Before and after Saturday’s game, Gator teammates stood behind their new leader, Austin Appleby. After the Vols walked home with a 38-28 win, it is easy to forget at one point Appleby led the Gators to a 21-0 lead in the first half. Offensive Lineman David Sharpe said he thinks Appleby played hard enough that the Gators could have come out of Neyland Stadium with a win.
"He just played confidently,” Sharpe said. “He took on a leadership role. He stepped up. He did his thing back there man. He took on a leadership role. Stepped up, told us what we had to do. He made his calls and he was just confident."
Sharpe said a lot of guys had trouble with the snap count because of how loud the stadium was. Although he said regardless if it was their first away game, they could have been better.
"Yeah, we were always back there around the 10, backed up in our end zone a lot of the time,” Sharpe said. “And I guess we tried to run the ball a lot to get out of there. A lot of it didn't stick in the second half."
After losing to Tennessee for the first time in the last 12 tries, the Gators understandably took it extremely hard.
“A couple guys crying and then all the sad faces around,” Sharpe said about the locker room afterward. “Yeah that loss really hurt a lot. It’s a division game. We beat them for 11 years. Just to be that team that lost to them, it really hurt a lot of guys, especially the guys in their last season.”
Sharpe still feels that the reformed offensive line has progressed to be even better and more confident than last year’s. When the Gators were dominating at halftime, they obviously had a different mentality coming out of the locker room than they did before the game.
“(They told us) just to keep our foot on the gas,” Sharpe said of the coaches’ mantra at halftime. “We were doing well. They were telling us the game definitely wasn’t over. Just to keep going, keep fighting.”
Florida plans to hit the ground running this week preparing for Vanderbilt on the road. With one away-game under their belt, the fresh Gators may have some jitters shaken out for Vandy. It seems that the Gators know how to go forward from this disappointing loss and have learned some lessons
"We gotta finish and we can't get comfortable,” Sharpe said. “That the game isn't easy and that we're gonna face adversity. That's why we play. But definitely mostly the finish part. You know, we got to finish out. Don't take your foot off the gas."