UF now dealing with success
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 3:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.
This Florida team that was predicted to finish a distant third in the SEC's Eastern Division just a few short months ago is now being mentioned as a legitimate national title contender.
This team that received almost no love in the preseason is now being tossed bouquets from all across the country, from television talking heads everywhere.
This team that was given little or no chance of being able to compete against, much less beat, the elite teams in the SEC is coming of a 14-6 physical domination of one of those elite teams, LSU.
It has all happened so fast, this stunning, meteoric rise from mediocre to No. 4 in the nation.
So, now the question is: How will the Gators handle their sudden success?
Will they embrace it, be motivated by it and build on it? Or will they fall under its sometimes delusionary spell and become overconfident and complacent — and ripe for an upset at Vanderbilt on Saturday night in Nashville?
“I think we'll be fine,” sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “Like we've been saying all along, we have a more mature team this year. We're not going to be satisfied. We know there are definitely corrections to be made and improvements to be made. We're going to handle this week like any other week.”
Conventional wisdom says that if No. 3 Florida State can lose at unranked North Carolina State, then there's a chance No. 4 Florida could fall at Vanderbilt. Coming off that big, emotional win against the Tigers, a letdown (conscious or unconscious) could be a real possibility against 2-3 Vanderbilt, a team the Gators hold a 21-game winning streak against.
But UF coach Will Muschamp seems to think his team will be fine, that it will take the same workmanlike approach that it has to every game this season.
“Well, we'll find out Saturday night,” he said. “I think our guys have worked hard and I don't see a whole lot of difference in how they approach every day and how they have approached each game so far this year.
“We're not going to put in any more hours as coaches this week than we did a week ago. We're not going to put in any less, either. We'll prepare very similar to what we've done this season as far as what we've got to do to be successful, and that's winning the football game.”
Muschamp points to the Gators' experience and maturity.
“Those two words resonate with me throughout our season so far,” he said. “This is a group that is a year older and a year more mature. A team that seems to understand that maybe we don't have all the answers, that we need to work and work hard at it. We have a coaching staff that understands that.
“I think that permeates throughout the entire program and what we need to do to continue to improve. As we watch film, understand we made some good plays, but we need to capitalize on the things we did not do well, because that's what we're going to see again in our league.”
Muschamp said much of his team's growth can be traced back to last season. There were many hard lessons learned during that disappointing 6-6 regular season.
“Sometimes you have to fall in order to get up,” he said. “I think those guys sitting in those locker rooms last year, going through some tough times, certainly grew up maybe a little quicker than you do having success and not understanding what it's like to be knocked down.
“We certainly got knocked down. There's no question.”
The Gators are up now — way up as a matter of fact — and plan to stay there, Driskel said.
“We're a close-knit team. That goes back to the offseason,” Driskel said. “We were working hard together every day, day in and day out. We know we have each other's back.
“If the defense has to step up and keep us in games, they'll do that. And when the offense gets their chance, they'll also do that. It comes back to being a unified team.”
Driskel said there will be no letdown against Vanderbilt.
“Every SEC game is big,” he said. “You can't take anybody lightly because anybody can beat you. This league is full of players and full of athletes. They're going to be well coached and ready to go.
“We can't take this week off or take it lightly. We're going to prepare like we have been the whole year, and we'll be ready to go come Saturday.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.