The returning players have experience succeeding after tough games. Florida went 7-0 in games after losses last year. They struggled playing after big wins, as they lost to UCF after winning at Florida State and lost to Jacksonville after beating Kansas State. Regrouping after tough losses hasn't been much of an issue.
A similar situation presented itself last year. After the Gators lost to Ohio State in Gainesville on a Tuesday night last year, they turned around to face a Thursday game then, too. The Gators blew out North Carolina A&T 105-55 in that game.
Donovan will have a better understanding of his team's mental state after the game Thursday night.
"This is a real high-level character game for us. North Florida is a physical, hard playing, competitive team," Billy Donovan said. "With our flight situation coming back and having today to get ready, I think when you're competing, you're dealing with a win and feeling good about yourself or a loss and licking your wounds. This is an opportunity to see what our makeup is."
The travel challenges will force Donovan to be creative. Instead of the team and coaches sleeping in their own bed after returning late Tuesday night, they got back to Gainesville around noon on Wednesday. With an exhausted group, they still needed to practice before taking on North Florida.
"We'll have to do some different things," Donovan said. "There's a balance with one day like this about how much prep work you do and how much you try to work on yourself. You've got to look at the minutes guys logged and the travel, but I don't think there's any reason why our guys shouldn't be physically and emotionally ready to play."
This is when Donovan wants to lean on his experienced players like senior Erving Walker and juniors Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy to take charge. It would be easy for the team to take North Florida for granted, but the Gators had letdown games last year that can always sneak up against instate opponents.
There were points in the Ohio State game where the team was frustrated with the offense and Donovan felt like the players felt sorry for themselves with the lack of points. It's a feeling he's trying to erase, so that it doesn't creep into Thursday night.
"In the game (against Ohio State), we had a little bit of feeling sorry for ourselves that it wasn't going well or making mistakes that bled into the next play," Donovan said. "The biggest thing for me as a coach is what needs to be learned and exposed."