GAINESVILLE -- So far this season, the Gators have personified the cliché of “winning ugly.”
In their past three games, they have just 232 total passing yards and 23 penalties, and running back Mike Gillislee has twice been held to fewer than 100 rushing yards. In those same three games, Florida has beaten two top-10 teams by 41 combined points and earned a No. 2 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
A year after going 0-4 in October, the Gators are 3-0 and have a chance to clinch the Southeastern Conference East division and a trip to Atlanta with a win against Georgia on Saturday.
So don’t be surprised if they’re not exactly concerned with style points.
“We’ve got an excited locker room,” coach Will Muschamp said. “They like winning.”
Said wide receiver Frankie Hammond: “As long as you keep winning, there’s nothing really to complain about … no matter how ugly or how pretty it is.”
Last year at this time, there was plenty to complain about.
Florida was on the heels of consecutive embarrassing losses to Alabama, LSU and Auburn in which it was outscored 96 to 27 and outgained 1,097 yards to 629. The Gators rushed for just 256 yards in those three games, gave up seven turnovers and eight sacks and made mistake after mistake.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys in the locker room that were there in Columbia [S.C.] and were in Auburn and Jacksonville and all those places,” Muschamp said. “Certainly we have grown from that. We’ve got a bunch of competitive guys in the locker room and they rally around that a little bit. There’s certainly been an extra sense of motivation each week.”
In three games this October, Muschamp and Co. have architected a complete turnaround. Florida has outscored opponents 89-34, including 27-13 in the fourth quarter, and has turned the ball over just twice while forcing eight.
But the Gators don’t care about any of those stats. They care about crossing one more name off their list — the Bulldogs.
Last year, Georgia closed out Florida’s miserable October with a come-from-behind victory during which cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins were twice beaten on jump balls in the end zone. Purifoy has not forgotten.
“There’s a lot of hate and anger going into that Georgia game,” he said. “There’s a lot of hate and anger going into all games. That feeling in that locker room, it’s just crazy when you lose that close to a team like them. … They thought they was better than us last year.”
Offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison said that last year, especially in the month of October, was a wakeup call for the Gators. They used that as motivation, he said.
“We just changed the mind-set completely,” he said. “We can’t accept that because we know it’s not Florida. We just took that and we came into this season with a chip on our shoulder ready to get back to where we’re supposed to be. … We’re on our way to be what Florida used to be, what Florida’s known for.”