HOOVER, Ala. — During their lifts, runs and film sessions this summer, one thing keeps pushing them on, driving them, motivating them to work just a little bit harder, a little bit smarter.
The early showdown — Aug. 24 — with the Hurricanes in Orlando to kick off the 150th year of college football has given the Florida Gators a sense of purpose, a sense of urgency this offseason.
“It comes up on you fast,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “We have a quick summer and a quicker fall camp. You have to prepare like the season is right around the corner because it really is.
“You have to walk around with a chip on your shoulder. We don’t have time to goof off or time to have mistakes or take a couple of days off. We’ve got to go right now. That’s the most important thing.”
The Gators sound like they are ready right now, today. That’s what happens when you’re opening the season a week earlier than everybody else against an arch-rival on a national stage.
This is much different than opening the season with, say, Charleston Southern or Eastern Michigan.
This is Miami. The Hurricanes.
“I get chills just thinking about it,” Franks said. “How can you not be excited about a game when the entire nation will be watching. The stage is set and now we have to go out and perform.”
Gator minds have been focused on Miami, on this game, all summer, senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said.
“Knowing we’re opening with Miami, it’s definitely motivating,” Hammond said. “The guys are working a little bit harder because we know we have to be on point on week one.”
The Gators were in a similar situation two years ago, getting ready to play another UM — the University of Michigan — in the season opener at a neutral site on a national stage.
That game did not go well for UF. The Gators were physically pushed around in a disheartening 33-17 loss that was the start of what turned out to be a 4-7 season that led to a coaching change.
Many of the players on the current team experienced it. Therefore the sense of urgency this summer.
“We don’t have time for errors because we start the season off with a big-time ball game,” Hammond said. “The guys that were here for the Michigan game experienced that week one loss. We know the right steps now to correct the wrongs we made then.”
The UM game two years ago at Jerry World was big. This one is bigger. Because it is Miami, an in-state rival, and the expectations for the Gators heading into the season are bigger than they’ve been in a long time.
This almost feels like a must-win game for the Gators if they’re going to have the kind of season they’re anticipating.
“I think it’s huge,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “It’s going to be a catapult for one of the teams. Whoever wins that game ends up really kicking off the season on the right note with a big win in a big game with a lot of national exposure.
“It’s a big one. The first game of the season is always a big one. You want to have a winning record, I like having a winning record. I don’t ever like having a non-winning record during the season, so if you win the first one, you’re halfway, you got a jump start. But it’s a great rivalry game, and obviously, being the game to kick off the season, it’s special.”
Like any rivalry game, it is coming with considerable trash talk from both sides. That’s certainly been the case in the buildup to this game. The trash talk has been flying back and forth on social media for months among fans and some players.
The Gators have noticed.
“I’ve seen it, but I don’t pay attention to that,” cornerback Marco Wilson said. “Usually when guys talk a lot they might be afraid. I just keep my mouth shut and keep grinding and stay focused on Aug. 24.”
The trash talk isn’t what’s been keeping the Gators fired up throughout the summer. It’s the fact they’re opening the season against Miami at a neutral site — and the college football world will be watching.
“It’s a really hyped-up game,” Franks said. “It’s the start of the season. We have to start strong and get momentum going our way. It’s going to be an exciting game for a lot of people.
“This is the kind of game you want to play in. You come to a big university so everybody in the country watches you. You go out there and shine under those lights.
“I’ve always been told that pressure busts pipes, but it also makes diamonds. How are you going to respond when the lights come on and everybody is watching? It definitely will be fun.”
Sense of urgency; a palpable sense of urgency. Doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier, civilian, doctor, lawyer or Indian Chief……or a student athlete……nothing can replace it. We saw it toward the end of last year, developing in stark contrast to when there was no sense of urgency about literally anything in the program. Now it’s upon us again — I can’t wait to see it translate into action on the field. GO YOU GO GATORS!
Right on 6. Now they are at the pinnacle Point of success where they have to find out if they are ready to handle success, ready to take the next step, mature enough to make the move.
I like the comment about “we remember how if was to lose to Michigan… not again!”
It seems they are using it as a positive motivator, and yes, a big improvement from the slacker-ball we saw for a few years there. I just hope as per my comments below the guys don’t get too tight. It was a big problem in Pell’s time that he would build up these games to the point the players almost seemed so afraid to make a mistake that they forgot to make a play.
Good catch! And therein lies the rub, Jaws — the urgency could go either way. That is to say, it — if not steered properly by good, mature, and knowledgable leadership (in this case, Dan Mullen) — the associated autonomics could spill over into outright anxiety. Anxiety lives on the same physiologic-cognitive continuum, in other words — so if handled properly it can serve as a real motivator and if handled poorly, it can result in debilitation. We seen it go either way a thousand times. But in CDM we trust.
So much as pertains to last sentence above, beginning with WE: Amended to read “WE HAVE”. Nothing follows.
Associated autonomics! Love it, though I don’t know for sure what it is. Mullen has shown an ability to get the players to play fast and smart in crunch time situations– so I think I get it!
Pells teams could be confounding, i still think it was the best overall assembly of talent we ever put on the field, particularly the great wall. too tight is a tough argument because wayne peace played qb in a cautious way. when kerwin bell took over, that was a thing of beauty!
i find the headline odd, florida miami since foley is something so downplayed it annoys me. i expect miami to give us a war, and i hope our guys are ready. the newspaper can print what it wants, and i guess the new generations dont have the fire for this, but imo this game, auburn, fsu, and georgia are the four top games of the year. other teams will make it top for them, and UT will return over georgia in time, but this year thats how i see it
That’s really hard to disagree with, bud. Pell was indeed a terrific coach, whose flaws got the best of him and finally ended in disgrace (may God give him peace in the afterlife). I can think of some others like that too; had he had a few more of the attributes of Ray Graves or Dan Mullen, we would no doubt be remembering him differently.
It’s likewise true that virtually everything runs in cycles, just like it has in the not-so-distant past for not only Miami, but also our Gators and even Alabama — including Georgia for sure. Hell, I remember when the University of Tampa took it to Miami and delivered a beat down of epic proportions! Beyond that, I see a future again in the East where Tenn and Florida will dominate and take a back seat to nobody in the West.
Let’s make sure UGA has a short cycle on top!!!
It just seemed to me that Pell’s team always found a way to lose, despite amazing talent. I think there was a general feeling that he and the team got too tight for big games. Maybe not, but when I think about Spurrier’s swagger and the way he instilled that in the team, I have to feel he had that “expecting to win” attitude instead of being afraid to lose.
I think you just nailed it right there Jaws.
Seems like a big shift from last year where he preached approaching every game in the same way. Hope the team doesn’t get too tight from all this hype. I hope our guys will forget about all the cameras and attention and just play their game. Years ago it was a common thing for coaches before big games to tell their players, “There are a billion people in China who don’t care.”
Also, it’s not a must-win game at all. I fully expect us to win and will be very disappointed if we don’t, but it’s a non-conference game with no bearing on the SEC race and would leave us plenty of time to recover rankings-wise.
I believe it IS a must win game. So many people are complaining about how UGA is out-recruiting us and taking top tier players out of our state. One way to slow that down is to beat Miami. South Florida will continue to be rich recruiting grounds, and beating Miami gives UF a stronger pull with those players to come to Gainesville. It is a must win game because we are not far enough removed from years of mediocrity and the awfulness alluded to above that began with Michigan. Confidence and momentum are at stake here, and it is good to know we have players experienced from that UM debacle and mature enough to lead the younger players away from the same and far too many mistakes leading up to and continuing through the 4 – 7 season.
Yes, very fortunate to have players on the roster who lost to that MI team, who can lead the rest of the team to prepare right. I think the coach is using this to motivate but as the game comes close im sure he will change his tack to calm the nerves. seen too many good teams blow it when overhyped! too much adrenaline and you cant even shoot straight, happens to cops all the time in a shootout.
I guess it would be more accurate for me to say I think it is a mistake for our team to look at it as a must win game– I just feel it often leads to poor outcomes. On the other hand, in the old NCAA football game during the “pre-game” show they used to always quote some coach who said, “If you don’t think they are all big games, try losing one.”
First game of the year for either team a National audience I give them possession first. Let our Defense cause their first mistake from jitters and set the pace…. The Gator defense is a wrecking Crew !
Indeed, a good strategy, but I can see Franks itching to prove himself and wanting the ball first to draw first blood.
“…I don’t ever like having a non-winning record during the season, so if you win the first one, you’re halfway…”
One half of twelve equals one? CDM obviously not a math major…
Coach Mullen and the Gator coaching staff will have the Gators ready for the UM game. Each team has its weaknesses. The strength of the Gator football team is its unity and determination to execute each play to the best of their ability. In the end, the Gators will win – GO GATORS!!!
Training a team to a fine edge is easy, keeping them focused and not losing that edge is hard. Not my words and the likely not worded 100%. We’ll be ready game one.