Florida left to play for pride against bowl-eligible UAB
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida has little left to play for this season.
Championship dreams are long gone. Bowl hopes are squashed. Even a .500 season is out the window.
So what’s left?
“Play for yourself, play for your pride, play for the name on your back, play for the name on the front of the jersey,” senior running back Mark Thompson said. “We came here to play football, so just cause our season isn’t going the way we thought it would go doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to play hard.”
The Gators (3-6) have two games remaining, beginning Saturday against UAB (7-3) at home, to at least end a disappointing season on a positive note.
“Have pride in what you do,” interim coach Randy Shannon said. “Pride as a football team, pride to represent this university and pride of being something that’s special.”
Florida will be at home for the first time since parting ways with coach Jim McElwain, who went 22-12 in two-plus seasons in Gainesville.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin has spent the last two weeks searching for the team’s next coach, with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly and UCF’s Scott Frost emerging as potential candidates.
Players have been reeling since the sudden coaching change that followed one of the strangest weeks in program history.
The Gators now face the bowl-eligible Blazers, who have won five of their last six in Conference USA play. Their one loss was a 25-24 setback in overtime at Charlotte.
“I think there is a belief in what we do and how we do it,” UAB coach Bill Clark said. “We can’t always control our talent level, but we can always control how hard we play and how important it is to us.”
The Blazers need one win to set the program record for wins in a season. They tied the previous mark set in 2000 and matched in 2004.
“One thing, when you’re having success, in order to keep having success, you have to stay hungry, you have to stay humble,” senior linebacker Tevin Crews said. “That’s what we live by.”
Here are some other things to know about the UAB-Florida matchup:
FRANKS STARTS: Florida is switching quarterbacks for the fourth time in seven weeks. Feleipe Franks will make his eighth start of the season Saturday, regaining his spot on the depth chart following an injury to Malik Zaire. Zaire started the last two games — both losses — and sustained an apparent left knee injury at South Carolina.
FLORIDA BLAZERS: UAB has 11 players from Florida, including senior cornerback Darious Williams. The Jacksonville native has four interceptions, which came in four straight games, and 10 pass breakups.
LOSING STREAK: The Gators have lost five in a row, their longest such streak since dropping seven straight to end the 2013 season. That also was the last time Florida lost to a non-Power Five program, a 26-20 setback to Georgia Southern in November. “We can’t underestimate anybody,” Gators linebacker David Reese said. “They have a great team. They have a better record than ours right now. They’re already bowl eligible. ... We’re not taking anything for granted.”
FABULOUS FRESHMAN: UAB’s Spencer Brown ranks second in the nation in rushing yards by a freshman. Brown has 1,177 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns and is coming off his sixth 100-yard rushing performance. He has topped the century mark in five of the last six games, including three straight. Brown is 410 yards shy of Jordan Howard’s single-season rushing record.