JACKSONVILLE — Now is when the Gators will find out what they are made of.
All week leading into Saturday's game against Georgia, players talked about holding onto the slim hope of winning the SEC East — albeit with a lot of help.
After a 23-20 loss, the SEC title is out. And the Gators are 4-4 with two ranked teams, South Carolina and Florida State, remaining on the schedule along with Vanderbilt this week and Division I-AA Georgia Southern.
And Florida still needs two wins to be bowl-eligible.
"We're going to just keep fighting each and every week," QB Tyler Murphy said. "We'll try to knock everybody off. We have Vanderbilt at home. They're a good team, so no one's going to feel sorry for us. We're going to come (this) week and be ready to play."
Will Muschamp, now 0-7 in the series after four losses as a Georgia player and three as Florida coach, said he's not worried about his team.
"They were very upset (after the loss) and hurt. But we'll rebound, and we'll be fine," he said. "We've improved. We got better from Missouri (two weeks ago)."
Asked what the Gators have left to play for, LB Neiron Ball said: "Pride."
HEAT OF THE RIVALRY: The flags were really flying at EverBank Field. Penalty flags, that is.
The Gators and Bulldogs were penalized a combined 13 times for 115 yards — not including the multiple offsetting penalties related to fighting after plays. Georgia coach Mark Richt said it was indicative of the emotional nature of this long-standing rivalry.
"These guys are competitors," he said. "It's a bitter rivalry. We were getting our guys revved up. I guarantee they were getting their guys revved up before the game. We wanted their blood pumping, and we wanted them to be able to compete fiercely and without any flags. But it got a little carried away. It's just a highly competitive game. You hope you keep from having those flags, but it didn't shock me."
Muschamp was frustrated by some of the calls.
"It's hard to see some of that," he said. "Whatever they call, they call. In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we've led the SEC in penalties 20 out of 24 (years); either first or second. That was long before I got here. So it's interesting, but it is what it is."
NOT HOW IT LOOKED: Ball was called for unsportsmanlike conduct with 11:20 left in the game. He removed his helmet after he and LB Antonio Morrison held Georgia RB Todd Gurley on fourth and 1. But Ball insisted it was unintentional.
"It was on my nose in a very uncomfortable position, and the only thing I did was take it off," Ball said. "I didn't take it off intentionally. It was a tough call. Nobody wants to be called for a 15-yard penalty."
Instead of the Bulldogs 39, the Gators started at their 46. They punted with 8:17 left and didn't get the ball back.
"It was very frustrating, Ball said. "We did our all. We fought."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]