Florida quarterback Emory Jones looks back at the Gators’ two-game losing streak to LSU and sees the difficult lessons learned.
In 2019, Jones simply wasn’t ready when his number was called. He had played often as a change-of-pace option behind Kyle Trask, but his snaps usually came later in the game. So when the Gators wanted to put him on the field seven minutes into the game, Jones didn’t have his helmet on correctly. His headband was covering his eyes as he called the play to his offensive line, and he was still trying to move it up after his first play (a 12-yard rush).
Coach Dan Mullen was not pleased.
“It was bad,” Jones said.
But the message got through. Then-assistant Larry Scott told Jones that he had to be ready at all times as the backup, because he might have to enter the game and win it.
“That always stuck with me the rest of the season,” Jones said.
The team-wide lesson from last year was different. The game will be remembered for Marco Wilson infamously throwing an LSU player’s shoe to give the Tigers a first down, but UF was a better team playing at home against a depleted roster. The Gators shouldn’t have even been in position to, literally, throw the game away.
Though Jones said UF wasn’t looking past LSU and ahead to the SEC championship showdown with Alabama, the Gators didn’t approach the game correctly.
“Honestly, we were thinking we had everything in the bag, and that came back to bite us,” Jones said. “Everyone on the team now knows that and knows the mistake that we made then, and that definitely won’t happen anymore.”
Saturday will be another test of that for the No. 20 Gators. LSU is reeling after back-to-back losses, will be without two of its best players (cornerback Derek Stingley and receiver Kayshon Boutte) due to injuries and has played poorly enough to put coach Ed Orgeron on the hot seat, two years removed from a national title.
If the Gators go into Tiger Stadium thinking a victory is assured, they risk getting bitten again by an LSU team with enough talent to win.
UF expects to get several injured players back this week. Preseason all-SEC cornerback Kaiir Elam is set to return after missing the last three games, Mullen said. He also expects two other starters, left tackle Richard Gouraige and running back Malik Davis, back from injuries after being sidelined last week. Defensive end Brenton Cox should also be fine after sitting out the second half against Vanderbilt.
Mullen also confirmed that he dismissed defensive back Elijah Blades from the program but did not give a reason.
• • •