Gators seek redemption at LSU


Florida safety Jaylen Watkins (14) breaks up a pass intended for LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during the first half at Tiger Stadium on Oct. 8, 2011. LSU defeated Florida 41-11.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.

In their last trip to Death Valley, the Florida Gators had a viable excuse for not getting out alive.

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Florida safety Jaylen Watkins (14) breaks up a pass intended for LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during the first half at Tiger Stadium on Oct. 8, 2011. LSU defeated Florida 41-11.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

Going against the No. 1 team in the nation, on the road, the Gators started a true freshman quarterback (Jacoby Brissett) who had never played a down of college football and was No. 3 on the depth chart just the week before.

Given the circumstances, a loss to LSU seemed inevitable, pretty much a sure thing. And that’s what happened, which probably surprised no one.

Losing was almost excusable. The final score was not: 41-11.

“It was definitely a low point in most of our careers here,” senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said Monday.

Brissett and the offense had trouble getting first downs. The defense wore down and broke against a balanced LSU offense. There were critical blunders on special teams.

The 30-point loss was Florida’s worst since getting humbled by Nebraska in the 1995 national championship game, 62-24.

“It was definitely a bad taste in our mouth, but that’s the game of football,” Watkins said. “We get a chance to go back and try to redeem ourselves, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Those harsh memories from two years ago in Baton Rouge are serving as motivation for the Gators this week as they prepare for Saturday’s game.

“I think everybody is motivated differently,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “If it motivates them, then certainly it should. If you’re a competitor it should. I know we have a bunch of competitive guys in the locker room.

“Sometimes, some people don’t get motivated by negatives. They don’t want to think about negatives, they want to think about positive things.

“So, I think everybody is motivated differently, but most of the guys I’ve been around certainly will use that (as motivation). I will.”

The loss two years ago is one many probably saw coming. The Saturday before, the Gators were blown out at home by Alabama 38-10, a loss made more painful by the fact UF lost starting quarterback John Brantley to a high ankle sprain in the first half, an injury that put him on the shelf for several weeks.

True freshman Jeff Driskel was thrown into the fire in the second half against the Tide and was the projected started for the LSU game.

But Driskel sprained his ankle in the Alabama game and was not ready to go the following week in practice. That led to Brissett being elevated from third string to first-time starter at quarterback.

Brissett showed good composure for most of the game and completed a 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose in the closing seconds of the third quarter, but other than that, the Gators were overwhelmed by the Tigers (and their hostile crowd) in all phases of the game.

“It was tough,” junior quarterback Tyler Murphy said. “We really had a good week of practice and we felt very confident. To come out with a loss like that, it hurt, especially after losing to Alabama.

“I thought we gave great effort. We probably didn’t execute the way we should have. But I thought we played hard. That’s something where all you can ask for from a team is just to play hard and give everything you have.”

Even though the Gators don’t have a whole lot more experience at quarterback going into Saturday’s game than they did two years ago (Murphy will be making only his third career start), UF feels it is better equipped to compete and get out of Death Valley alive this time. For one, Murphy has already proven he can manage the offense and win in the SEC.

The Gators know what to expect in Baton Rouge.

“It’s a very tough place to play,” Watkins said. “But we have a bad taste from the loss (two years ago) and just how rowdy their fans are.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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