No love lost between Florida, LSU as Gators plan to counter trash talk with their play

By Michael Phillips
October 10, 2019
No love lost between Florida, LSU as Gators plan to counter trash talk with their play
Football

Image Credit: @GatorsFB on Twitter

There is no love lost between the No. 7 Florida Gators (6-0, 2-0 SEC) and No. 5 LSU Tigers (5-0, 1-0 SEC), but it wasn’t always that way. Florida and LSU have played each other annually since 1971 with a certain level of mutual respect between the two squads. Until 2016.

Hurricane Matthew was on its way to Gainesville, Florida, and the 2016 postponed — and then ultimately moved. While negotiations were underway, LSU fans claimed Florida was being too cautious and the Gators preferred to cancel the game because they were scared to play the Tigers. LSU administration then held up talks and forced the game to be played in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, though that did not ultimately work out in the Tigers’ best interest.

“It was just a lot of talk on social media back and forth. When we got to the game, it was a lot of emotions just filled up,” senior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland said recalling that 2016 game. “We got in a little pregame fight with ’em, so it was just two teams that didn’t like each other. Respect for them. They’re a great organization, team over there. But at the end of the day, we want to get the ‘W.'”

The Gators won 16-10 that Saturday on a goal-line stand in one of the most memorable games in series history. Since that game, the bad blood between the powerhouse programs has only intensified.

“I don’t like them very much. I know they don’t like us very much,” LSU quarterback Joe Burrow said earlier this week. “And that’s kind of been the talk around here, but you just have to keep your emotions in check in a game like this.”

“Even if Florida’s playing a Big Ten school, I don’t care much for it,” Tigers defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko added.

Last season, No. 5 LSU made its second straight trip to Gainesville — a condition of moving that 2016 game — and fell 27-19 to No. 22 Florida in the Gators’ biggest home game of the season. It helped fuel the turnaround that head coach Dan Mullen has achieved with the program to this point.

LSU is eager to avenge that loss.

“After last year’s game, I forgot that quarterback’s name, but he was running around, celebrating on the field like he won the Super Bowl,” Fehoko said. “I don’t know if he’s playing this week, hopefully he does, but I’m looking forward to getting after him.”

That quarterback, of course, is redshirt junior Feleipe Franks, and unfortunately for Fehoko, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Most of the players on the current Gators roster have yet to play in Death Valley due to the hurricane deal, which saw Florida host back-to-back games in 2017-18. Those that have been to Baton Rouge got a taste of the real Death Valley as the 2015 showdown as also a night game in a hostile environment.

“Death Valley is an unbelievable atmosphere when you go down there, Tiger Stadium,” redshirt senior center Nick Buchanan said. “It’s crazy, you know, I think they hold like 106,000, so a little bit more than The Swamp. You know it’s going to be loud. They’ve got everything you can ask for when it comes to a big-time college football atmosphere.”

“Best thing I can try to tell guys is just try to block it out, focus on what we can control, focus on making plays, focus on practice this week,” senior WR Josh Hammond added. “Preparing the proper way to make sure that we’re playing at a high level on Saturday. At the end of the day, no matter how hostile the environment is, it’s going to go down to us just making plays.”

The Gators have been quieter on the trash talk front leading up to this game, but make no mistake, they know what they are walking into and have no love for the Tigers, either.

However, it seems Florida is handling the lead up to the game differently and plans to let its play do its talking. 

“At the end of the game, we’re going to see who’s talking last,” Cleveland said. 

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