GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida hasn’t played a game in eight months, but it’s been even longer since the Gators enjoyed a win.
They ended the 2015 season with a dreadful three-game losing streak that saw them get outscored 97-24.
“Pretty miserable, wasn’t it? You had to sit through it, too,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “I’m still hurting. That’s all I can say. That was miserable.”
Those words come from a man who won SEC Coach of the Year honors after leading the Gators to the East Division title and becoming the first coach in school history to win 10 games in his first season.
But the lopsided losses to Florida State, Alabama and Michigan left a lot to be desired.
“Very disappointed in how we finished,” he said. “Not something that we’re proud of, and not something that I take very lightly. Yet, at the same time, it was an opportunity for us to kind of learn.”
McElwain said complacency doomed the Gators after reaching uncharted waters with a top-10 ranking and their first trip to Atlanta in six years. McElwain wants to see his players grow from that.
“This is a team that has to understand that what they did a year ago was kind of discover, kind of discovered a little bit maybe what was possible,” McElwain said. “And yet, learned some lessons along the way about understanding, never being satisfied.”
College football analysts and prognosticators have doubts about McElwain’s 2016 team. Few expect the Gators to repeat as SEC East champions. Losing 11 total starters and your final three games isn’t a recipe for preseason hype.
It’s been nine-plus months since the Gators had a victory, and the Ole Miss upset last October was the last time they won comfortably at home. That changes Saturday against UMass.
A feel-good win in The Swamp and following locker-room celebration will officially turn the page on that Citrus Bowl blowout.
“It’s been a long time where we left the field without a really bad taste. Really bad. It’s time to go play,” McElwain said. “Looking forward to it. It should be a lot of fun. I want our guys to enjoy it.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.