It’s almost unthinkable based on the last 30 years, but the Gators are in danger of graduating a class of true seniors that don’t have a win over the Bulldogs for the first time since 1983.
The only player of the redshirt seniors that was on the field when Florida beat Georgia in 2010 was Neiron Ball, but he only played special teams in that game and didn’t record a tackle. The Georgia native is the only player on the Florida roster that has been on the field for a game Florida wins over Georgia.
It’s not a something the seniors are proud of, making this game even more important than usual.
"It is a big game, it impacts us as it does Muschamp because he went there so, it's a big game for all of us,” Florida linebacker and Georgia native Michael Taylor said. “It's a border rivalry. You want to play good in this game, and this game has decided who has come out the East the last couple of years except for last year. It's a big game, it's an important game for all of us, not just the ones who went to high school in Georgia."
Florida center Max Garcia didn’t get a full four years to participate in the rivalry. After playing two years at Maryland, Garcia decided to transfer and ultimately decided to play at Florida. He took a redshirt during the 2012 season while sitting out because of the NCAA transfer rules.
Despite that, the Georgia native knows what the rivalry is all about even with only one year of experience on the field against the Bulldogs. The seniors have all talked about it this week, and even though Garcia hasn’t been on campus for four or five years like the rest of them, he feels the importance around beating Georgia just like the rest of them.
“As a senior, I really want to win this game,” Garcia said. “I don't even care about the rest of the games if we when this game. Morale is high if we win this game. That would boost our confidence up as a team and get us going on the track where we want to be at the end of the year because we have to go through Georgia to get to the SEC Championship Game, which we still want to do, which we still have hopes and aspirations of doing.
“We really want to beat Georgia. As a senior, being from Georgia, to have more added to the game, I can't even tell you how much more I want to beat Georgia. I just want to beat them.”
Many of the Georgia natives on the team told stories of relatives calling them this week, begging for a win over the Bulldogs. For Garcia, it’s going back to his high school and hearing it from Georgia fans that work at the school and coach on the high school’s staff.
Taylor’s mom works at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and asked her son for a win, joking that she’s had to put up with Georgia fans having bragging rights for the last three years.
“She's had to take heat for that for about three years now, so I need to give her a little bit of ammunition this year," Taylor said.
There’s also the storyline of Will Muschamp’s job security. The seniors were a part of Muschamp’s transition recruiting class and they have a chance to get a win over Georgia to relieve some of the heat on the coach.
The players have all spoken about Muschamp this week. He has been called a players’ coach since taking the job at Florida, and that hasn’t changed. The Florida players all rave about him and want him to stay in Gainesville. A win on Saturday is a must in making that happen, but it’s only part of the motivation the Gators have for facing Georgia.
“It’s bigger than that,” Ball said when asked about playing for the coaches. “As you guys have probably seen, we’ve lost our last couple games. It hasn’t been pretty to watch. It’s time to just get back on Florida level and it’s time to get a win.”TAILGATER Wooden Ice Chest Giveaway