Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

No letdown game this week

The Florida Gators take on North Texas in what might call a ‘trap game’ or a ‘letdown game’.  That doesn’t fly for Gators’ head coach Jim McElwain who knows you only get so many Saturdays to prove your worth during any season.

McElwain’s team just experienced the low and high of playing to the level that they want. Two weeks ago the Gators faced off against undermanned UMass and the game was still in question with a 10-7 score at the start of the fourth quarter. The Gators would finally pull away 24-7, but it wasn’t the kind of outing he is looking for in his club. Then this past weekend, the offense and defense performed at a level we haven’t seen around Gainesville in several years, thrashing SEC foe Kentucky to the tune of 45-7. 

McElwain knows that good teams show up every Saturday and regularly just take care of business.

“I think the challenge moving forward is to see how this team's going to respond,” he said Monday when posed with the question of a possible let down game.  “See how this Gator team's going to respond. Kind of the MO of this program has been, you know, you play high and you play low and not consistently. This will be a huge week for us as far as our guys understanding that never, ever let an opportunity pass you by.”

“I look at it a little bit overall in just the history of this program. More so, that mindset of understanding great teams they learn how to prepare and go out and be proud of how they play and realize you’re only given so many opportunities to go do this. And for us I think we really need to focus on that, focus on the now, focus on the things that you got to do to go out and be proud of what you do. Being honest, I don’t think they’ll real proud with what they did. They played OK in that first game, and that’s what it was, it was just OK. You can’t just go out and be OK and think that that’s a good thing. And I thought they took that to heart and really played well this last game. But there again I talked a little bit about the challenge right off the bat. The challenge here is are we willing, are we going to go ahead and approach each opportunity as something that gives you a chance to go out and get a little bit better.”

The one thing McElwain says he can’t do is to take anything lightly. That includes playing players that are healthy enough to play. Antonio Callaway is banged up right now with a bruised quad muscle and will miss a day or two of practice this week, but if he is feeling good enough to go. McElwain wants him out there on the field and not worried about saving him for what might be perceived as a tougher game down the road.

“You don't be cautious,” he said about holding back Callaway if healthy. “Once you’re cautious that’s when you run into problems. That goes for anything you do in life. You can't go into anything being cautious because as soon as that happens that’s when bad play happens that’s when you play OK.

Almost every program has a letdown game each year. Some have more of them than others. They do what they can to guard against it, but he believes that it is all a mindset and something each player chooses in how to approach a game like this one.

"I think what you do it you look at historical precedence, and I've I said (about) this program: If you look historically, it sometimes has let that creep up and enter the psyche,” McElwain said “It's not something you coach them to do. But let's face facts. I'm pretty blunt when I talk to them, 'This is what it is, and it's your choice.' That's the beautiful thing is it's a choice. You choose to show up or you choose to be cautious, to pick a good word."

“It's a personal pride thing no matter what you do or who you play the opponent should be faceless because it's an opportunity for you to go out and prove who you are? It's a personal pride thing. No matter what you do and who you play."

So this week it is all about North Texas, or it better be. Tennessee looms a week later, but McElwain says a true test of his team’s worth comes this weekend in The Swamp.

"I don't know when that game (Tennessee) is but I do know this game is going to be one that is going to be a real test for our character as to what kind of team we are,” he said. “Time will tell. I'll be able to tell at today's practice. I'll be able to tell at the meetings. I'll be able to tell after Tuesday's practice. I'm pretty honest with you about how they go about their business. I'll be able to tell if they are not going to go about business right, then we're in trouble because we're not good enough to show up against anybody."

I guess we will know their mindset for sure when the coach talks Wednesday.

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