But that opinion didn’t keep Meyer from dragging his Gators onto the practice field this past Sunday. No. 12 Florida’s stunning 31-30 home loss to Ole Miss on Saturday forced Meyer to reevaluate his long-standing Sunday policy.
Meyer wanted his Gators to get a positive jump-start for their 11:30 a.m. game Saturday at Arkansas.
“I was disappointed, so we practiced, which is the first time we’ve done that on a Sunday,” Meyer said. “I had to get around the players. We all had to get around those players and put closure to a bad day.
“I was impressed with the way they came out. We had a solid team meeting, and I made it real clear that it is a long football season. ... At some point during the course of a year, 12-0 seasons, 13-1 seasons or 9-4 seasons you are going to deal with adversity. How do you deal with it? We’re going to find out.”
Arkansas finds itself in the unenviable position of encountering the Gators immediately after possibly the most shocking loss of Meyer’s coaching career.
Meyer used the word “awful” to describe Florida’s performance. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow even apologized to Gators fans afterward, softly uttering, “I’m sorry, extremely sorry,” at the post-game news conference. Florida players weren’t available for comment Monday. But Meyer expressed enough frustration for them in their collective absence on Monday, bemoaning a result that many believe shouldn’t have happened.
Indeed, Florida helped the Rebels plenty on Saturday, throughout a contest in which the Gators gained 443 yards of total offense to Ole Miss’ 325 and gained 24 first downs to Ole Miss’ 10.
The Gators blew a 17-7 halftime lead and fumbled three times — twice deep inside its own territory in the third quarter. They gave up several long plays, including an 86-yard touchdown pass that let Ole Miss take a 31-24 lead. They drove for a touchdown, but the Rebels blocked Jonathan Phillips’ potentially game-tying extra point. Tebow then was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the Ole Miss 32 with under one minute left.
The painful way the Gators lost should mean motivate them, Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said.
“I think Tebow is going to have his team rallied,” said Luigs, a senior captain. “You could see from the comments, the way he talked to the press after the game and the attitude he has. I mean, they’re going to come in here ready to go and really look to rebound and turn their season around. They still have hopes for an SEC championship and a national championship.
“So that means we’re going to have to come out and play that much harder and be ready for a battle.”
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he didn’t think the devastating defeat would change the Gators. He already was expecting to see one of the more talented teams in the country, regardless of a victory or a loss the week before.
“They’ve always played pretty well and pretty much inspired,” Petrino said.
That said, Meyer said he’d push Florida harder than ever this week, a week of practice that started unusually early.
“It is not if you are going to have adversity, but how you are going to deal with it,” Meyer said. “I made a comment earlier that I like this team. What I mean is I like the team because there is some maturity there and there is a very invested group of people. That usually pulls you through, but we’re going to find out.
“We’re going to put a lot of pressure on ourselves, our staff and our players this week. A lot of pressure.”
FLORIDA’S LAST LOSSES TO UNRANKED TEAMS
Date Opponent Score
Sept. 27, 2008 Ole Miss 31-30
Jan. 1, 2008 Michigan* 41-35
Sept. 29, 2007 Auburn 20-17
Nov. 12, 2005 at South Carolina 30-22
Oct. 23, 2004 at Mississippi State 38-31
Oct. 4, 2003 Ole Miss 20-17
Oct. 5, 2002 at Ole Miss 17-14
Oct. 13, 2001 at Auburn 23-20
Sept. 30, 2000 at Mississippi State 47-35
* — Capital One Bowl, Orlando