TALLAHASSEE — As he sat in the visitors interview room adjacent to Bobby Bowden Field with the roar of a raucous Florida State crowd still within earshot, Florida coach Urban Meyer vowed the Gators will return to the elite level of college football.
He'll see to that, he said. Starting today, when his coaches hit the road recruiting.
"I can assure you we're going to rebuild this thing, build it up the right way and do it right," Meyer said.
"Obviously, we're down a little bit. I didn't believe we'd be that far down, but we are. How do you build up a program? I've done it a few times, and you build it up with tough players and tough coaches. And you've got to play better."
Saturday's 31-7 loss ended a six-game win streak over the Seminoles. And with its 7-5 record, Florida lost five games in the regular season for the first time since 1988.
So how does Meyer plan to get back on track?
"The fix starts (today)," Meyer said. "Recruiting. I have a lot of confidence in a lot of players in our program. In '07 (9-4), we were probably not this bad. But '07 was not a good year. And those guys got a little … there was a little bit of anger and edge to them. They came back and with that great leadership on that '08 team and great talent, they came back and won (the national title).
"I'm not putting us in that category because we're certainly not. But there's one way to do it. And it's hard work and go rebuild it."
INJURY UPDATE: Senior C Mike Pouncey sustained an injury in the fourth quarter and was to be evaluated further Saturday night.
"Got hit in the chest," Pouncey said. "Don't know what it is right now. We're going to get X-rays as soon as we get back into town. I'm hurting pretty bad."
Meanwhile, sophomore QB/TE Jordan Reed suffered a concussion and was still being attended to as the Gators prepared to board the buses for Gainesville.
And DT Jaye Howard has a sprained ankle and WR Omarius Hines a shoulder injury. Their status also had not been determined.
MCCARNEY LEAVING?: Meyer said a report in the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle that assistant head coach defense/defensive line coach Dan Mc-Carney has been offered the job at North Texas was news to him.
"I have not been made aware of that," he said.
Todd Dodge was fired in October, and Mike Canales, a former USF assistant, is the interim coach.
McCarney joined the Florida staff in 2008 after a one-year stint at USF.
BOWED, NOT BROKEN: The Gator players admitted the manner in which they lost Saturday was cause for some embarrassment but insisted they are proud of the way they've hung together.
And in spite of their record, QB John Brantley said nobody should question whether the Gators have gone soft.
"We've got some tough players," he said. "I don't question the toughness of the players at all. And I don't question the toughness of the coaches either."
A FIRST FOR CLARK: Florida's opening drive ended with a milestone for freshman WR Robert Clark. The Palm Beach Dwyer alumnus had his first career touchdown — a 20-yard reception from Brantley that gave the Gators a 7-3 lead.
"Everybody was excited, especially me," Clark said. "After that play, I thought we were going to come out and be on fire."