GAINESVILLE — At halftime against Kentucky on Saturday, Florida coach Will Muschamp issued a challenge for the rest of the game that the Gators must now try to carry into the remainder of the season.
Time to grow up.
"We've got to start growing up as a football team," he said. "We had some adversity, so what? Move on, play the next play."
The Gators are 4-0 as they prepare to host No. 3 Alabama (4-0) on Saturday (8 p.m., Ch. 10). After opening the season against two undermanned teams then facing two of the weaker SEC opponents on their schedule, the Gators must show they've matured and improved.
Florida and Alabama are Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in the SEC in total offense, and the Crimson Tide has the league's top scoring defense, while the Gators are No. 2. But are the Gators more prepared to face the Tide than they were last year, when they lost 31-6 loss in Tuscaloosa?
"I think so," Florida QB John Brantley said. "It's tough going up there to Tuscaloosa. Them coming down here, that helps us out a lot. I think we're mature enough that we're going to handle our business throughout the week and go out Saturday night and try to execute our plays."
Only two members of UF's coaching staff — Brian White (running backs) and D.J. Durkin (linebackers/special teams) — were around last season, and those who played in that game don't want any memory of it.
"You know what, it hasn't (weighed on his mind)," DT Omar Hunter said. "To be honest with you, it's a new year, and I'm treating everything completely different."
SEC honors: Senior DT Jaye Howard was named SEC defensive lineman of the week. Howard returned a fumble for UF's first defensive touchdown of the season in the 48-10 win at Kentucky. He added three tackles and a pass breakup and anchored a front that limited the Wildcats to 4-of-17 on third downs and 0-of-5 on fourth downs. Alabama RB Trent Richardson, who rushed for 126 yards, won offensive honors.
Like home: Muschamp said he likes the fact that the Gators will be backed up by their home crowd, but being at home doesn't necessarily mean an advantage against the Tide. Alabama leads the series 21-14 (22-14 without NCAA vacation in 2005) and is 7-2 in Gainesville. Muschamp said that while the Gators have the utmost respect for Alabama, they will focus on themselves.
"We just worry about Florida," he said. "Really, at the end of the day, we're going to take care of the University of Florida."
Running strong: Former Durant High cross country standout Grace VanDeGrift ran a personal best 5K time of 18:19.43 to place 16th and help lead the UF women to a team victory in the Mountain Dew Invitational on Saturday. North Carolina finished second and USF third.
In the men's 8K, sophomore Mark Parrish (Chamberlain High) was the Gators' second finisher in seventh place (25:03.14). The men finished second, four points behind winner Michigan.
Injury update: CB Jeremy Brown (knee) is out. TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) and WR Andre Debose (ankle), who both sat out last week, are expected to return.
LSU kickoff set: Florida's Oct. 8 game at LSU will kick off at 3:30 p.m. (Ch. 10).
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.