Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

11 in a Row ... and Counting; Gators Aware of Streak over Vols, but Current Players Only around for a Few

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

11 in a Row ... and Counting; Gators Aware of Streak over Vols, but Current Players Only around for a Few

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits

GAINESVILLE | If the Tennessee Volunteers aren't careful, their losing streak against the Florida Gators will get awfully close to the longest in SEC history.

UF (3-0, 1-0 in the SEC) has won its last 11 games against UT (3-0, 0-0) entering Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, matching Alabama's streak over Auburn from 1973-1981 for the second-longest in SEC history.

The longest goes back nearly a century: Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 13 games in a row from 1911-1925.

But before anyone starts wondering if streaks get in the heads of the teams on the losing end, perspective is needed: the longest frame of reference any UF or Tennessee player has goes back to 2012, when current redshirt seniors were freshmen.

Only three scholarship players fit that description for the Gators: safety Marcus May, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., and running back Mark Herndon. Tennessee has only five redshirt seniors.

Florida won that 2012 game in Knoxville 37-20 and breezed in Gainesville the follow year, 31-17. But the Gators have eked out two one-point victories since, 10-9 in Knoxville in 2014 and 28-27 last year in Gainesville, on Antonio Callaway's fourth-down, 63-yard catch-and-run with 1:26 left in the game.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones wants his team's collective memories to go back only as far as it needs to remember a valuable lesson about last year's game, in which the Vols had a 27-14 lead with 10:19 left in the game: start strong and finish stronger.

"I don't have to remind them," he said on Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. "We spoke during the off-season about finishing but that's a by-product of starting fast as well. They understand what happened."

Florida coach Jim McElwain knows full well what it's like being on the short end of streaks. He was an assistant at Montana State from 1995-1999 at a time when that team lost 16 games in a row to Montana from 1986-2001.

"Boy, you really brought up a bad memory," he said after the Gators' practice on Wednesday. "But we tell our guys, it's the next game. When you become a team that's able to understand that and keep it in perspective ... I tell them, let's go enjoy it and be proud of what you put on film."

McElwain has seemed downright giddy at the prospect of going to Neyland Stadium, where his team will face a sellout crowd of more than 103,000.

"How can you not feel excited about 100,000 people booing you?" he said. "That is so cool. I'm in love with this kind of stuff. It's one of the things special about college. It's awesome."

Florida's players seem to be following their coaches' cue, with no outward sign of being tight during a big rivalry week.

Indeed, cornerback Quincy Wilson has provided the comic relief of the week with his unique way of predicting a Gator victory.

"Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck. …

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