Gator Seniors go out with a Loss

ORLANDO, Fla. --- It wasn't the way the Gators wanted to see their senior class go out but they'll have to look back on the positives that are there. Although the Gators' 41-35 loss to the Michigan Wolverines was the first time an Urban Meyer-coached team lost a bowl game, he was quick to make sure that their accomplishments aren't lost in the disappointment.

"First thing we've got to do is thank the seniors for getting us to the pinnacle of college football a year ago," Urban Meyer said. "Not many guys - I thought the most disappointing thing about the senior class was that there weren't more of them. That's not their fault. It's for the guys that transferred, moved on and weren't good enough. I don't want to take away from the Drew Millers and Carlton Medders. They won 31 games in three years so there's a lot of positives that I don't want to lose sight of."

Losing is something that the team has already had to deal with this year, but since this was the last game of season, it was even more disappointing for the team because they couldn't send their senior class out with a victory.

"It's probably more frustrating for the seniors because we prepared and worked hard all week," sophomore receiver Percy Harvin said. "We didn't send them out the right way. We're disappointed because we didn't send them out the way we did last year."

For a team full of underclassmen, the seniors still played a large part in the team's leadership and guidance through the season. For senior safety Tony Joiner, a player that has gone through so much, it was a difficult thing to cope with.

"It hit me real hard," Joiner said. "It hit me real hard in that locker room. It was an emotional moment. It hit me when it was two minutes left to go and we gave it back to them on fourth down. That's when it really hit me."

Nevertheless, Joiner was able to put his time as a Gator into perspective and realize that despite the loss, he was thankful for the way things went.

"I had a great four years," Joiner said. "If I could do it all over again I'd do it the same way. I had a great run; I've seen some younger guys grow up and got a chance to be called the old guy. I'm happy about that."

Perhaps more than anyone, Joiner had to step up his senior season as the leader of a defense with so little experience. They certainly had their share of struggles replacing so many key defensive players from a year ago, when Joiner was just one of many upperclassmen.

"We didn't play great defense this year," Joiner said. "[Tim] Tebow and the boys put up 30 plus points a game and when an offense does that you have to be able to win a game. The last four games of the season we played great football. We come off the Florida State game, we played great football and against Tennessee. It's in there. We just have to be consistent."

Consistency should come as the defense continues to mature as another offseason with the staff sets in. The one thing that stuck out to Joiner was just how much potential his young teammates have in the coming years.

"Extreme amount of talent," Joiner said. "Guys that are willing to be coached and guys that are willing to do what it takes to get better. And that's what they're going to do. They're going to get better. We have some young guys this year and we didn't have much depth at many positions. We're gonna get depth and we're gonna get guys who know more about the game. That's going to help them next year."

Questions or comments? Contact's Blake Bonsack

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