During the first half against LSU, McElwain thought his team was trying too hard to make a play. They entered Tiger Stadium with a top-10 ranking and in the middle of the College Football Playoff conversation. While the coaching staff has spent every week this season preaching about the importance of handling each Saturday one game at a time, McElwain thought his team was getting too caught up in the outside distractions.
That changed during the second half, as Florida stormed back and tied the game at 28 before a fake field goal went for a touchdown to give LSU the win.
Saturday’s game against Georgia in Jacksonville will go a long way in determining the winner of the SEC East. McElwain and his staff are spending this week making sure the players are loose and play up to their capabilities.
"I thought we got a little out of sorts our last game,” McElwain said. “I thought the first half we pressed, guys doing uncharacteristic things. It wasn't anything to do with their effort, but they were trying to do more than they had to do. Pressing. That isn't how we are going to win. We are going to win by doing our job. And we're going to win together. I thought we got out of sorts at times and yet I thought we bounced back decently.
“This is a lot of fun. We've put ourselves in a position to where what we do is relevant. That's kind of a neat thing. But it doesn't mean anything if we don't take care of what we need to do today to get ready for Saturday.”
The lesson to the players this week is the same it has been all season. McElwain wants the players to understand that the team is in a good position and that’s how it should be at Florida. Their performance this season has pushed the program back into the national conversation, and they have an opportunity to capitalize on that with a win over Georgia.
“This is why you get into it -- to play in games like this,” McElwain said. “If you're not prepared and you're scared, then this probably isn't the place for you because this is the expectation of the University of Florida.”
The Florida coaching staff hit the recruiting trail last week for the first time since the college football season got underway. When they visited schools over the summer, the Gators were an afterthought nationally. However, a 6-1 start to the season has pushed Florida to the forefront of the state and the country.
That has helped the Gators on the recruiting trail.
"Before, you'd roll into a school and they really said 'you've got to show your ID' because they didn't know who the heck you were,” McElwain said. “And they thought I was kidding when I said I was the head coach at Florida. Now there's a couple more people that know, which is a good thing for us.
“The reception was outstanding. We’re making some inroads and still need to obviously in a lot of areas, but recruiting is your lifeline. We’ve got to get better at it.”
RUNNING GAME IMPROVEMENT
The Gators are No. 13 in the SEC while 3.5 yards per rush, and they are also No. 13 with 126.7 rushing yards per game. It’s not where the coaches or players expect it to be.
“It’s not good enough, and it’s obvious,” McElwain said. “We’ve got to get better. We haven’t created explosive runs. The guys are trying, but obviously it’s not where we expect it to be or where it’s going to be. We’ve got to get better there. To be a dominant football team, you’ve got to be able to stop the run and run the football, and we haven’t done that. “
The LSU defensive line created issues for Florida by moving players around and rotating players enough to keep everyone fresh. It’s also the most talented defensive front the Gators have faced so far this season, which created issues for Florida’s inexperienced offensive line.
“We'll learn from the experience but didn't handle things up front as well as we would have liked,” Florida offensive lineman Trip Thurman said. “They were slanting a little bit. We have to put in the preparation each work, put in the work and time in each practice. We need communication up front as well. Georgia does that odd front -- it will be a tremendous key for us to communicate, block the linebackers and do our double-teams. Physically, they're some big boys. This will be a physical game up front."