University of Florida

Florida Gators don’t want to be one-hit wonder

Florida coach Jim McElwain, right, chats with Ole Miss Hugh Freeze before the Gators took control of the SEC East with an upset of the Rebels on Saturday night.
Florida coach Jim McElwain, right, chats with Ole Miss Hugh Freeze before the Gators took control of the SEC East with an upset of the Rebels on Saturday night. AP

Jim McElwain could have named Chumbawamba or Vanilla Ice.

Instead, No.11 Florida’s coach chose an obscure but veiled musical reference from nearly 50 years ago to make a point about the Gators’ meteoric rise after ambushing then-No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 over the weekend.

“I’m kind of interested to see if our team is a one-hit wonder,” he said, comparing UF’s upset to the 1966 hit-song Red Rubber Ball by The Cyrkle.

“C-y-r-k-l-e, right? I mean how many hits did they have? They had one. They’re a one-hit wonder. I don’t think we are, but we’ll find out his week.”

The Gators looked like conference heavyweights again in their rout over the Rebels. Their swarming defense still had a ferocious bite, and their offense — especially the much-maligned offensive line and receiving units — suddenly wasn’t just functional but legitimately explosive under the leadership of redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier.

Florida’s four-touchdown mauling was as shocking as it was impressive.

UF won its previous three games by seven points or less, including a thrilling 13-point comeback win over Tennessee. The Gators soared 14 spots in The Associated Press Top 25 — the third-largest jump in the ranking’s 79-year history.

Now, UF is suddenly a national darling again and in the driver’s seat for a trip to Atlanta. Before dismantling Ole Miss, Florida had just a 16 percent chance to win the SEC East, according to ESPN Stats Inc. They have a divisional-best 60 percent chance now.

“It’ll be really interesting to see how we handle the praise from all the people that obviously said they weren’t worth a hill of beans and now are talking about them,” McElwain said. “People rubbing their bellies and making them feel good. They should get their bellies rubbed. They’ve done a good job. And yet how do you handle it? It’ll be interesting.”

The Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) travel to Missouri this weekend to take on the two-time defending SEC East champs. The Tigers (4-1, 1-1) are abysmal offensively, but they tout a stout defense and have thrashed UF by a combined score of 78-30 the past two seasons.

“It was embarrassing,” said safety Marcus Maye, on Florida’s 42-13 loss to Mizzou on homecoming last year. “But that last year. This is a new year. A new team. … We know we have to remember how we were a couple years ago, so we just [have to] keep fighting. Our whole message is, ‘Don’t get complacent. Don’t stop working.’ 

McElwain, who’s mantra for rebuilding Florida’s brand is “restore the order,” is curious how the Gators handle Saturday’s success because they didn’t pass the test last time.

After UF destroyed New Mexico State in the opener, it nearly laid an egg against East Carolina the following week.

“This could be fleeting,” McElwain said, throwing more cold water on UF’s hot start.

Still, McElwain tossed out Red Rubber Ball for a reason. Wikipedia’s note says the song “is sung from the perspective of a man who recently exited an unfulfilling relationship in which his significant other never game him much attention or affection. He now looks forward to the future with a positive attitude.”

“The order for a long time was the Gators,” McElwain said. “We were right up there at the top of the order.

“Yet, for some reason, the order has been skewed. I look at it as a responsibility [to get it back]. But you have to be mature enough to handle the responsibility.”

Florida is embracing its new-found relevancy and spotlight, but McElwain hopes the brand is coming back full circle — not C-y-r-k-l-e.