This season has been a road of discovery for the young Florida Gators. On Saturday night in The Swamp, they discovered what it’s like to get punched in the face.
The question now is: how do they respond?
Meyer said on his conference call with the media Sunday morning that he’s not sure how these kids will handle the crushing 20-17 loss to Auburn that the Tigers won on the final play with a 43-yard field goal.
Are these kids ready to step up and be men? Meyer didn’t have the answer Sunday. He will Saturday night in Baton Rouge. This UF team will find out everything it needs to know about itself Saturday night. If the Gators stand up and punch LSU in the face, then the chance for a big season is still out there. If the Gators take another punch to the face and fall flat again, this could turn into a tough situation for a team that was expected to grow up and improve with experience over the course of the season.
The Gators certainly didn’t grow up or improve any Saturday night.
Yes, UF showed some toughness by rallying from a 17-3 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. But when the Gators had the chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the offense went three-and-out after having a first down at the UF 42. Then the defense came on and was helpless to keep the Tigers from driving into field goal range in the final two minutes.
It was a heartbreaking loss, one that has a chance to linger if the Gators let it.
On Sunday, Meyer declined to reveal the atmosphere in the locker room after the game. “I’m going to keep that in house,” he said.
Last week, Meyer described what it was like in the UF locker room after the devastating loss at Auburn a year ago. He said there was chaos, with finger pointing and some players ready to fight each other. He also said there were some tears. That team, top heavy with seniors, pulled itself back together during a team meeting two days later and went on to win the national championship.
It’s not realistic to expect this young team to do the same thing.
What is realistic is for this group of players is to stick together and make some kind of stand. This season is far from over. How this team responds is huge. Huge for the rest of this season. Huge for next season ” because this is a team that should be ready to accomplish some big goals in 2008 if it can end 2007 the right way by continuing to grow and compete.
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