Gators seek to take back Swamp from Seminoles

Florida running back Lamical Perine is stood up by the FSU defense during the Sunshine Showdown at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Nov. 25, 2017. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The familiar saying about how only Gators get out of The Swamp alive could be, actually maybe should be, amended this week.

 Because Seminoles get out alive, too. They’ve done it four times in a row over the past decade.

 That’s right, Florida State comes into Saturday’s rivalry game riding a four-game winning streak in The Swamp. No other UF opponent can even come close to matching a streak like that since Steve Spurrier gave The Swamp its name before the 1992 season.

 And there’s nothing fluky about this streak. The Seminoles have owned the Gators in Gainesville dating back to the 2011 game, outscoring the home team by a combined 123-38 in those four consecutive Senior Day spoilers.

 It’s hard to fathom the Gators losing to anybody four times in a row in The Swamp. On Senior Day, no less.

 “It is,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said Monday. “You don’t expect to lose at home that much and now knowing that they’ve won so many, it’ll definitely put a little chip on our shoulder just to go out there and execute because we’re not a team that wants to lose at home.”

 The Gators have not beaten the Seminoles at home since Tim Tebow’s Senior Day back in 2009.

 It’s a fact that today’s Gators did not seem aware of, including coach Dan Mullen, until they were told about it Monday.

 “No idea about that,” Mullen said. “No. I know we won last year. I know (the Gators) lost the year before because I was watching. You know, I was taking some phone calls (about the UF job and others). I knew they lost that one. I was just watching to see what the team looked like.”
Mullen wasn’t here for any of those losses, but he has a good explanation for how the streak happened.

 “(FSU) has had some really good teams come through in that time frame,” he said. “I guess you look back in that time frame, Florida has kind of been down a little bit and they’ve had a couple of good teams, so I guess you could see why that happened.”

 Now, the tables would seem to be turned. The Seminoles are a little bit down, while the Gators are ranked No. 8 in the nation and seeking a second consecutive 10-win (or more) season.

 “We haven’t beat FSU at home in a while, so it’s time for us to show up,” center Nick Buchanan said.

 Being a redshirt senior, Buchanan experienced the last two home losses to the Seminoles. But most of the players have experienced only one of the losses; Mullen and the coaching staff none.

 The Seminole streak won’t be a factor Saturday night, quarterback Kyle Trask said.

 “The past is the past” he said. “We’re just focused on this game. Those are obviously past teams with different players and different coaches. On Saturday, it’s a new team and we’re going to be ready to go.”

 There is some Swamp motivation, the players say. But it’s not so much about snapping the FSU streak as it is finishing this season undefeated at home, which was one of the Gators’ major goals heading into the season.

 The Gators are asking their fans to show up and show out one last time in The Swamp in 2019.

 “It’s very important,” said Hammond, who was in The Swamp to watch his older brother, Frankie, play in the 2009 game that UF won 37-10. “Home-field advantage has always been our thing. We haven’t lost at home this year. Being able to have The Swamp behind us, especially at a night game, it better be rocking. We just need all our fans to come out and support us and try to help us get a win against Florida State this year.”

 It would further be confirmation that under Mullen and his staff the Gators have taken back The Swamp, making it a special place like it used to be before the dip that started occurring after that 2009 win over FSU.

 “Another part of the Gator Standard is you want that to be the most feared college stadium,” Trask said. “The fans are definitely very important. We want them to be loud, rocking, get that place shaking. They’re just as important as anybody else in that stadium on game day.”