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October 7, 2012
For all the positive things Florida did in Saturday's 14-6 win against LSU, it might be what the Gators didn't do that is most telling of what is to come.
The Gators didn't establish any form of a passing game, throwing 12 times for 61 yards and becoming one-dimensional against one of the nation's most dangerous defensive fronts. Florida sputtered offensively in the first half for the fourth time this season. The Gators occasionally lacked discipline and focus - LSU's six points were aided by a Jonathan Bostic personal foul and a Jeff Driskel fumble.
And yet the now-No. 4 Gators dominated the Tigers. They dominated them more than the final score shows. Snip a fumble here or a 15-yard penalty there and Florida was three scores better than LSU Saturday.
It speaks to how far this team has come that an above-average performance can handle a team like the Tigers. One season ago, even competing with LSU would have required a near perfect effort.
As much as this team has shown, there is still a feeling that its best football is ahead. That's just the way the coaching staff likes it.
"There are so many things that we can work on that are on the top of my mind as far as when we start Monday with our players," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "It was a great win, so I'm not trying to take anything away from the win, but it counts as one and we have a long season ahead of us."
Muschamp's words sound like coach-speak and in a way they are. But the underlying notion is a good one: the Gators refuse to be satisfied. Muschamp's goals have changed in regard to public perception. Last season was about damage control. This season is about making sure everyone knows Florida has more to play for.
There have been flashes of greatness by players like Driskel and tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Quinton Dunbar. Florida's secondary has as high of a ceiling as any group in the SEC, and the defensive front seven is starting to truly find its stride. Yet even after a big win against the Tigers, the Gators have yet to string all of that together for 60 minutes in a meaningful game.
When that happens, look out. Florida is oozing with confidence and potential right now and it's only a matter of time before it all clicks at once. Beating LSU sounded crazy to critics just a couple months ago, so who's to scoff at Sharrif Floyd when he hints at a trip to Miami Gardens for the BCS National Championship?
"This is the team that no one thought could do it," Floyd said. "This is the team that rallied together as one and never talked about anything we were going to do. We just did it. That's what we are and that's what coach Muschamp wanted us to be."
Saturday might have been a celebration for Gainesville, but in the Gators' minds, it was only a beginning.