No. 4 Gators try to handle success after big win

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The first thing Florida coach Will Muschamp showed his players this week was a list of mistakes.

He put all the errors from Saturday’s 14-6 win over LSU on an overhead projector and went over them one by one.

His message was loud and clear: There would be no more celebrating around the football facility, which was a raucous scene last Saturday. Long gone was all the screaming, shouting and dancing. Even Muschamp’s stage dive in the middle of the locker room was a distant memory now.

It was back to business for the fourth-ranked Gators (5-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference).

Muschamp wanted his team to realize the importance of handling success. After all, it’s been nearly three years since Florida has been so highly ranked or won five consecutive games. How will the Gators respond?

“We’ll see Saturday night,” Muschamp said.

Florida goes on the road to Vanderbilt on Saturday, trying to avoid a letdown after the most significant win in Muschamp’s two seasons in Gainesville.

“It’s a new week. We’ve gotta forget about last week,” linebacker Jon Bostic said. “There were still a lot of areas that we could improve on, so this week we’re focusing on that.”

The Gators have few players remaining from those Tim Tebow-led teams that won 22 consecutive games, including the 2008 national championship. Instead, the roster is filled with guys who experienced nearly as many losses (11) as wins (15) over the last two seasons — Urban Meyer’s final season and Muschamp’s first.

All those setbacks seemingly brought this team together, especially during offseason workouts.

“Family was the motto, just grinding for each other,” sixth-year senior guard James Wilson said. “I just think we’re all pretty focused on one goal. It’s to get to Atlanta first. … Just got to keep it going. Nothing’s done yet.”

Even though the Gators are trying to stay focused on the Commodores (2-3, 1-2), they are well aware that next week’s game against No. 3 South Carolina likely will determine whether they reach the SEC title game.

And that’s challenge: forget the past, don’t think about the future and focus on the task at hand.

“We set expectations and we talk about how to handle them, what are standards are,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “It shouldn’t change. We go back out and start over just like it’s a new week. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Cover up the scoreboard, put new-colored jerseys on and you go get ready for the next game.

“It’s how you handle success: You start all over. Preparation is key to any game because we can go out and get beat as easily if we don’t prepare properly.”

And that’s why Muschamp focused on the miscues early in the week, pointing out the three sacks, the two turnovers, the six penalties, the missed tackles, the blown assignments and several missed opportunities.

Although the Gators rank third in the league in rushing offense and third in scoring defense, their passing game ranks last and their grind-it-out, close-to-the-vest style seemingly makes them vulnerable to mistakes and prone to an upset.

“We’re still hungry,” cornerback Jaylen Watkins said. “It’s easy for us to come off that game and be still pumped about it and talking about it, but nobody talked about the game. That was the weekend and now we’re focusing on Vanderbilt. … We can’t change what we do preparation-wise to keep the thing going.”

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