GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Like the rest of the players on the Florida football team, Josh Evans was devastated in the moments after the Gators’ 17-9 loss to rival Georgia on Saturday.
UF’s chance to clinch the SEC’s Eastern Division title fell apart because of six turnovers, including one that wiped out the potential game-tying touchdown. It marked the first time since 1987-89 that Georgia won back-to-back games in the series and now the Bulldogs control their own destiny in the division race.
But Evans was more concerned about what’s going to happen on Monday than what had just happened at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
“You get punched in the face, you’ve got to get back up,” Evans said. “It’s pretty much what it is.
“We won’t hold our heads down. We’ll be back next week worried about Missouri.”
There’s no doubt the Gators (7-1, 6-1 SEC) are reeling, and they should be, but their goal this week is not to let one loss become two. UF is still alive in the division race and can win it should Georgia lose to Ole Miss or Auburn in the next two weeks -- but the Gators have to beat Missouri on Saturday at Florida Field.
“We’re going to have to keep pushing,” said QB Jeff Driskel, who committed four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions). “There’s a lot more football to be played. We’ve just got to handle our business for the rest of the year.”
Missouri (4-4, 1-4) is coming off its first SEC victory, a 33-10 rout of visiting Kentucky. The Tigers had scored just 55 points in four SEC games and had lost three of those games by at least 21 points until trouncing the Wildcats.
It’s a game the Gators should win despite their offensive limitations, but not if the locker room is a mess, and there’s legitimate reasons to wonder if it is. The offense had turned the ball over only four times this season until Saturday but gave the ball up six times, including four times in UF territory.
That put the defense in some tough situations, but the Gators were able to hold the Bulldogs to just 10 points. They intercepted a pass and Georgia missed a field goal on the other two possessions. The defense played well enough to win -- UF picked off Georgia QB Aaron Murray three times and held the Bulldogs to 273 total yards -- but couldn’t overcome the offensive ineptitude.
But there is no finger-pointing, CB Jaylen Watkins said.
“We look at it as a challenge for the defense, so for us it’s fun,” he said. “It’s obviously not fun turning the ball over but we get excited because that’s some of the challenges we like to face, just get our offense back the ball. We did it a few times but a couple times we didn’t help them.”
UF coach Will Muschamp said he didn’t see any unit blaming the other, either.
“We’ve already had some guys stand up [and speak to the team], and we’ll be fine,” Muschamp said. “Those guys will regroup and be fine.”
Muschamp said the Gators didn’t fall apart last season during a disastrous October and he doesn’t expect them to do so this week, either, not with the Eastern Division title still very much in play.
“That’s what I told the team in the locker room,” Muschamp said. “You won well together. We’re going to find out how we handle adversity as a football team. We have done that very well in my time. We’ve got a bunch of down guys in the locker room and I totally understand that. We’ve got to regroup here.
“We have good leadership on our football team and I think we’ll be fine in the long run. We just need to push through this and there’s no question there’s a lot of football to play.”