(AP) – Florida coach Jim McElwain went deep into his playlist, not his playbook, for this one.
McElwain mentioned The Cyrkle during his weekly news conference Monday, recalling the short-lived rock band’s 1966 hit single ”Red Rubber Ball.”
”I’m kind of interested to see if our team is a one-hit wonder,” McElwain said. ”You know, like Cyrkle, `Red Rubber Ball.’ … I mean, how many hits have they had? They had one. They’re a one-hit wonder. I don’t think we are, but we’ll find out this week if we’re a one-hit wonder.”
The 11th-ranked Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) are one of the biggest surprises in college football. After close wins over East Carolina and Kentucky, Florida notched a come-from-behind victory against Tennessee and topped that with a dominating performance against then-No. 3 Mississippi last Saturday.
The 38-10 victory against the Rebels resulted in the program’s largest jump in the Top 25. The 14-spot leap also tied for the third-biggest upward move in poll history.
”Excited for where we’re at,” McElwain said. ”At the same time, it’ll be really interesting to see how we handle the praise from all the people that said they weren’t worth a hill of beans. People rubbing their bellies and making them feel good. Yeah, they should get their bellies rubbed.
”I mean, they’ve done a good job. And yet how do you handle it? It’ll be interesting.”
Florida plays at Missouri (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday night. The Gators have lost the last two games in the series and ended up watching the Tigers win the SEC’s Eastern Division both years and advance to play in the championship game in Atlanta.
Since the Gators have been to the title game 10 times – more than any other school in the conference – it was a stark reminder how far the program had fallen.
Getting back there is a key part of McElwain’s ”restore the order” catchphrase.
The slogan has gained traction with every win, and McElwain said Monday he ”probably stole it from somewhere” in his coaching career.
Regardless, it’s appropriate for the Gators – this week and this season.
”We learn from history,” McElwain said. ”The order for a long time there was the Gators. We were right up there at the top of the order. Yet, for some reason, the order has been skewed. It’s because other teams are getting really good now and because (Missouri) is a team that’s taking advantage of that. I look at it a little bit as a responsibility. But you have to be mature enough to handle the responsibility.”
Florida hasn’t handled October very well in recent years. The Gators went 6-12 in the month between 2010-2014, a stretch that essentially knocked them out of contention in the East well before Thanksgiving.
Maybe beating Ole Miss will end that trend.
”We can’t get too complacent,” safety Marcus Maye said. ”We have to remember how we were a couple years ago and just keep fighting and just keep practicing hard. Just the whole message is don’t get complacent and don’t stop working.”
Florida certainly doesn’t want to end up like The Cyrkle, which gained fame in ’66 by opening for The Beatles. Cyrkle had another top 20 hit that year, and then released a second album and a movie soundtrack before disbanding in 1967.
”We get one `American Bandstand’ show and then we’re done, right?” McElwain said.
The coach didn’t use the same old-school music references with players, but got his point across.
”He spoke about it a little bit previously after the game,” right tackle Mason Halter said. ”To me, he’s just taking, not really a hit, but a jab to our confidence and trying to make us come back with that fire we need. He doesn’t want us to be complacent essentially.”
Missouri got a good result last week when it started freshman Drew Lock in place of the suspended Maty Mauk, and Lock will be under center again this week. He went 21 of 28 for 136 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions to help the Tigers defeat South Carolina 24-10.
Mauk was suspended indefinitely last Tuesday for violation of team policies. Coach Gary Pinkel said the timetable for Mauk’s return is unknown.
Missouri also ran for 163 yards – 98 from Ish Witter.
The Tigers pounded Florida 42-13 at Gainesville last Oct. 18, and they’ll now look to ride their home crowd’s excitement in their first SEC home night game since Nov. 20, 2013.
"We’re excited about being at "The Zou" (Memorial Stadium) at night, it’s been a while since we’ve been there," Pinkel said. "Our fans, I think, really enjoy that atmosphere and certainly we do too and we have to give them something to get excited about. So here we go."