After last week’s season opener against New Mexico State, the Gators were happy about their disciplined play and only one penalty on the night. Things were different on Saturday night after a 31-24 win over East Carolina.
McElwain wasted no time blasting his team for committing 12 penalties for 105 yards in his postgame press conference. There were two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after touchdowns. The first one came when Jalen Tabor intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, as Joey Ivie was whistled for the penalty. Running back Kelvin Taylor earned one for his celebration after giving the Gators a two-touchdown lead with 6:57 left to play.
“Guys, that was embarrassing,” McElwain said seconds after stepping to the podium. “We didn’t deserve to win the ball game. I thought (ECU coach Ruffin McNeill) and his team came in here and took it to us. Our lack of playing with discipline and understanding how to play the game crept up and it was embarrassing. Penalties inside the red area … We’ve got a long ways to go and it starts with understanding that selfish acts hurt the team and it will be dealt with. That’s not how it’s going to be around here anymore.
“Over the last 10 years, most penalized team in the league, in the country. It’s not going to happen. We’ve got to learn. It was embarrassing to our administration, our university and almost came back to bite us in the end. There were some decent things that went on, but there were a heck of a lot worse and bad things than there were good things. There’s not a lot of positives to talk about other than the fact that we figured out how to win a ball game. But it’s not the brand or style of ball that we’re going to play.”
There was a hint to the coaching staff that this could happen when they met together on Monday. The team takes Sunday off from practice to regroup, recharge their bodies and get their academics in order. When they met together for the first time last week as a team on Monday, McElwain noticed that over 30 players didn’t have their ankles taped and weren’t ready for the first meeting of the day.
He saw a team full of itself, fresh off a 61-13 beating of New Mexico State.
“You have to come prepared. That was a look into maybe what was going on this week. They were feeling good about themselves. For what? Because they took care of one opportunity? The thing in life, you don’t get a lot of opportunities, so how are you going to let one slip away when you got a chance to go and play your game? The way you prepare is the way you’re going to play.
“It’s a bunch of entitlement. Entitled for what? How about investing?”
McElwain’s frustration boiled over multiple times on the sideline. When Ivie was called for the penalty after Tabor’s interception return, the Florida coach got into multiple players faces on the sidelines. When Taylor got his penalty, McElwain made an example of Taylor in front of a large group on the sideline, berating him for the selfish actions.
The Gators will meet again as a group for the first time on Monday. McElwain is hoping this one is different. Florida player referred to the game as a wakeup call, but if they’re going to rebound with a better performance at Kentucky next week, they’ll have to get game prep started better this week.
“You’ve got to teach them,” McElwain said. “It’s not OK to act that way. It’s not OK to call attention to yourself when the selfish act hurts the whole team. It’s not OK."