During Florida’s miserable 4-8 campaign last year, coach Will Muschamp cited the team’s pervasive and destructive “woe-is-me mentality” at the end of its seven-game losing streak.
Following Saturday’s steel-clubbing at No.3 Alabama — a 42-21 loss and among the worst statistical games in school history — a similar downtrodden attitude seeped back into the locker room, according to multiple UF defenders.
“I think some people started to feel sorry for themselves,” junior defensive end Jon Bullard said.
Sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis, a highly respected teammate, concurred, adding, “A lot of guys were down, and [the attitude] reminded me a little bit of last year.”
Davis referred to the shellacking as a “wake-up call,” saying, “We felt like we could come in this game and win. This is Alabama, but they’re not the Alabama of old.”
Florida forced four turnovers but surrendered a school-record 645 yards. The Gators were awful on third down — offensively (2of13) and defensively (12of16) — unable to sustain drives or get Alabama off the field.
Fatigue crept in, then doubt. Disaster soon followed.
Aside from the self-inflicted miscues, Alabama looked a lot like recent Tide teams.
Despite a lopsided stat sheet, the score was tied at 21 when Alabama rolled off three consecutive touchdowns, including a 16-play scoring drive. The Gators allowed seven third-down conversions after halftime, highlighted by Derrick Henry’s 29-yard screen pass on on third-and-23.
The second-half beatdown was brutal, yet it was only one loss.
Muschamp was quick to note, “we still have everything sitting out in front of us,” but five ranked teams remain on UF’s schedule and the hot-seat coach can ill afford to lose the locker room this early in the season.
Davis is going to make sure that doesn’t happen, and this week’s idle date should help Florida regroup.
“A lot of guys are down,” Davis explained, “but me and a couple other guys on the team tried to go around and make sure everybody keeps their head up because this is only one game out of however many games we have left to play this season. We don’t need to take this as something that’s going to be detrimental to the Florida Gators’ success this year.”
He continued: “I made sure to run around and say, ‘Hey, this is a ride and not every ride is smooth. There’s going to be bumps in the road.’ That’s what I tried to reiterate to my teammates. We need to keep our head up.”
Florida talked all offseason about a renewed team unity, something Davis repeated Saturday night, but he also acknowledged some players caved at the first sign of adversity against the Tide.
“That’s when we need to be [together] the most,” he said, emphatically. “But when we were down a touchdown and then another touchdown, two touchdowns, it just fell off. We’ve got to keep in mind what we did this offseason. We’ve worked through tougher things than that.”