Watch & Read: Florida came to prove something

Press Conference

by Inside the Gators Staff
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Opening statement

“We’ve got a group of kids. We’ve got a staff that goes about their business the right way. It’s a fun group to coach. It’s fun to come to work every day. We’ve been through some battles. I think sometimes, though things that you go through in life, and the game of football, I think, resembles life as much as anything. It prepares you for something that’s ahead. I think the character of this group, their ability to sort through winning and losing and look each other in the eye, to have some integrity, to take ownership in the things that they could do better at the player level, at the staff level. We’ve struggled on the road and certainly tonight was one heck of a football game. I do think some of the toughness that we’ve built, some of the resolve that we’ve built, the relationships, this group has done nothing but get closer. I think it’s almost galvanized the group. We came here today to prove something and what a way to win a football game. A lot of credit to South Carolina. Their team showed up and competed. I thought in particular on offense they did a lot of great things, caused issues for us. We needed every play all the way down to the end to find a way to win. There was a lot of situational football in the game. I’m just really proud of the teams resolve. There’s a lot of times out there tonight where they could’ve folded their cards and we didn’t do that. Some incredible plays. Some incredible extra effort plays… Hats off to South Carolina. What a football game. What a venue. Certainly, proud of our team and the character that they showed. We’re going to enjoy this thing. It’s important that we keep our humility. We have lots to do to improve as a team. Individual players can improve, parts of our staff can improve, and we need to play better going forward. There are definitely things we can get better at.”

On Graham Mertz

“Some unbelievable plays in the game. Graham Mertz in particular. You can’t help but respect the competitive spirit of the kid, the toughness, the decision making. I just thought he was fantastic. Never flinched. I get to be around the guy every day. I know how much the guy has worked going all the way back to the very beginning of the process. This young man came here on a mission and had a plan. He’s worked. He’s a product of his work. For him to operate the way he does in our system in the first year, the level of comprehension, the high level of decision making that’s happening out there. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the kid. I think we’re starting to play better around him, that’s what I would say. We’re starting to play a little bit better up front. The two freshmen tight ends are growing up. We’re getting some play from some receivers. I think ultimately, we’re capable. We can score. I think at times we haven’t been able to execute consistently, but he’s at the center today for sure. Very impressed with him as a person and as a leader.”

On Ricky Pearsall and Graham Mertz

“I hugged both of them in the locker room and said, ‘Hey man this is why you come to Florida, getting the opportunity to play in that type of venue, in this league in critical moments.’ Ricky is another guy who is a product of a lot of hard work. Those two guys are pace setters. They set the tone. When they walk in the building everyday it’s like hey, those two guys, they know how to work. They’re tough. They’re students of the game. They work hard from a self-discipline standpoint. They are leaders. They’re good examples. They both got character. They’re special. Fun to coach, man.”

On the fourth quarter comeback

“When we were down ten it’s when it was like really thick in there. It’s two scores, there’s about nine minutes left. It became very evident that we’ve got to put one together and we’ve got to get a stop. We had to burn one of our timeouts on a fourth down play, third down play I should say. So, we had two timeouts, and the clock is ticking. That’s the thing that is impressive. We didn’t do it just once we did it twice. We made plays on schedule then made some plays off schedule. I think that’s probably the most impressive part about it.”

On the offensive line play

“I think ultimately our team is the best when our offensive line is playing at a really high level. Ultimately, that’s how we got this job. That’s how we’ve had success moving the ball, even since we’ve been at Florida. When we can have balance, when we can play with physicality, when we can rush the ball, it makes all the complimentary plays better. I do think our offensive line last week, the Vanderbilt week, and this week at practice has been our best two weeks and I think we are starting to get some continuity. We’ve got guys stepping up, guys are improving as players. Jake Slaughter can’t compliment him enough. He’s had a good couple of weeks here.”

On the playmakers

“The tight ends, they are both freshmen. I think they’re improving. [Eugene Wilson III] is unique. He presents you opportunities to be creative and get him plays. He made some incredible plays out there today. One of the plays that I think was awesome in the game. Coach Spurrier used to say, ‘God smiled on the Gators.’ When we threw that slant to Ricky and it got tipped up in the air and Trey Wilson caught it and kept running, I would say ‘God smiled on the Gators today.’”


On Eugene Wilson III’s tip drill catch

“Crazy heads-up play. It was a bad ball. I threw it behind Ricky [Pearsall] and it could’ve gone in another direction. I owe a bunch of credit to [Eugene Wilson III] there. That was a huge play.”

On starting hot and this week’s preparations

“One thing I’m extremely proud about, like you said, is the week of prep. I think it’s across the board. The urgency from the coaching staff to the support staff to the players. Across the board there was a sense of just complete urgency. Like everything we do we are starting fast whether it’s a workout, whether that’s film, whether that’s a team meeting, across the board I think that translated to tonight and I’m really thankful for that.”

On the comeback

“The last drive was a little wild. When you’re first, second, third down don’t go right and then fourth down I knew they were bringing some pressure. I knew I had man coverage. I knew Ricky, slot C, came out of it. Credit to all the coaches. We rep that all the time. We talk about all the time when you get a defender in trail mode and his head is facing the receiver you can’t catch a ball behind your head. So, I gave Ricky a chance to make a play and he does what he always does and just made a great play.”


On Eugene Wilson III’s tip drill catch

“Sometimes it takes luck. Really honestly, shoutout to [Eugene Wilson III] that is a really difficult catch, especially being around a hot ball like that and tipping it and being that close together. Just snatching it, not only that, he got yards after the catch.”

On the importance of the win

“It was really important for us, especially being a road game. We needed a road win. We’ve been emphasizing it this entire week. Starting fast, putting the pressure on them right away. I’m just proud of the guys for doing that. I just remember coming into this stadium right away and looking at everyone in their eyes. They looked ready. That was one of the first times I’ve really seen everyone in the locker room just locked in and ready. I think that just starts at practice. We had a lot of energy throughout this week. Just proud of everyone.”

On the deep ball

“It felt really good. As a receiver, it felt really good. I think we needed that. It’s going to bring confidence to the room. All of our guys in that room are capable, man. They’re all skilled. You just have to have that mentality to go up and get the ball so I’m proud of the guys.”


On the win

“It meant a lot. Just coming into somebody else’s home and coming out with a big win, especially on Homecoming, it felt amazing when the clock struck zero.”

On their preparations

“Most definitely. Just like Coach Napier says, ‘Practice habits enough to gameday reality.’ We came out and practiced hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It paid off tonight.”

On the comeback

“They were rolling in the beginning a little bit, but at the end of the game we got that big stop to get our offense back on the field. The went and they scored, That was amazing. We kind of started a little bit slow, a little bit timid and got some heart crushing penalties on third down, but at the end of the day we still came in and that was a W.”

On Spencer Rattler

“Spencer Rattler, he’s a great quarterback, great player, great leader for this team. It’s kind of hard to defend a quarterback when you let him sit back there and make his decisions.”

Video courtesy GatorVision | Transcript courtesy Florida Sports Information

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