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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

It didn’t take long for the post-Tebow era to hit its first bump in the road.

After No. 14 Florida’s (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) loss to No. 1 Alabama last week, the Gators’ season arrived at a fork in the road.

UF will choose the path it takes Saturday when it hosts No. 12 LSU (5-0, 3-0 SEC) at 7:30 p.m.

The Gators last suffered a regular season loss on Sept. 27, 2008, against Ole Miss. Coach Urban Meyer’s team responded with 10 straight wins and an eventual national championship.

But this team is different from the 2008 squad, as freshmen make up 46 percent of the roster. Still, the mentality that it takes to rebound from a loss doesn’t change.

“If we dwell on the past then we’ll let this one get right past us, too,” center Mike Pouncey said. “We need this game to keep hope alive for the SEC Championship game.”

However, in order to turn that hope into reality UF will have to improve its offensive play.

After averaging 40.67 points per game in the past three seasons, the Gators are putting up just 31.4 points per contest this year.

Some of the problems stem from quarterback John Brantley, who has thrown for six touchdowns and three interceptions in five games.

Brantley is averaging 6.22 yards per pass attempt, and his longest completion has gone for 30 yards. On the other hand, former UF quarterback Tim Tebow completed a pass of at least 40 yards in the previous three season openers.

“There’s reason to evaluate that,” Meyer said. “I’m not sure we are willing to [change our offensive style]. We have to play to the defense, and our job is to go and win the game. And if that means a much higher percentage of passing, then we’ll do that. If it means managing the game, then we’ll manage the game.”

Following Saturday’s meeting with the Tigers, the Gators will either be back on a path that leads to Atlanta or on one they haven’t taken since 2007, when UF finished with four losses.

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But senior offensive lineman Carl Johnson believes Florida will find its way.

“History shows it,” he said. “Go all the way back to 2008 when we lost to Ole Miss, it was kind of like a Gators wake-up call. We picked it up and rallied behind Tebow. And we are going to do the same thing now and rally behind Brantley.”

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