Notebook: Gators using home loss to Kentucky as motivation

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Kentucky safety Darius West (25) and safety Jordan Griffin (3) are called for interference on this pass to Florida wide receiver Josh Hammond (10) during the first half of the Sept. 8 game in Gainesville. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Back in 2008, a loss actually helped put the Florida Gators on the path to a national championship.

Motivated by that loss to Ole Miss — and the now legendary promise Tim Tebow made after the game — the Gators came together as a team and ran the table, culminating with a win over Oklahoma in the national title game.

Like the ’08 team, which will be honored Saturday in The Swamp, this year’s team is hoping a tough home loss to Kentucky four weeks ago will help turn its season around.

There are signs that it already has.

“I think the Kentucky loss was a big eye opener for the whole team,” junior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “Just knowing that we had to work and nothing was going to be given to us and we can’t take it for granted.

“After the Kentucky loss we came in and did a little work. We knew from that point forward that whatever work we put in our practice is what we would also put in on Saturday.”

After the loss, UF coach Dan Mullen said the Gators needed to get tougher and more physical, and the way to do that was a change in attitude and approach on the practice field.

Hammond said there is video evidence of that change.

“Practice has been getting better and better every single day,” he said. “You can see it. If we go back and watch film from the Kentucky week and watch film from last week, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday practices are way different from what it was. We’ve been getting better. We just have to continue to grow and continue to get better till the game on Saturday.”

There also is visible evidence in actual games. The Gators have been the ones getting more physical during their three-game winning streak against Colorado State, Tennessee and Mississippi State.

The biggest physicality test since the UK game will come Saturday against No. 5 LSU, traditionally one of the SEC’s most physical teams.

“Our scout team has done a great job,” Mullen said. “Our scout team has given better looks, and our practice is getting more physical. You’re starting to see the results of that with guys being able to be more physical out there on Saturdays.

“They better do it this week, because LSU is a physical group. They’re going to get in some run formations and try to pound away at you. We’ve got to be ready to be more physical.”

Hammond on Tebow

Hammond and his family attended every UF home game in 2008 because his older brother, Frankie, was a true freshman on the team who was redshirting that season.

Frankie is going to be among the ’08 players present in The Swamp on Saturday. So will Tebow. Hammond is looking forward to being around Tebow.

“I watched him play,” he said. “He was a real leader that demanded a lot out of his teammates. I saw it in practice and on the field, He was a guy that you would want to have on your team because he would never let anything slide.

“He was a legend here. That’s a guy we respect very much. I think everybody on our team respects him. We know he is rooting for us even though he has to do his job. We know that deep down he’s a Gator at heart and he expects the best of us.”

Wright an SEC legend

Former star safety Lawrence Wright has been selected to the 2018 SEC Football Legends class, the league announced Tuesday. He will be recognized at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta in December, along with the other 13 legends in this year’s class.

Wright was a key player on UF’s first national championship team in 1996. He won the Jim Thorpe Award that year, his senior season. He finished his career with 331 tackles, five interceptions, eight force fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Wright is the player who came up with what has become a popular chant among Gator players and fans through the years: “If you ain’t a Gator, you must be Gator bait.”

Social media wager

Former LSU coach Les Miles tweeted to former UF coach Steve Spurrier on Tuesday:

Hey @SteveSpurrierUF … how much you wanna bet your Gators are going down this weekend?#GameOn

The response from the HBC:

@CoachLesMiles shoot, we’re going to win on Saturday. If we don’t, I’ll eat some of that grass of yours. When we do win, you’re wearing my visor! #GoGators

38 COMMENTS

  1. The loss was a pivot point to be sure; what we were not sure about was if it would result in more “gumption” or not. Which is another way of saying, of course, that the team had a decision to make, and by the MSU game they had demonstrated that they had made it in spades. More good things will happen as we go along, tho as Gator65 and others are careful to point out, there will be some more bumps in the road. I think at the end tho, we will look back and realize that this team is far ahead of schedule in ___ number of transition years.

    • I’m not going to put the cart ahead of the horse. I think the KY game certainly opened some eyes on this team. First of all, KY is much improved and is not the KY of old. That said, the game served to show that we can’t just show up and win, against anybody. So it was a good step in the maturation process and culture change process for this team. As I’ve been saying, I just want to see improvement. And we’re seeing that. LSU is the next step and major challenge in this process. I still think the culture change is a 3 year process and that, along with a required improvement in recruiting will get this team where everyone wants it to be. I’m enjoying the process and Gator football has been fun again but I still think consistent championship football is still a few years away.

      • You’ve been saying that all along, Rog, and consistently since Spring for sure. It’s certainly worth bearing in mind, as you have maintained, that this is a process, rather than one particular game meaning this or that. Accordingly, in a “process” while certain results may or may not be diagnostic, it is what is learned and taken forward from that result which is most critical.

        “I think we’ll be at the goal of consistent championship football in ___ years”.

        I don’t know. Based on a combination of hope and actual proof, I’d say we will be knocking on the door in 3 years, but that’s the best I can come up with. I’d be curious to know what you and others think, but that may be a bridge too far at the present.

      • Agreed, but I think next year this team will be competing at the top level if we get better QB play. The UK game was a turning point. Everyone can see it in their play on the field. Last weeks defensive change in the 2nd half was stark! We must remember every good team out there is also getting better each week. Our defense and ST are good enough to compete now. Once we get QB play to a higher level, then we will be able to compete. Until Franks starts seeing the field better and thus see open recievers we are about as good as we can get on offense. Yes the line can get better but thats not what is holding us back.

        • You are very wise indeed to point those things out. This is the point in the season where some teams regress to what they really were, and other teams find what they really are and start improving. Others remain static for the time being, just hoping for the season to finally be over — Tennessee may or may not be in that category.

          But speaking of next year — one truth above all is that QB play needs solved, and solved for good.

    • With regards to proper attribution and the comment about the team having to make a decision, I would like to point out that DeWayne first stated that — it made a lot of sense to me, but I used it in haste without giving him credit for it.

  2. QUESTION: Has everyone noticed how it’s FUN to watch Gator Football again? Not approaching each game with this overwhelming sense of dread and apprehension? When you’ve sat down to watch the game and the product you’re watching is so bad, so inept and incompetent, that you just switch the channel or get up and go out and do your yard work?

    This is the first time I’ve actually had FUN watching Gator Football since the 2012 season.

    LSU is going to be another tough challenge, and just like against MSU, I’m picking the Gators in the upset by 8. I still don’t think we beat UGA, but I think we have a chance at a pretty good first season under Mullen.

    But even if we don’t win, as long we fight every second of the game, I’ll know we’re still headed in the right direction.

    • The only thing I’d say about the first fun since 2012 is that I did enjoy the Will Grier season until his medical experimentation came to light. Now…he and that season both make me a little sad and more than a little angry.

      • Think about it this way.. if Grier had stayed, McElwain would have won enough that getting rid of him would have been inconceivable, and then, it is very likely that the Gators would have had to wait until year 4 and 5 before making the determination that he will not work out. I know this is a harsh assessment since I am assuming that McElwain would still have failed with Grier — put the proof is in the fact that he wasn’t even able to get a coordinator position after leaving here. Grier leaving very likely lead to a good thing for the Gators.

  3. Wright is one of the greatest defensive players we’ve had at Florida. Glad to see him getting the recognition he deserves. I’m not so sure he deserves credit for coming up with the “Gator bait” quote. That’s been around a long time.

  4. I agree Todd, but after watching Gator games the last decade, the ups and downs, I’ve noticed the difference in players not playing at there best or just poor coaching, bad game strategy. I feel now we have a winning attitude and a coaching staff that coaches and knows how to execute a game plan. In the SEC, sometimes it comes down to a play or two to win the game or you get your butt whip because you didn’t play hard as a team.

    Looking forward to the LSU game this Saturday! Go gators!

  5. This game reminds me of the episode in the original ” faces of death ” movie where the FWC officers were ” gator huntin” for a BIG gator that had been reported for recently eating a dog , (must have been a bulldog ) and that big gator made out like he was going to let himself be trapped until the big man ( looked like Marlin Perkins asst Jim on wild kingdom ) slipped the noose on the pole around his head, at which point he snatched the man clean out of the boat, grabbed him by the arm and took him down to deep water and drowned his butt. ( snatched his arm off too ! ). In no way am I trying to make light of or disrespect the officer that lost his life that day, but the point is that he underestimated that big gator and it cost him everything. We gots us a bunch of Cajuns thinking they coming ” gator huntin ” come Sardy , and I’m hopin that the same thing happens to them !!! Gatorbait is colored purple and yeller this weekend !!!!

  6. Glad our players didn’t take the loss to KY the way our fanbase did. There wasn’t one poster on this site the week after that game that gave us even a slight chance of beating MSU and LSU this year. Fans whined and complained and the players went to work getting better. Not sure the players and coaches get enough credit for ignoring our fans. Go Gators!!

  7. I really do believe that Florida will beat LSU this Saturday. Wish that I could be there, but the UAA has priced me out of attending. Plenty of tickets are still available, but with the cheapest going for $80, for my family of five it would cost me over $500 by the time ticketmaster adds in their fees. It is absolutely ridiculous how much it costs to attend a game for a family. Nothing like the atmosphere in the Swamp, but I’ll enjoy the game in my ac with a beer in hand.

    • Just a brief digression for Fla vs. LSU. I just read a story that Missouri kicked a 41-yard field goal against Georgia that the announcers and end zone fans–and the replay–all said it was good, but the refs said wide right. Must have been the same stripes crew that robbed the Gators vs. Kentucky. I’ve seen that kick 20 times and it curves through the uprights everytime and the camera pointing up from the ground to the top of the goal post ALWAYS shows the ball clearly inside the post. Oh Well. Spilt milk and all that.
      And remember last year’s botched XP snap against LSU to tie the game and LSU won 17-16. That was on Townsend, but I hope the same crew from the Kentucky and Mizzou games are not back in Gainesville for ANY game.

  8. Sparky, during the UK game the gators looked terrible. For the past many years, a poor performance on the field translated into a slide because the coaching just wasn’t up to task of getting the team to improve. I have to admit, I assumed this team would fold like it has in the recent past. Mullen and company are just good coaches do what good coaches are support to do……get the team to improve one game at a time.

    • You’re probably correct Bob. But the thing we fans need to remember is that this team had to learn how to even practice correctly. We need to be patient or we will get continue the reputation of not giving a coach a chance. Here’s to getting back to the top of the mountain and then staying there 🍺🍺

      • They would have won if before that, the refs hadnt blown the whistle illegally AFTER the play had started to score the TD. It was clear we would have scored! Even so, Uk was playing a better game each snap than we were, we needed that loss for the coach to get the turn around he has, especially on defense!

  9. What better time for the SWAMP to come back to life? Better get out the ear plugs. The Gators never had players more motivated than Lawrence Wright and Tim Tebow. Having the ’08 champs cheering the Gators on should help bring out the best fighting spirit and I have no doubt the team will be as fired up as the fans will be Saturday. Go Gators! Can’t wait.

  10. Absolutely right. I’m loving this year. We should treasure this group. Who knows be their ceiling but they’ve got the ok ball coach talking… they’ve really got it going oh yeah they really got me they really got me

    I’d put that old kinks song on Pat’s list

  11. Win or lose, we’re seeing good coaching unlike the past several years. Lets not forget this is still a work in progress. As Mullen gets his recruits and as the team continues to get bigger, stronger, faster, we will be real challengers for the SEC east.

    Having said that, I don’t see any SEC team challenging Bama for the near foreseeable future. UA will get Tua’s younger brother who some say is better than Tua. With UA year and year out getting top ranked classes, and with their excellent coaching, I don’t see any NCAA team consistently beating Bama. It is what it is. But that doesn’t take away how good UF will be with DM in control.

  12. The team that is going to challenge bama is UF…. Saban will not be there forever. Who was the SEC dynasty before him? That’s right, us… When they slide down the pedestal they are on, we will be there to take it, and it starts this year. We’re gonna punch LSU in the mouth, then Vandy. What happens after that? We re-take our crown as king of JAX…. it’s gonna be glorious….

    • I hope youre still happy when we lose to LSU & Ga, I know I will be. I was one who was happy with Mullen as the choice and am happy with the progress. Im just enjoying the ride which I know will contain losses. i dont mind a loss as long as they are playing hard. Uk was frustrating because it was clear they had no heart as a team. They do now. Thats all I can ask.

  13. Here’s the deal if you want to make some money on the LSU game. The team Robbie picks… you should bet on the other team. However if Robbie jumps on the bandwagon this week and picks the Gators then we have a real problem. Go Gators !