You normally wouldn’t find McElwain talking about moral victories, or so it seems. But he let a little bit of that verbiage slip Saturday night following the 35-28 loss at LSU at Death Valley in Baton Rouge. Then again, he was eyeballing a media corps that has seen too many of the losses add up over the last few years and he wanted to make sure that people understood what had just happened.
“That’s what SEC football is all about,” McElwain said. “Two good football teams playing their tails off and I think they probably earned a little respect for the Gators today.”
That is probably true. Florida fell five spots in the AP poll this week after the game, but has had more than their fair share of bad news recently with the yearlong suspension of starting quarterback Will Grier and likely dismissal of backup cornerback Deiondre Porter for off-the-field issues. These things occurring last week after the Gators ascended to number eight in the AP poll.
“Come on guys, it ain’t that bad,” McElwain said after answering a few questions about the issues that Florida had on the night against LSU. “Hey, the sun will come up tomorrow. And we’re still in control of what we need to do. And what is that? We’re gonna have a great Sunday. And then we’re in control of what we do on Monday.”
But Saturday was a tough match up, as is LSU for anyone. The current fifth ranked Tigers came in boasting a terrific defense and The Heisman Trophy front runner in running back Leonard Fournette. The Florida defense had their hands full early, but shut it down for most of the second half and McElwain understands that won’t do.”
“Well, they won the game, so not good enough obviously,” he said of the defensive effort. “If we win the game and he has 700 yards, we did a great job. That’s how it works.”
With Georgia on the horizon after a bye week, McElwain will have to get his team ready to play in Jacksonville. Nothing but coming out with a win in the next contest is going to make anyone in these parts happy.
“You’ve got to understand the reason you go do this,” he said talking about the big games on the schedule. “You don’t get a participation ribbon. We’re disappointed. We expected to come in and win. That’s who we are. Every game we play, we expect to win. I expect us to win on Monday and I expect us to win next week in practice and I expect us to win when we take next Saturday off to get better during a bye. I expect us to come back on Sunday at family dinner and have a great family dinner and win the family dinner. That’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter, (LSU) won. That’s it.”
The winning expectations have spilled over to the psyche of the team. On Saturday, down 28-14 at halftime and looking like not much was going right, the team fought through the adversity and was able to tie it up going into the fourth quarter 28-28. They showed a toughness and resolve we also haven’t seen a lot of around here in a while.
“I think it showed me a lot when we were down 14, and there were some guys that kind of maybe waned off a little bit at halftime… because I think that they knew they probably didn’t do their job,” McElwain said. “But I was excited see how each side picked each other up and guys responded to Treon. You know, he did some real good things. There will be some things (Treon will) see on film and wish he had back, as a lot of our players will. But you know what to get those couple touchdowns, that was good.”
“Our team handled this week, look that’s the way it works. If you’re going to cry over spilled milk all day long you’re not going to be worth a heck doing anything. Our guys practiced hard. They came prepared and we played hard against a really good football team. There could have been a lot of reasons for everybody (to say), ‘oh these guys will fall apart’, but no, we didn’t. And I didn’t expect we would.”
It is refreshing to hear a coach that doesn’t go into or come out of a game with excuses about how they will play or how they did play and come up on the short end of things. We all know some of the short comings of this team that a new staff has had to deal with, but McElwain knows they just have to play and coach through those issues. You won’t find excuses from this guy, just more expectations.
“I felt we had the advantage in every phase of the game, and that’s the way we approach every game. Offense, defense and special teams should be an advantage and you know like I said give them some credit. That’s a good football team. They’re physical. They know how to play and they do what they want to do. I thought their quarterback was excellent. Let’s face it, the best player in college football at running back, but you know what? We’ve got good players too.
“That’s who we are. We’re the Florida Gators and that’s the expectation, and we should be disappointed because every game we go to, we should expect to win.”
Now McElwain and the Gators know they have some things they have to fix before heading to Jacksonville in two weeks and taking on the Bulldogs. The game is a matchup of the two teams that still control their destiny. If either wins out, that team will be playing in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game. As McElwain routinely says, his team’s preparation heading into that game will be the deciding factor.
“Here’s how I look at this, and believe me this is not coach speak here. Each one of you guys in this room, you control everything you do,” he said speaking at the media contingent again. How hard you write. How hard you type. How hard you take pictures. You control it. No one else does. Each one of us… everybody here. So we control how we’re gonna deal with this.
“We control how we’re gonna go to work. We control how much we’re gonna do to get better. We control what we’re gonna do to stay together. And this I think will tell a lot about this Gator football team. It really will. And as you go through life, you get tests, man. Things don’t always happen the way you want them. It’s really the measure of how you deal with it. Everybody in this room can learn from that. We just get an opportunity to go back to work and get ourselves a little bit better. And that’s what the Gators are going to do.”