If Jarrad Davis is any indication of the team’s attitude entering Florida’s rivalry game with #14 Tennessee (3-0) that is exactly what transpired in Gainesville this summer.
Florida’s defense, entering the game on the heels of a record-breaking performance, has been looking forward to the Tennessee game as long as Tennessee has. That is remarkable considering that the Gators broke the hearts of Volunteer fans everywhere with a 28-27 victory in which the result was left until late. If a go-ahead 63-yard touchdown with 1:26 left was not bad enough, the 55-yard field goal that was a foot wide allowed for that little bit of hope to make 11 games in a row an extra bitter pill to swallow. While victory was sweet, its taste did not linger all summer in the mouths of the defense that allowed 53 total yards a week ago. While not 11 games in a row bad, it is certainly an opportunity that this talented unit is eager to make amends for.
“He put a hurting on us pretty bad,” recalled Davis of Volunteers quarterback Josh Dobbs. “Josh Dobbs is definitely a dual-threat quarterback. He does it at probably, you know, if not the highest, one of the highest levels of all the dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. So we know how much of a threat he is and how much he can hurt you if you allow him to. He put up a lot of yards rushing and he threw the ball pretty well. And defensively last year, we were really excited to play this game.”
The Gators were gashed for 254 yards on the ground a year ago, a number that is not seen very often in Gainesville. A hallmark of the Jim McElwain era thus far has been identifying the cause of and correction of mistakes. When the Gators screw up, they will tell you about it. Next, they will tell you how they plan to fix it. It is a topic that no doubt has been discussed at length in the preparation for this contest.
“We kind of made the moment bigger then what it really was, and we were out there doing things that we naturally do not do. We put ourselves in a lot of bad situations last year. We're going to try to ensure that we don't do that this year. You know, we got to be calm, and like you said, we're disciplined. We're a lot more disciplined than we were last year. We've been there before and we're more comfortable with this staff now and, you know, everything flows together. It seems like when we step out there on the field on Saturdays we know exactly what to do and we know exactly how to do it as well."
The defense has given up only 14 points through their first 3 contests. While no doubt impressive, reproducing a result of that caliber will be a different story Saturday. Tennessee is certainly a step up from the teams that Florida has beaten so far this year and the Gators know they will have to raise their level yet again. They know this because that is what the ‘experts’ have told us all summer long. Davis says the Gators got the message.
“I think the jump in talent is going to be huge,” explained the product of Camden County HS in Kingsland, GA. “This is a team that’s highly talked about. They’ve been talked about all summer long. They were talked about all last year. It’s always been when is Tennessee going to do its thing, and its Tennessee’s time. I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is a game that’s extremely hyped up.”
With an offensive line that has been less than stellar, the Vols will be in big trouble if that unit does not produce their best game of the year. Despite their unconvincing opening to the season, Tennessee is higher ranked and is currently a 7-point favorite over a Florida team that possesses what their head coach Butch Jones referred to as the best defense he has faced in his four-year tenure since arriving from Cincinnati. While certain to anger the thin-skinned amongst us, this information can be taken in multiple ways. It is being taken exactly how you would hope on the defensive side of the football.
“It just makes us defensively say, hey, let’s lock in, let’s do what we do, because if we say we’re the best defense in the nation and we go out and do what we do then no one can beat us. The only person that can beat us is the Florida Gators, that’s all. So we’re going to go out and do exactly what we do as Florida Gators and we’re going to dominate the game. We have a lot of defensive players that are extremely fast and extremely explosive that are going to be able to close ground and we’re going to be able to kind of mix things up with Dobbs and Kamara and Jalen.”