TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After their crushing 31-6 loss at No. 1 Alabama, Florida's players and coaches vowed to come back strong this week.
With a team filled with young players, the Gators' veterans stepped up after Saturday night's game to take ownership and promise leadership.
"I told the guys just to believe," senior C Mike Pouncey said. "We go through this every year: We lose a game and it's all about how you respond. So we have to go out and have a great week of practice and go out there and have a great game against LSU. I've been here four years, I'm a leader, I'm a captain on this team and I want to win, and my team does too, so as long as we have that, we just have to believe in each other and go out there and win."
No. 14 Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC), which dropped seven spots in the Associated Press poll, hosts No. 12 LSU (5-0, 3-0) at 7:30 Saturday night. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Florida's goal of reaching the SEC Championship Game remains, but the Gators can't afford a letdown. To get to Atlanta — and a possible rematch with Alabama — Florida knows it has to play much better than it did against the Crimson Tide.
"We've got to rally back," offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "We've got to do the things we didn't do well, we've got to do them better. We've got to go back and work on some fundamentals, clean some things up, and get ready to play another football game. Every year's a different year and every scenario is a different scenario, and here we are, we lost a tough football game to a good football team. We've got to rally back, and we've got to play another good football team. We've got to play better. Simple. Period. That's what it has to be."
WHAT BURTON SAW: From message boards to fans in the hotel lobby, a hot topic is whether the Gators made the right call in going for it on fourth and goal at the Alabama 2 on their opening possession — and whether the attempted jump pass was a good idea. Trailing 3-0, freshman QB Trey Burton's jump pass to freshman TE Jordan Reed was intercepted. "I knew he (Reed) was caught up by something," Burton said. "That's why I threw it at a low angle like that. He was stumbling, but he was still looking at me. And the linebacker came over and got it."
Before the play, Alabama coaches alerted the defense that the jump pass was coming.
Florida coach Urban Meyer said he would do it again in that situation. Addazio, who said it was "my call," was less definitive.
"I think our mind was set at that point," Addazio said about not going for the field goal. "Given the whole scenario, we felt good about what we called. Like I said, it didn't happen. That jump pass is like that. We felt it was the right time. We've kind of been working on that, kind of waiting for this opportunity and it didn't happen. Obviously if you had that one again, call a different call."
NUMBERS GAME: Florida had more total offensive yards than Alabama (281 to 273), more passing yards (202 to 103) and a longer time of possession (32:50 to 27:10). Florida also held Heisman Trophy-winning RB Mark Ingram to 47 total yards. But two interceptions that led to touchdowns and three empty trips to the red zone were its undoing. And for the first game this season the UF defense didn't have an interception, and it gave up 170 rushing yards.
"I didn't think we did anything really bad, but I didn't see us do anything really exceptional, make the plays that really change momentum as you need to do on the road," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said.
NOTable: The loss was Florida's first in the regular season since its 31-30 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 27, 2008. … Meyer is 36-10 against SEC opponents but 11-8 vs. SEC West teams. … Senior DE Duke Lemmens had a career-high eight tackles.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.