GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s last visit to Death Valley became the ultimate Judgment Day on the team’s 2011 season.
Two years ago, the Gators — fresh off a 38-10 beatdown by Alabama in The Swamp — limped into Baton Rouge, La., without their starting quarterback and were humiliated 41-11 by top-ranked LSU.
It was Florida’s worst loss in 16 seasons.
“It was definitely a low point in most of our careers here,” senior safety Jaylen Watkins said. “It was definitely a bad taste in our mouth.”
But the No. 17 Gators (4-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) believe Saturday’s trip to Tiger Stadium at 3:30 p.m. will be different this time around.
“It’s a very tough place to play. We have a bad taste in there from the loss and just how rowdy their fans are,” Watkins continued. “But that’s the game of football. We get a chance to go back and try to redeem ourselves, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Many Florida players — and coach Will Muschamp — are using the 30-point loss as motivation — despite actually upsetting LSU 14-6 at home just last season.
“I think everybody is motivated differently,” Muschamp said. “I know we have a bunch of competitive guys in the locker room. Sometimes, some people don’t get motivated by negatives. They don’t want to think about negatives, they want to think about positive things. So I think everybody is motivated differently, but most of the guys I’ve been around certainly will use that [2011 loss to motivate them]. I will.”
Redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell said Florida’s program has completely transformed from two seasons ago — a year the Gators went 0-for-October and finished the year 7-6.
“We’ve got a lot more people who have bought in, bought into what Coach [Muschamp] wants to do,” Powell said. “We’ve got a great coaching staff, and everybody is out there and having fun and flying around and being physical.”
The Gators physically manhandled the Tigers (5-1, 2-1 SEC) in their victory last year, holding LSU to just 42 yards on the ground and harassing quarterback Zach Mettenberger all afternoon. UF’s old-school smashmouth victory jump-started an improbable 11-2 campaign.
“I mean we won last year,” sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison said of all the 2011 redemption talk. “We played a great game defensively. … It’s going to be a real good matchup.”
Florida hopes a victory over LSU will springboard another successful second half of the season, but a loss could prove to be an inauspicious omen for another tough October.