The Gators tied for the third-largest move in the history of the Associated Press Poll, jumping to No. 11 and raising expectations for the season. The conversation about the Florida program is no longer whether or not it can make a bowl game. The Gators continue to control their own destiny in the SEC East and have eyes on a return to Atlanta for the first time since 2009.
But that can all fall apart if they don’t handle their win over No. 3 Ole Miss the right way.
“I’m kind of interested to see if our team is a one-hit wonder,” McElwain said, referencing his favorite one-hit wonder, a band named Cyrkle with their song ‘Red Rubber Ball,’ which was released in 1966. “Are (we) a one-hit wonder? I don’t know. I sure hope they’re not.”
The players will determine whether or not that happens with how they handle Monday’s first day of preparation. The Gators had a similar bout with this earlier in the season, but it wasn’t to this magnitude. After Florida beat New Mexico State 61-13 to open the season, McElwain saw hints of overconfidence. The Gators bought into the hype after their dominating performance, and preparation slipped the following week.
That showed up in the second game of the season against East Carolina, when the Florida defense needed a stop on the final drive of the game to secure the win. It was a learning experience for the team, but they struggled to be grounded after a win over a team that has lost its three games after Florida to Georgia State, UTEP and New Mexico.
Maintaining focus after a win over a team that came to Gainesville ranked No. 3 in the country can be more difficult, especially since there aren’t many players on the Florida roster that have been through something like this given the program’s struggles over the last two seasons.
“It’ll be really interesting to see how we handle the praise from all the people that obviously said they weren’t worth a hill of beans and now are talking about them,” McElwain said. “People rubbing their bellies and making them feel good. Yeah, they should get their bellies rubbed. They’ve done a good job. How do you handle it? It’ll be interesting.”
The Florida players don’t expect a letdown because of recent years. The team has learned about preparation and the attention to detail necessary before the weekend, and McElwain patted them on the back for their practice habits before the Ole Miss game.
It’s now about repeating those habits as they prepare for Missouri this week.
"We know we have to remember how we were a couple years ago and just keep fighting and just keep practicing hard,” Florida safety Marcus Maye said. “The whole message is don't get complacent and don't stop working."
McElwain said there are just “general nicks and bruises” after the Ole Miss game.
Wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood hurt his arm while trying to come down with a pass in the second half. He will open the week of practice in a non-contact jersey.
Tight end C’yontai Lewis is wearing a softer cast on his left hand, but he wasn’t able to play against Ole Miss. He’ll be evaluated on Wednesday, and McElwain emphasized that they’d “love to get him back” for Saturday at Missouri.
Linebacker Jeremi Powell (foot) missed the last two games but is “trending in the right direction” to return at Missouri.
“It looks like he’ll be out there today running around a little bit, which will be good,” McElwain said.