Gators looking for a safe, fast start in Nashville
Absolutely, the Florida Gators control their own destiny now. But only to a certain extent.
They control their preparation and how they play. What they can’t control is how the rest of the teams on their schedule are dealing with potential COVID-19 issues and whether remaining games are postponed or even canceled.
Five things to know:Florida-Vanderbilt
So, like everyone else, it is an uncertain week-by-week, game-by-game process. Try to get through the week, try to get to the next game and then try to get to the next week and next game.
For the Gators, the next game is here. Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Of course, the last time, Florida got on a plane to fly to and from a road game, the Gators were hit with a COVID outbreak the following week that led to the postponement of two games.
UF learned from that experience and changes in travel protocol have been made. Masks will be worn for the duration of flights and the coaches and players will spend only limited time in the visitor’s cramped locker room. At the hotel and team meals, social distancing. On the bus rides, designated seating.
“We've put a bunch of different things in place,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “We're going to change our routine on game day as it involves the locker room. I've been to Vanderbilt, so I know the visiting locker room situation. We're going to change our entire pregame routine to try to really limit the amount of time that we spend in the locker room.”
Gators, control what you can
Control the controllables. The Gators have a plan for taking care of themselves off the field this week. And, a plan for controlling the controllables on the field.
That plan includes respecting an opponent that is 0-6 and a 30.5-point underdog Saturday.
“Because they’re an SEC team,” Mullen said. “You see them continue to improve. They almost beat Texas A&M to start off the year, a seven-point game last week. Outgained Mississippi State, should probably have won that game.
“And we have to focus on ourselves. If we want to be a great team, we have to get better (this week). We only get 10 games this year, so you better be motivated for those opportunities and to get on the field and to go play and go make plays. Shouldn't need any more motivation than that."
Motivation also could come from UF’s last experience in Nashville. Two years ago, with an 11 a.m. kickoff local time, the Gators came out sluggish and fell behind 21-3 in the first half. They eventually righted themselves and took control of the game, winning 37-27.
“When you talk about our preparation, our performance, we have to play at an extremely high level if we want to have a great season," Mullen said. "You can’t come out and start slow.
“No matter what the atmosphere, what is going on, you’ve got to come out and play at a certain level and play to our standard of what we’re doing. You can’t come out and start slow like we did two years ago up there. We’ve addressed that and we’ll see. You get a feel once you get through the week of practice how everybody’s doing.”
The Gators control their one destiny, at least on the field, and they know how to keep it that way.
“Focusing on our job and practicing to our full potential every single day,” quarterback Kyle Trask said. “We’re trying to play to our full potential every game, which hopefully includes winning.”
How to watch
Who: No. 5 Florida (5-1) vs. Vanderbilt (0-6)
When: 12 p.m.
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850