everything
right from here on out.”
Last year Florida let a loss to Georgia spill over into the following week. It affected their preparation for Missouri and one loss turned into two losses. That can’t happen to the Gators. This week Florida will continue it’s October gauntlet with a second road trip in as many weeks. They’ll travel to Columbia, South Carolina to take on a Gamecocks team that just bested Georgia in Athens.
“This league’s tough,” Dan Mullen said. “You play in the SEC, I don’t think anybody in the country has a four-game stretch, that we’re halfway through, that plays that kind of schedule in a four-game stretch. I don’t think it’s actually possible in any other conference but this one. But, you know, that’s part of playing big boy football here in the SEC.”
The Gators won’t finish the 2019 season undefeated. That’s alright. Florida has won three national championships and they’ve never gone undefeated. The task now is to refocus. You can’t show up on Monday pouting and pointing fingers. You can’t show up on Monday with less juice than you did the week before. Florida isn’t a worse football team than they were at 6 pm on Saturday just because of the outcome of one game.
The Gators are good enough to win the rest of the games on their schedule. They were given a gut punch and a reality check on Saturday night in Death Valley but they still sit with a firm grasp on their destiny.
What will they do with it?
“I think as a senior, as a collective, all seniors are gonna take it upon themselves to get guys back going,” Van Jefferson said. “Don’t let this one loss defeat us. Just uplifting the guys and coming out ready in practice on Monday, we’ll be fine.”