“There was a confidence, but in my opinion it wasn’t the right type of confidence. It was a confidence of ‘hey we’re Florida, we’re talented, we’ve got a lot of draft picks.'”
–Tim Tebow talking about the Gators mindset entering the Kentucky game in the days following Florida’s loss to the Wildcats
Now don’t get me wrong, Florida could’ve beat Kentucky. In fact, they should’ve beat Kentucky and if it weren’t for a few missed calls and the lack of tackling by an overmatched defense, Florida would’ve beat Kentucky.
Although there were multiple calls that were not well received by the near 90,000 people who packed themselves into the swamp for Dan Mullen‘s first conference tilt as Florida’s head coach, blaming referees for losses is just unnecessary bitterness. The blame ultimately falls on the players, who came to play with the wrong mindset. Even Tim Tebow called out the team’s effort saying, “There was a confidence, but in my opinion it wasn’t the right type of confidence. It was a confidence of ‘hey we’re Florida, we’re talented, we’ve got a lot of draft picks,’” on ESPN’s First Take in mid-September.
The Gator defense looked like Swiss cheese to the Kentucky Wildcats, with holes everywhere, specially to RB Benny Snell, Jr. who averaged 6.5 yards per carry including 175 total for the game, and Quarterback Terry Wilson who rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown. Following the conclusion of the game, Mullen said he counted 20 missed tackles that resulted in at least 168 yards for Mark Stoops’ Wildcats.
It was obvious what needed to change, the culture. The mindset had to be altered, both offensive and defensive toughness needed to be preached, and by the grace of Mullen, it was.
The flaws exposed against Kentucky have lead to change, which has paid dividends for the Gators. Florida allowed just one touchdown against a potent Colorado State offense, and allowed only had 70 total rushing yards.
That effort was followed by an offensive explosion against a below average Tennessee team. The Florida defense also looked just as solid in a 47-21 win. In the victory, the Gators forced the Volunteers into six turnovers and put the offense in position to win the game.
Last Saturday against #23 Mississippi State and in a hostile road environment, the Gators had their best all-around effort of the season. The defense was outstanding and tough, giving up only of 202 yards in 60 minutes of game time and didn’t allow a single touchdown in an emotional 13-6 win.
Looking back, the Kentucky loss is not a ‘bad loss’, as Stoops has his ‘Cats sitting at 5-0 and ranked #17 in the latest AP Poll, released on Sunday. In the same release, the Gators re-entered the Top-25 for the second time this season, this time checking in at #22.
With a record of 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC, Dan Mullen and staff are just two wins way from securing a bowl appearance.
“Listen, draft picks don’t win games. Great players win games, OK? There’s a difference between being a great player and being a talented player. Florida’s talented players need to be great players,” Tebow said about Florida’s toughness, in the same First Take segment.
It was 10 years ago when Tebow promised to be the hardest working man in football, which ultimately led UF to being crowned National Champions.
That same toughness is being preached by Mullen today. Clearly, the team has begun to listen to the staff’s message.
All it took was an embarrassing loss to what we have learned is a good team in Kentucky.
This Saturday, we will find out just how tough the Gators have become against #5 LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game is set for a 3:30 PM kickoff and will air on CBS.