Letting a painful loss linger is never a good thing. The Florida Gators can attest to that from past experience. That’s why, as hard as it may be to do, they’re determined to separate themselves from the 24-17 defeat at the hands of Georgia on Saturday in Jacksonville and move on to the rest of their season.
“The biggest thing for the leaders on the team is just to make sure everybody’s heads are still up, everybody is still focused on the big games we still have in front of us,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said Monday. “Nobody wants to lose and guys are definitely down after the game. A lot of guys are just competitive and ready to get back out there and try to get ready to take on Vandy and take the bad taste out of our mouths.”
The loss to Georgia did not eliminate Florida from the SEC East race. But it has put the Gators on the brink of elimination. To reach Atlanta now, they need to win out against Vanderbilt and Missouri and Georgia to lose two games against Missouri, Auburn and Texas A&M.
They controlled their destiny a week ago. Now they don’t.
“Our focus is really doing the best we can in the next three games and then try to finish out the season the way we know we can,” Hammond said. “(The race) is not in our control. Georgia is a hell of a ball team and I’m sure they are going to go out there and control their own destiny to get to where they want to go as well. It’s not in our control. We are just going to control what we can and do the best we can for our team.”
Over the next few days on the practice field, coach Dan Mullen said he expects to find out what kind of competitors he has on this team.
“The focus has to be the competitive nature for all of our guys,” he said. “A true competitor, I imagine getting out to practice today should be a pretty lively practice if you’re a competitor. Because you’re antsy. The game didn’t finish the way we wanted it to finish.
“If you’re a competitor, you can’t wait to get back out there and get back to work. You can’t wait to go find a way to win the game this Saturday and hit the field again. If you’re a competitor, that drives you, that anticipation to make sure that you correct what happened in the last game.
“Winning is an addiction. I like winning. I want to get back out there and I want to win more. That’s just me as a competitor. That’s what I want to see from our players. Hopefully, they have that same drive.”
The players are vowing to bounce back big.
“We have a lot of great leaders on this team,” quarterback Kyle Trask said. “We’re not going to let (the loss) negatively affect us. We’re going to do a great job of taking the positives away from the game and seeing what can we learn from this tough game and just move forward.
“This team is full of great leaders and great competitors and we all love the game of football. So there is still a lot to play for and I know we’re going to be ready to go at practice.
“We’re going to do our best to keep on improving like we have every week so far. There are some things we have been improving on and we just want to keep that going on.”
The Gators’ approach now is to try and win out and see where that leaves them in the SEC race.
“For sure,” Trask said. “That’s one of the things Coach Mullen is preaching. We still have a lot to play for. We still do have a shot at the SEC East title, but none of that matters if we don’t take care of our business and go 1-0 every week from here on out. That’s our biggest focus right now.”
They can’t let the loss to Georgia linger. If they do, it could lead to another loss.
“It’s time for us to move on,” junior safety Donovan Stiner said. “It’s time for Vandy. If you dwell on a game for too long it’s going to affect the next game and we can’t let that happen.
“We’ve got to win out, starting with this game in The Swamp. That (Georgia) game is over, we’ve got to move on from it, take the mistakes that we made and use it to get better for this game.”