Florida beat LSU 16-10 on Saturday in a game that was supposed to be played a month and a half ago in Gainesville, but instead was performed in the hostile confines of Death Valley in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
There was a ton on the line, most notably the chance to compete for the SEC Championship two years in a row and play in Atlanta in two weeks. That in itself is a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by an SEC coach in his first two years at the helm. Maybe they weren’t actually searching for it, but a great deal of respect has fallen by the wayside for a team that is now (8-2, 6-2 SEC). McElwain hopes that his team got some of that respect Saturday.
"It's just a credit to the program and the organization and the people that believe,” he said to start off his session with the media in attendance. “You know, the way I look at it, we came in with a purpose, we played the way we needed to play and it wasn't pretty. But I'm going to tell you this, the future's bright for the Gators. And it's no small feat to go to that championship game back to back. I think that's what we're doing, which is pretty cool. And I just can't tell you how proud I am of our players, our staff and happy for the Gator fans… that don't think we're very good, but all we do is end up back in Atlanta, right? So that's pretty cool.
McElwain told his team that the bayou positioned stadium was somewhere they were going to call home on Saturday. It was supposed to be a home game and like Steve Spurrier used to make it regularly, they were going to try and make the home team feel like they were playing on the road.
"The other way we kind of looked at it was this was actually supposed to be a home game, so the way we talked about it was, we'll end the season undefeated in The Swamp. We're 6-0 in The Swamp this year. That's pretty cool.
A glimpse of the future?
Following him closely it is apparent that McElwain thinks more of his team than most on the outside. Right or wrong, the man has his team in position to play for another SEC title in his second year and all of the big doubters never thought that would happen.
McElwain is building a program and not so worried about the now in his second year at the helm, but as to how to get things where they eventually need to be
"You know what? I'm ready for spring practice,” he quipped. “Can we go? I am. I tell you guys, I don't think anybody here gives us much credit for having some good players and guys that care, guys that do it right and guys that have committed to something a lot bigger than themselves. I mean, look, we're bringing in good guys. And you know what? They're playing hard. Yeah, they aren't 37-star guys. But you know what? They're guys you can be proud of and I'm proud of. They came in and they're playing hard. And these older guys are showing them the way. They've committed to something a lot bigger than them. When you start to do that, you've got a chance to be successful in life."
"I'm excited about the future and you know what? It's a great time to be a Gator."
The crazy LSU media, fans, players, and administration spent so much time leading up to this game talking about how much Florida didn’t want to play in this game, the seemed to forget that Florida was actually going to show up.
"Can you believe that?” McElwain asked about all the pre-game hype and rhetoric. “I mean, it just shocks me that somebody would question the Gators. The way I look at it, they got what they deserved. And it should have been worse."
"Look, we came in here to build a program and build an organization people can be proud of and doing it the right way. That's the way we're doing it. Things aren't always pretty. This time of year's pretty in Atlanta. It's the second year we'll go see it."