Walking off the field a year ago they were jubilant. It was a great win for a team on the rise and a signature win for the team who stood on the field, looking around in amazement and satisfaction with what they have done.
The Florida Gators exited quietly; embarrassed by the 34-17 domination they had just ended up on the wrong side of. It was the first time since 1988 (before this writer or any player on the field was even born) that Vanderbilt had beaten Florida on the football field and the first time Florida had fallen at home to the ‘Dores since Harry S. Truman’s first term in office.
“They completely embarrassed us last year,” senior center Max Garcia said.
The Vanderbilt game came square in the middle of what would become a seven game losing streak for Florida — three losses before and three to follow. None before it signified what the season was to become but this game was the end of the season with more than a month to play.
“I felt like all last season was embarrassing,” senior defensive back Jabari Gorman said. “Not just to us, but to this program.”
If not for the struggles that Florida has had this season the Vanderbilt game would be considered a trap game; a huge, emotional game against Georgia preceding this week with a date against South Carolina and the Ole Ball Coach to follow. Florida hasn’t had a big win like the one against Georgia since the 2012 season but defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has warned his team about the potential pitfalls of coming off a big win.
“Coming off a bad loss or good win can both affect you positively or negatively,” he said. “It’s all about your mind-set for the next week, so it’s all about moving on and let any game linger whether it was good or bad. You do that, and then your focus is off for the task at hand, which is the next opponent.”
In years past, this would have been a game that the Gators could overlook. This is, after all, a Vanderbilt team that is winless in the SEC this season and one that ranks dead last in the conference in total, scoring and rushing offense.
But the memory of the feeling from the Florida locker room a year ago won’t allow Florida to overlook this week’s opponent. They have one thing on their mind as they ready themselves to head up to Nashville this weekend.
“We’re going to go to their house and we want them to experience the same disappointment they gave to us last year,” Garcia said. “We have to redeem ourselves in that way.”
Revenge is a dish best served cold and with temperatures at kickoff projected to be in the low 30s, the Gators hope to serve up a cold dish to Vanderbilt on Saturday.