After Saturday’s 36-7 win over UAB, the Florida Gators took the time to thank their fans for showing up and generating a lot of noise and positive energy in The Swamp.
The electric atmosphere was not what some were expecting, given how hard this dismal season has been on everyone in and around the program.
But the fans showed up, and they made a difference.
Now, the players are asking them to do it again one last time this season, only with a slightly bigger following and with just a little more feeling.
“I do appreciate all the fans that were there today, but we just need a couple of more, you know,” junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan said. “We just need a couple of more fans in there and we’ll get that thing loud and we’ll win a game for them.”
Getting the fans (and everyone else around the program) jacked up and juiced won’t be a problem this week. Because arch-rival Florida State is stepping into The Swamp on Saturday.
Energy and electricity are assured.
“It’s going to be a fun game,” junior offensive lineman Tyler Jordan said. “It’s going to be one where hopefully a lot of fans show up and The Swamp will be rocking. This game we look to win, no matter the circumstances.
“I think it’s my No. 1 (rivalry game). Just because we haven’t beat them. It’s frustrating. We’re going to go out and win this one.”
A win over the 4-6 Seminoles would not salvage this season. But it would make the offseason more bearable and give the Gators something positive to build on as they head into a new era under a new head coach.
It’s big and it’s important because. … well, it’s Florida State.
Although both teams are coming in with a losing record, interim head coach Randy Shannon said the rivalry has not lost any of its luster.
“Never. Never,” Shannon said. “It never takes away. OK, it’s a 12 noon game, which station? Which station we on next week. ESPN, right? It’s never going to take the luster away. That’s always going to be one of the pivotal games in college football. It’s a long rivalry, it’s the state. Between two schools — and I don’t mean to say this in the wrong way — but one school was an all boys school, one school was an all girls school. So, it’s a lot of rivalry going on in this game. So it’s going to be a great game.”
It’s going to be a big game for all Gators, but especially for some UF players who have some past ties with Florida State, including quarterback Feleipe Franks and senior wide receiver Brandon Powell.
“It was kind of weird. I used to live like five minutes from the stadium (in Tallahassee),” Franks said. “It’s going to be a big game. All my family, friends, high school buddies all went to Florida State. It’ll be a fun game. I mean it’s just another game. But also a big rivalry, and I think it’s going to be fun. Fun game, fun atmosphere. Fans are going to be electric. It’s Florida State man, nothing really to say. It’s going be a good game.”
Franks said his father earned his undergraduate degree from FSU, then got his masters at Florida A&M.
Powell doesn’t have family that went to FSU, but he grew up a Seminoles fan.
“Number one, I’m from Florida,” Powell said. “I know a lot of kids that play for Florida State. People back home, they like Florida State. I grew up a Florida State fan. It’s number one for me.
“Everybody in my family was a Florida State fan. There’s going to be a lot of trash talk next week. I’m prepared for it.”
Florida-Florida State is an intense and emotional rivalry where there is a lot of mutual dislike involved.
But Shannon said the Gators need to take the same focused approach to this game that they did leading up to the 29-point win over UAB that ended UF’s five-game losing streak.
“You know what, it’s about us,” Shannon said. “It’s about us. No matter who your opponent is, it’s got to be about us. Being locked in and tuned into what we’re trying to get done.
“We can’t make it a personal battle,” he said. “I’ll tell you, bad things happen when your feelings get involved. Most people make bad decisions when there’s feelings. But if you go about choices and the right frame of mind, you make great decisions. We can’t make this a feelings situation where it’s personal because it’s Florida-Florida State. It’s got to be about us as a football team representing this Gator Nation, doing the things we need to get done.”
The Gators say they’ll be ready Saturday. They’re asking their fans to be, too.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: Florida State (4-6) vs. Florida (4-6)
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Florida Field
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850