It didn’t go well. The Gators pounded New Mexico State 61-13 to open the season, but the preparation the following week suffered because the team bought into its success against an overmatched opponent.
Florida is now coming off an improbable 28-27 win over Tennessee, including the second largest comeback in school history dating back to 1966. The Gators are 4-0, ranked for the first time since October 2013 and will spend all week hearing from the outside about how the program is on the upswing with No. 3 Ole Miss coming to Gainesville this weekend.
Can the players handle it?
It’s a question even Florida coach Jim McElwain is unsure of as the team meets together for the first time this week on Monday afternoon.
“This will be interesting,” McElwain said. “It’s always a learning experience. Part of it is really going back and explaining the why and how you’ve had some success, and maybe not putting Saturday before what we need to do now. What we try to do in everything that we go through is explain the why.”
The explanation will be the focus of the coaching staff this week. Florida’s 4-0 start has come because of the team’s focus and preparation, especially in the last two weeks while preparing to play Kentucky and Tennessee. McElwain has preached about the importance of attention to detail while preparing, and the team has understood it over the last two weeks.
This will be their biggest challenge of the year after an emotional win and a difficult opponent coming on Saturday.
“The consistency in how you handle it and how you understand how you got there, and not thinking that you’ve arrived. It’s a psychological part that everybody in this room deals with at times. It’ll be interesting to see. The guys should be excited about it.”
McElwain wants his team to be happy with their performance on Saturday against Tennessee. Even if it wasn’t perfect, the Gators stayed in the game and played well in the fourth quarter.
For a team leaning on multiple young players, the emotional swing can help or hurt this week. The four wins have helped the program, but the Gators are heading into an October schedule with three opponents ranked in the top 10.
“I want them to feel good, and yet OK we’ve won four games,” McElwain said. “That’s where we should be. That’s got to be the thought and not get caught up. The game itself should really handle the excitement. It will be interesting to see how we prepare.”