It isn't just the fans that expect so much. The players, coaching staff, everyone associated with Florida football has expected a strong season this year and expected things maybe to go a little smoother than they have. Still, the team is 7-0, beat a Mississippi State team in Starkville for the first time since 1985, and has done the rare deed of going undefeated against SEC Western division foes. Add to it that they are still continuing a school record 17 game winning streak, and there is a lot to be excited about.
“It was a pretty good win,” David Nelson told the media after his team beat the Bulldogs. “It was a total team win. Defense did some things well, offense did some things well...we still have to score in the red zone and we have to concentrate on that this week. We have a tough opponent coming up in Georgia and we have to get ready for them this week.”
“Anytime you get a win you are happy. Against a former coach and one that meant a great deal to us...it was a fun game and fun environment.”
The issue for these Gators has been scoring points. Florida's red zone offense is as bad as it has been under Urban Meyer and on Saturday the Gators were only able to punch in two touchdowns on seven trips inside the red zone. There are various things contributing to0 this matter and the team, including Nelson knows it is something that has to be dealt with.
“We are going to have to look at film, but it is different week to week,” Nelson answered as to why there are issues. “Today it just seemed we couldn't figure out the defense in the red zone. Give them credit. Coach Mullen knows a lot of things that we do. He did a great job with that and we just have to do a better job.”
“We are going to fix it. We have a great coaching staff and great players and we are going to fix it. It is something we are really going to focus on.”
One theory bandied about is that quarterback Tim Tebow might be putting too much on his own shoulders and pressing to do too much to score. Urban Meyer said after the game that he as a coach is pressing in the play calling. Nelson believes that Tebow has to have some leeway.
“I wouldn't say Tim is pressing,” Nelson said. “He is a phenomenal player. He is capable of making a big play every time he touches the ball. When he springs it, we try and block for him. He is an unbelievable player and competitor and he is doing what he needs to do to get the win. We won and are 7-0.”
One issue Meyer talked about after the game is outside influences getting involved and causing dissension among the ranks while the offense tries to figure things out. There is no need to derail a 7-0 and No. 1 ranked team by turning on each other. Meyer said it has not been a problem at all, but he wants to make sure to ward it off before something could arise.
“There are a lot of things coming at us from a lot of different angles...from the media, the fans, from the opponents, internally, externally, there are people coming at us from all directions,” Nelson said. “The number one thing that will hurt us is us blaming each other. The main thing is we need to stick together and fend for ourselves. We need to get each other's back and stand behind each other.”
The game was tight for three quarters when the Gators made a little run and built a little comfort zone with back to back touchdowns. According to nelson, the team was never worried about the score, just focused on the task at hand.
“You have to know something about us, we don't really get scared,” he said. “We don't ever start doubting. They scored, it is time for us to go score now. We have a lot of seniors on this team...been through some tough times and battles. When we came in the locker room (at half), we came in a little frustrated because we knew we should have had seven points there. It just gives us that more of a reason to get this thing going.”
Nelson showed a little frustration on the first red zone failure. After a third down that went unsuccessful, he threw his hands in the air in that frustration. Seemingly open on the play, nelson was more mad that the Gators didn't finish what they started and what they had been focused on all week, which was getting better production in the red zone.
“As a competitor you want the ball in your hands,” he said. “Receivers always feel like we are open and always telling the coaches that even when we aren't. I was frustrated because we couldn't put it in the end zone. Sure, I want catches, but at the same time I want to score touchdowns.”
Nelson was part of a special teams effort that accounted for a blocked punt and a missed fake punt in the game for Mississippi State. It was Nelson that stayed at home on a fake punt and caused the ball carrier to fall on his face deep in MSU territory. No doubt the bulldogs scouted the special teams well and noticed that Nelson was playing in place of the usual starter Wondy Pierre-Louis who was out with an injury at that point in the game.
“I didn't see it,” Nelson said of the initial fake and hand off. “Wondy was there the entire season and he went down early in the game. He had been there the entire game, so I was in his position. It was the first time I had been out there and in that position, but I just saw my guy blocking down and I saw the guy in the backfield coming around, so I just did what I could to make a play.”