UF

Florida Gators eager for second season opener to begin

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Ready to go:</span> Kurt Roper must wait until Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan to unveil his revamped offense.
Ready to go: Kurt Roper must wait until Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan to unveil his revamped offense.
Phil Sandlin / AP

Miami Herald Writer

Mother Nature refused to let Florida put its miserable 2013 season in the rear-view mirror, but the Gators are anxious for a do-over season opener.

“I wish tomorrow was Saturday,” senior safety Jabari Gorman said, feverishly. “We all ready. That’s all we can think of is Saturday.”

Florida’s opener against Idaho was canceled following multiple severe-weather delays, leaving the Gators just one week shy of Southeastern Conference play.

UF plays host to Eastern Michigan (4 p.m.) and Kentucky (7 p.m.) in the next two weeks, with trips to No. 2 Alabama and Tennessee quickly on the horizon.

Gator players and coaches admitted Saturday’s bizarre evening was draining, as Florida waited out a nearly three-hour delay and played just a single 10-second kickoff before the game was suspended again.

Players, who universally said they had never experienced a terminated football game, voiced disappointment and frustration in the carrot-turned-letdown.

“It was one of the weirdest feelings I’ve ever had with football,” said senior tight end Jake McGee, restless to start the season. “You put a whole week of game prep in, do the whole pregame, do really everything and then the game doesn’t happen. It’s sort of an empty feeling. But we’ll be even more ready to go.”

Kurt Roper’s revamped offense never debuted, and the implications of missing 70-plus official scrimmage snaps could be felt the rest of the season.

“You obviously like to get all the games in that you can,” Roper said. “There’s an old saying: “You always have your most improvement between your first and your second game,’ so, obviously, losing that game affects you that way.

“And then it also slows you down on learning what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, who you are, who those players are that you can really hang your hat on. So, obviously, it affects you. But you just go on to the next thing. We don’t have any control over it. So just go on and go to work.

The Gators are hoping the lost opener won’t hurt, but Florida’s schedule broke nicely for a team desperate to gain some early-season momentum and confidence in a new offensive system.

“You’d like to be getting live bullets,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I mean there’s no question that’s important. Young players, how they’re going to respond? We’re going to have some young players on that side of the ball. How is our secondary going to respond?

“There’s going to be some angst moments with some young players and some tough situations. You don’t ever really can’t answer some of those questions until you get out in front of 90,000 people.”

Quarterback Jeff Driskel acknowledged the situation’s adversity, but the junior said there will be no excuses moving forward.

“Some teams play SEC games in their opener,” Driskel said. “Coming out of camp, we felt that we were ready to play whoever that may have been.

“Obviously, we were prepared for Idaho. Whoever our opponent would’ve been we would have had the same game preparations for them. They say you make your best improvements from Game 1 to Game 2. We’ll still have one game before we get into our SEC schedule. No matter how your schedule lines up, you have to be ready to go. There’s no excuses.”

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