ATLANTA — Saturday's 32-13 loss to Alabama may have been hardest of all for the Florida seniors. As a group, they will leave as the most successful senior class in SEC history.
But that all seemed very hollow in the locker room inside the Georgia Dome as the reality hit that they won't get the chance to play for back-to-back national titles — something many came back for their senior season to accomplish.
"This was one of the hardest things I've been through in my life just because I wanted it so badly," said senior WR David Nelson, who scored Florida's only touchdown. "We worked so hard, and trained so long, to get to this moment. And to not come through is heartbreaking."
Though mystified as to why they picked the biggest game of the year to play arguably their worst, the players refused to make excuses.
"That team was the better team today," senior LB Brandon Spikes said. "They made the plays they needed to make. They made better plays than us."
STRONG DENIES RUMORS: Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong on Saturday night denied rumors he is interviewing for the Louisville coaching job today. Media reports all week have said Strong is the leading candidate for the job and was expected to interview immediately after the SEC Championship game.
Strong said he has not been contacted by Louisville and has not had any discussion with the school about the vacant coaching position.
A LESSON FROM TEBOW: Alabama coach Nick Saban made a point to find QB Tim Tebow after the game, telling Tebow that some of his character traits had rubbed off on the Alabama team.
"(Last year) I think we learned a lot about resiliency and critical lessons in life about the intangibles it takes not to be denied," Saban said. "I told Tim this: Some of the characteristics he has in terms of what he did for his team last year in the game, in terms of being a phenomenal competitor, as an example to our guys (about) how everybody had to buy in not to be denied in this game. That was an intangible that would make the difference in this game."
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Two key first-half plays may haunt the Gators when they review film from the game. On Tebow's pass to Jeff Demps on the second play of the Gators' opening possession, Demps appeared to have big running room but dropped the ball. The Gators went three and out. Then on second and 8 at the 19-yard line late in the first half, TE Aaron Hernandez dropped a pass near the end zone, and the Gators eventually settled for a 32-yard field goal and trailed 19-13 at halftime.
"I thought the big one in the game was (Demps), and he usually catches it," Meyer said. "And very simple, Tim scrambled and made a great throw, and Aaron usually makes that catch. Those are two critical plays in the first half."
JAMES INJURED: Senior RB/return specialist Brandon James suffered a foot injury and did not play in the second half. "I aggravated my foot," he said. "They don't know the extent of the injury, but we are going to reevaluate it (today)."