He wanted to know why Tennessee was dominating the game. The question was whether the Florida players think they weren’t playing well, or did they think Tennessee was just better than them.
“Was it us or was it them?” McElwain recalled saying. “Our guys responded a little bit.”
There were still clear problems in the second half. Florida’s tackling left a lot to be desired and the offense struggled to move the ball at times. But the Gators never believed they were out of it, fighting back to finish a 28-27 win over Tennessee.
“I don’t know if we deserved it or not, but I sure liked it this way more than the other way,” McElwain said. “They played their hearts out for the Gators, all the Gator fans and all the Gators that played before them.”
The Florida coaches emphasized the rivalry throughout the week as the Gators were able to complete their 11th straight win over Tennessee.
“Down deep, you just don’t lose to Tennessee,” McElwain said. “And they didn’t.”
TACKLING A CONCERN
The Volunteers ran for 254 yards, a number that would’ve been much lower without missed tackles. The tough running of Jalen Hurd took multiple tacklers to get him to the ground, and quarterback Joshua Dobbs was elusive and created missed tackles with his athleticism in the open field.
Multiple Florida defenders said after the game that they have to improve on bringing the ball carrier to the ground instead of going for the big hit.
“We’ve got to learn to wrap up and tackle,” McElwain said. “I’m sure that’ll be as it is in our tackling circuit every week. I’m sure it’ll be emphasized even more going into this next week.”
ACCIDENTALLY ICING THE KICKER
While Aaron Medley lined up for a 55-yard field goal to win the game, McElwain called a timeout just before the snap. The Volunteers snapped the ball and kicked it, with Medley missing badly. It was seen as McElwain trying to ice the kicker, but that wasn’t the case.
The Gators had 12 men on the field and McElwain had to burn the timeout to avoid a penalty.
“We had a guy run on the field and might have 12 guys. I think it was a pretty good calculated risk to take that timeout,” McElwain said with a laugh. “I was going to play cat and mouse with the official and then probably not call it. Maybe they’d think I would call it. I don’t know.
“I counted myself when the extra guy ran on. Good thing my dad was a math teacher.”
POWELL HANDLES KICKING
Austin Hardin missed the game with a hamstring injury, forcing redshirt freshman Jorge Powell into action for the first time in his Florida career. He didn’t attempt a field goal but did make all four extra points, including a clutch one that gave the Gators a 28-27 lead with 1:26 left.
“We’ve got total confidence in him,” McElwain said. “The other kid said his leg hurt and couldn’t kick, so next guy up. We knew that would happen. He did exactly what we thought. He came in there and did his job. That’s what kickers do.”