SEC football: Davis is confident in Gators' plan and personnel, but UF won't trick its way to victory

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

Florida is aware of the abundance of perceived advantages the No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs have heading into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. match-up in Jacksonville. 

The 19 five-star and 47 four-star prospects on the roster. 

The top-ranked defense that’s allowed just five touchdowns through seven games. 

Florida running back Malik Davis heads up the field after making a catch out of the backfield last year against Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

And the metaphorical driver’s seat — Georgia, unlike the Gators, have much to play for and are the odds-on favorite to win the program’s first national championship in 41 years if it takes care of business the rest of the way. 

On paper, the Gators aren’t being given much of a chance and head into the game as 14-point underdogs to their SEC Eastern division rival. 

But the game isn’t played or coached on paper, and the latter is where UF believes it has an edge. 

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With history on their side, the Gators are confident in the coaching staff’s ability to out-scheme the opposition Saturday. 

“I believe in the game plan. It looks good to me,” said redshirt senior running back Malik Davis, who added he hadn’t prematurely lost faith in UF’s ability to down the ‘Dawgs. “I don’t think (we have the pieces to win). I know. I know we do.”

Davis has reason to believe. 

In last season’s 16-point victory over the Bulldogs, Davis had 100 receiving yards on five receptions to help Florida maintain the course for the SEC Championship Game and down UGA for the first time since 2016. 

The ‘Dawgs had higher-ranked talent listed on the roster then, too — the Gators simply had the better game plan, and they executed it effectively. 

In the aftermath, many deemed the 44-28 victory over Georgia as one of Dan Mullen’s more well-coached games since he’d been at the helm in Gainesville. 

Now the team’s seen it done, Davis expects no less from his head coach in what will be the Tampa native’s final time competing in The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

“It just shows he’s a great coach. He knows how to come up with the scheme that works, and it’s just up to us to go out and execute it. So, that’s what we plan on doing,” Davis said. “Yeah, I believe in the game plan. It looks good to me.”

When Monday’s practice session arrived, so did Davis’ favorite part of the preparation — implementing deception.

“When he brings out new plays on a Monday, I get excited, because a lot of the times it’s something extra for the running backs to do,” Davis said. “So if he’s bringing in extra plays, I get excited. It’s opportunities.”

Though Davis is cognizant the Gators won’t just fool their rival. They’ll have to outlast them as well, and there’s no secret formula or disguised play that will make that part of the job any easier. 

“I mean we just put down the ball and go play football. It’s no trickery, no recipe that we have,” he said. “We’re just ready to put the ball down and play ball. It’s that simple.”

The Gators feel more ready after a much-needed week off from competition. The hope is that the open week will have revitalized a team that has been drained by seven consecutive contests and three painful losses. Having battled through injury throughout his career at UF, Davis knows what the time away from the field can do for the product on it. 

“It gives guys time to heal up and feel better. This is a long season and guys get banged up, so the off week buys us time to get those guys that were banged up healed,” Davis said. “Get those guys back ready this week.”

For as confident as he is in the team’s personnel and preparation, Davis isn’t trivializing the severity of the contest. 

He knows Georgia should prove to be the toughest trial of the season for the program, although that’s even more reason why the neutral-site showdown is much-anticipated annually by players, coaches and fans alike. 

“I just love the competitiveness and the atmosphere. Going against these guys, we know they’re going to play their best game, and we know we’re going to bring our best game. This is why you come to schools like Florida and Georgia,” Davis said. “The intensity levels are going to be high and the emotions are going to be high. I love it, and I’m ready to get out there.”