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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Last season when UF lost to Auburn, Coach Urban Meyer saw the Gators rally together and push through the rest of the season with a sharper focus.

He's still waiting to see how his team will handle this year's defeat.

"The soul of a man is exposed when you get hit in the face," Meyer said in a teleconference Sunday morning. "It isn't exposed when you pick up the crystal ball and put on the ring. A lot of people can do that. How are we going to respond? I don't have that answer. I feel like there's a lot of character on this team."

UF dropped from No. 3 and No. 4 to No. 7 and No. 9 in the USA Today coaches' poll and The Associated Press poll, respectively.

A total of nine teams from the top-25 lost this weekend. Five of those teams were ranked in the top 10.

"On any given Saturday you have to tee it up," Meyer said. "It just tells you how hard it is to go unblemished throughout the season. I think that happens every year."

Although the Gators had plenty to worry about on the field against Auburn, the team also had to deal with issues off of it.

Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen had an emergency appendectomy late Friday night causing him to miss the first walk-through of gameday, but Meyer said the surgery did not factor into the loss.

"He did everything he possibly could, and he did fine," Meyer said. "He called a fine game."

Meyer also said freshman Chris Rainey will probably need surgery, and he likely won't play for the rest of the season.

The running back, who was only dressed in his jersey and sat on the sideline, has had an unstable shoulder since he arrived at UF, Meyer said.

While the Gators may have lost a running back, they did gain back a key offensive component.

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Andre Caldwell started against Auburn, marking his return to the field for the first time since spraining his knee Sept. 8.

Caldwell was used sparingly during the first half, but Meyer was cautious with his senior captain - still not at 100 percent - and didn't want to risk Caldwell pulling a hamstring late in the game.

"He wanted to play in the worst way," Meyer said. "But that's the reason why he didn't get the ball in the second half."

As the Gators start preparing for their road trip to LSU this week, the squad must reshape its running game.

Quarterback Tim Tebow again racked up a high number of carries, which Meyer said he was concerned about last week after the sophomore rushed 27 times against Mississippi.

"I know there's guys making plays," Meyer said. "We're relying too much on Tim to run the football, again."

Running back Kestahn Moore only contributed three rushes for seven yards - his lowest numbers of the season - and Meyer said he wants to see the junior participate more.

"We'd like to block people better so we can do that," Meyer said.

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