Dealing with success

For the first time since the 2009 season, the Gators are being forced to deal with success. After beating a top-five team in the country, Florida goes on the road to play at a stadium with a capacity just over 40,000. Tied between weeks with top-five teams coming to play in Gainesville, this weekend is a perfect setup for a trap game. No one knows how the Gators will handle their newfound success.

"We'll see Saturday night," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "To this point, (success has been handled) very well as far as understanding and approaching each game the same. We're not going to put in any more hours as coaches this week than we did a week ago. We're not going to put any less, either.

"We'll prepare very similar to what we've done this far in the season, as far as what we've got to do to be successful and that's winning the football game."

The thing in the corner of the Florida coaches is that this isn't a normal Vanderbilt team. A lot was made last season as the Commodores played better than expected under first-year head coach James Franklin.

The Commodores opened the season on national television and played a close game against now-No. 3 ranked South Carolina. The big hit came in a 48-3 loss at Georgia on September 22. However, Vanderbilt recorded a 19-15 win at Missouri last weekend for its first conference win of the year.

Despite the up-and-down season the Commodores have had, the Gators are treating it like any other week.

"It's a new week," Florida linebacker Jon Bostic said. "We've got to forget about last week. We've got things as a defense we've got to look at, and as an offense and pretty much as a whole team, things we've got to improve on. That was the first thing Coach Muschamp showed on the PowerPoint in the meeting. There was still a lot of areas that we could improve on, so this week we're focusing on that area and on Vanderbilt."

The Gators also learned last year that they can't take any game lightly. Florida came into the game with a four-game losing streak in 2011 and jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime. Then, the Commodores stormed back.

Vanderbilt outscored Florida 14-6 in the fourth quarter and needed to recover an onside kick with 1:16 remaining in the game to secure a five-point lead. All the coaches need to do is flip on the film from last year's game.

"Every SEC game is big," Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "You can't take anybody lightly because anybody can beat you. This league is full of players and full of athletes. They're going to be well coached and they're going to be ready to go. We can't take this week off or take it lightly. We're going to prepare like we have been the whole year and we'll be ready to go come Saturday."

The coaches have been pushing the players this week in practice and meetings to avoid becoming satisfied with the win over LSU. The Gators are beginning to be part of the national focus now, and the coaches are pushing the players to be mature enough to handle it.

"Why would I change my expectations change? We set expectations, and we talk about how to handle them, and what are standards are," Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "It shouldn't change. We go back out, and we start over just like it's a new week. It doesn't matter who we're playing.

"Cover up the scoreboard, put new-colored jerseys on and you go get ready for the next game. It's how you handle success. You start all over. Preparation is key to any game because we can go out and get beat as easily if we don't prepare properly."

The close group of players are on the team have fed off that message from the coaches. They're keeping each other accountable this week at practice to continue working hard and looking at the next game. They learned in 2011 and this offseason about the trials of a season, and the Gators are now going to be tested.

"We're a close-knit team," Driskel said. "That goes back to the offseason. We were working hard together every day, day in and day out. We know we have each other's back. If the defense has to step up and keep us in games, they'll do that. And when the offense gets their chance, they'll also do that. It comes back to being a unified team."


Fightin Gators Top Stories