After a surprising 5-0 start that has lifted the Gators to No. 11 in the rankings, there’s one big question surrounding the program.
How will Florida handle success?
Even coach Jim McElwain is interested in finding out the answer.
“I don’t think we are, but we’ll find out this week, if you know, we’re a one-hit wonder,” McElwain said during his weekly press conference Monday.
The Gators (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) will go on the road to take on the back-to-back SEC East champions Missouri (4-1, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday as 4.5 point favorites. That’s quite the turnaround after Florida lost to Missouri by a combined score of 78-30 over the past two seasons.
But after Saturday’s dominant 38-10 win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss, there are new expectations surrounding the Gators.
“People are rubbing [our players’] bellies and making them feel good,” McElwain said. “Yeah, they should get their bellies rubbed. I mean, they’ve done a good job. And yet how do you handle it? It’ll be interesting.”
Florida has strung together a six-game winning streak during a single season just once since 2010 and that came when the Gators began 2012 with a 7-0 record.
Only five players that played in 2012 remain on the roster — wide receiver Latroy Pittman, running back Mark Herndon, linebacker Antonio Morrison, defensive back Brian Poole and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard.
“Just last year we weren’t at this point, so you know we can’t get too complacent,” safety Marcus Maye said. “We know we have to remember how we were a couple years ago and just keep fighting and just keep practicing hard. Just the whole message is don’t get complacent and don’t stop working.”
After posting an 11-2 record in 2012, the Gators have gone 11-13 over the past two seasons. That’s a big drop off from a stretch that saw Florida win 81 percent of its games from 2005 through 2010.
McElwain has challenged his players to bring the program back to its winning ways with a slogan — “restore the order.”
“I look at it a little bit as a responsibility,” McElwain said of the slogan “But you have to be mature enough to handle the responsibility. That’s what’s interesting to me. I’m really looking forward to this week’s practice. I’m looking forward to looking them in the eye at [Monday’s] meetings and getting an idea exactly where they’re at in restoring order.”
But McElwain has made it clear that even though Florida is exceeding outside expectations, they aren’t as surprised internally.
“Let’s look at it from a historical standpoint,” he said. “This is where the University of Florida should be. So don’t be surprised, but let’s take advantage of it.”
And even though McElwain is curious to see how his players respond to the positive vibe surrounding the program, he wants them to enjoy it.
“Look, there’s nothing wrong with getting your belly rubbed,” McElwain said. “It feels good. Man, I like it.”
Florida at Missouri
7:30 p.m., SEC Network