GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Florida coach Urban Meyer has been reluctant to point fingers at problematic players all season.
On Saturday, he’s going to call some guys out publicly. Well, sort of.
It’s Senior Day in Gainesville, and Florida’s 23-man class _ which Meyer will recognize during a pregame ceremony _ has the distinction of losing three consecutive home games for the first time since 1989.
The Gators (6-4) need a win against Football Championship Series power Appalachian State (9-1) to avoid four in a row. That’s no easy task considering the Mountaineers, three-time FCS champions, have scored at least 35 points in nine games this season.
“Make no mistake about it, the team we’re playing isn’t some clown show,” Meyer said. “This is a real one.”
The Mountaineers wrapped up their sixth consecutive Southern Conference championship last week and earned an automatic bid to the postseason tournament. But don’t expect them to rest starters in Gainesville.
“People talk about this is a money game and all that. It’s not for us,” center Brett Irvin said. “We’re going there to beat Florida. That’s our No. 1 priority. If we play like we’re capable of, it can happen very easily.”
Appalachian State’s victory at Michigan in 2007 still resonates with Florida players. They remember the blocked field goal attempt, the celebration and the aftermath. They also insist a similar stunning upset won’t happen in the Swamp.
“It was a crazy victory,” left tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “I’m not really worried about that. It’s 2010. It’s a different year, different teams.
“We’re very confident. We have the best talent out there. I think we’re going to come out and handle business because a lot if guys, especially seniors, have a chip on their shoulders and are not going to let this be our last loss at the Swamp.”
Florida’s seniors may have something to prove now, but they haven’t played with much urgency in the first 10 games. Meyer acknowledged this week what outsiders have seen all season _ that there’s a “void” in the team somewhere.
“I’m not into excuses, but it’s real,” Meyer said. “We’ve always been a high-energy, up-tempo, chest-bumping, flying-around team. … I don’t see that. So there’s a void somewhere in there that we have to recruit to it, develop it and coach the mess out of it, because that’s what we are.”
The seniors bear the brunt of the blame.
Florida’s offensive line, which has four seniors and was supposed to be a team strength, has struggled to pick up blitzes all season and has allowed 15 sacks in the last five games.
Florida’s starting receivers, seniors Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore, have been disappointments. Although Thompson leads the team with 30 receptions for 448 yards, he has dropped several passes in key situations. Moore came up with some clutch catches early in the year, but has since been replaced by Frankie Hammond in the starting lineup.