GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No Florida team since 1979's winless bunch has needed a win as badly as these Gators. Coming off a five-game losing streak, Florida (4-6) returns to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday to play host to Georgia Southern (6-4).
Just how desperate are the Gators?
"About as desperate as I am [to stop] hearing about it," said middle linebacker Michael Taylor. "You get tired of losing. You come to a place like Florida, you’re not accustomed to it. You’re not used to losing five games. It definitely wasn’t in the plans. Players, coaches, we’re all disappointed. It’s like it’s all sliding downhill. But one thing we do have is two games left on the calendar. Those are two games we’re going to go out and focus on."
Before anyone thinks this facing an FCS foe is going to be easy, consider that the Eagles run the triple-option offense, which is known to confound even the stingiest of defenses.
"It's all about eyes and execution offensively, taking care of your responsibility on every snap," Florida coach Will Muschamp said on Monday. "They run a classic triple-option, a dive-option with a lot of different looks that they're going to give us, and they do a nice job of executing those things. It's all responsibility football. It's an over-and-under defense. ….
"We're getting ready for an offense that's so different from what we've seen in three years. Obviously we spent a lot of time in the offseason preparing and looking at different teams and how they handled this because it's so different from what we've faced."
To make matters worse, the Gators recently lost leading tackler and starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison for the season with torn cartilage in his knee. With Taylor sliding over to fill in at middle linebacker, true freshman Jarrad Davis made his first career start last week at South Carolina and earned good reviews.
"I thought Jarrad played really well," defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said on Wednesday. "He played fast. The game wasn't too big for him. He was ready. Obviously it was his first start and it so happened to be on his birthday, so he was kind of amped up before the game. He responded well, played really well."
The Gators will need that kind of effort to break their losing streak.
Georgia Southern has never defeated an FBS opponent in 20 contests. The Eagles, who are moving to the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference next season, ought to be fired up for their last chance to make history.
The Gators, meanwhile, have desperation on their side.
"I mean, if you don’t come out prepared and ready to play you can lose to anybody," Taylor said. "We lost to Vanderbilt. We hadn’t lost to Vanderbilt in 20-something years. So, any team is capable of losing on any day. I know this team put up  yards on Alabama [two years ago], so this is no team to push aside. This is a team to be prepared for."