University of Florida

Gators searching for motivation after Missouri beatdown

Randy Shannon’s winning formula was anything but winning this weekend against Missouri. He preached in the week leading up to the game that despite former coach Jim McElwain parting with Florida and despite three losses in a row, his Gators just needed to focus on beating Missouri, and everything else would work out. He was wrong.

Florida was instead throttled by the Tigers 45-16, which left Shannon searching for answers in his postgame news conference. He had none. At least not yet.

He mentioned over and over that film needs to be evaluated before any conclusions can be drawn. Before he alters his approach. Before he decides who’s going to play this weekend when Florida travels to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks and former Florida coach Will Muschamp. Although it was clear his original mentality of focusing only on the next game rather than potential bowl eligibility will continue as long as he’s at the helm.

“The next best game we have is South Carolina,” he said, “and that’s all. We can’t look past South Carolina to [UAB] or Florida State. We’ve got to look at the game we have next, and that’s South Carolina.”

Players seem to like that approach. Linebacker David Reese, for example, said the coaches gave the team a great plan against Missouri. That plan just wasn’t executed, he said, adding the McElwain saga has worn the team down. And based on what he said, it doesn’t sound like just focusing on the next game is going to fix what appears to be a problem of motivation.

“It’s sometimes disappointing when everybody doesn’t want to come together and just play for each other,” Reese said. “That’s sad to see. We’ve still got a lot to play for.”

That includes a potential bowl berth. For that to happen, Florida (3-5, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) needs to win at least two of its remaining three games, though its chances would be much better if it wins out.

Reese, for one, is using that as motivation.

“We need to go to a bowl game,” he said. “We need to play our hardest, play out, do what we can do to get this good motivation for the next year.”

But there are so many question marks in the way. Who will start at quarterback? What injured players will be back? And then, of course, how does Shannon get his team to want to win rather than just show up? A bowl berth might be enough for Reese, but it didn’t look like it was enough for some of his teammates on Saturday.

Reese isn’t sure about any of those questions. Especially the last one. But he was confident that the motivation will come, even if he isn’t sure how.

“There’s only so much you can do,” he said. “It’s just sometimes the character of an individual … sometimes it’s a little bit overwhelming. But you have to focus on the task at hand, the game at hand. We’re going to hit it hard at practice and try to get everybody that wants to be on board on board. That’s something we didn’t have.”