Eleven years is easy to reflect upon when it’s gone. It is certainly not an insignificant amount of time. A lot has happened since 2004, including eleven-straight victories over the once powerful Tennessee Volunteers. Those eleven years belonged to the Florida Gators and I have to admit, they were pretty sweet. Until about 5:30pm on Saturday, it looked like it would surely be extended to twelve. By 6:30pm, it was over. The streak that survived through last-second heroics, blowouts, and even Will Muschamp had ended in brutal fashion, something that has been synonymous with this series recently. Redshirt-Senior safety Marcus Maye was on the right side four of the eleven years, but a fifth was not to be.
“It was definitely humbling,” expressed Marcus Maye, who conceded that the second half performance was not up to the team’s lofty ambition. “We came out and first half we played pretty well. Once they made adjustments on offense in the second half, we tried to make adjustments but as a team, as a defensive group, we didn’t adjust the way we needed to.”
Few Florida fans will have to be told that miscommunication played a part in what can only be described as a collapse from the team that sucked the life out of the 104,000 capacity stadium in the first thirty minutes of the game. Several of Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs’s four touchdowns through the air (he also ran one in) were the direct result of the secondary’s inability or unwillingness to communicate, whichever it may have been at the time.
“Yeah, that’s what it was,” said Maye when asked if the touchdowns in question were the consequence of miscommunication. “Just different plays. We didn’t communicate when we needed to. Calling certain things, not at the right time and stuff like that. That’s what it came down to, communication on the backend.”
The locker room atmosphere at halftime immediately comes into question when a team devolves the way Florida did from the first half to the second. The Gators outgained the Vols 300-162 in the first two quarters in a manner that made Gator Nation even more confident than they were entering the contest. At the end of the contest, the Volunteers led the Gators by nearly one hundred total yards. Maye confirmed what many suspected.
"Yeah,” admits Maye when asked whether cornerback Quincy Wilson’s use of the word ‘lax’ adequately sums up the locker room attitude. “We were all excited about the first half. In the back of my mind I knew they were down in previous games, they were down and stuff like that against Virginia Tech and all of those games. We came out flat and were lax, and it showed in the second half."
An embarrassing setback notwithstanding, the fifth-year senior from Melbourne believes that his team has it within them to rebound from what transpired in Knoxville. Maye brushed aside assertions of whether or not last weekend would affect the team moving forward.
“We’re still going to play our game,” when asked if the nature of the defeat would leave the Gators shell-shocked. “It’s not like our season is over with or anything like that. As a group, we’re still going to go out today and practice just like we normally do. Everybody still has their heads up. Everybody’s spirit is still up and stuff like that. We’re still the defense we know we are and stuff like that, so we’re going to continue to get better every day.”
While certainly containing a few clichés, it is fair to point out that one conference loss does not end this team’s season. While the Gators have only reached Atlanta once after losing to their divisional rivals, if this result galvanizes the team in the way that the All-American believes it can, Florida still has a lot to play for yet.
“It's a learning process. Now that we've actually been through it and came out on the wrong end, we just have to keep the ball rolling and play for four quarters. We know it can't happen again. We know it takes four quarters, we can't get down on ourselves if we're down. We can't relax if we're up. It's definitely a learning process."