Florida Gators talk Orange Bowl, matchup with Virginia

orange bowlThe Florida Gators are excited to be in Miami for the 2019 Orange Bowl. Don’t overlook the importance of that sentence.

The Gators (10-2) could look at the Orange Bowl as a bit of a comedown. They’re a play or two away from being in the College Football Playoff.

Now they have to get up for Virginia.

Seriously?

From playing for a championship to playing the second-best team in the worst Power 5 league.

Florida coach Dan Mullen isn’t hearing any of it.

“For the team, the honor to play in the Orange Bowl is pretty special. As a program, to be here in South Florida, that’s what the bowl season is all about: great hotels and a great experience for our guys. We expect to have a lot of fun, but also put in the work and try to find a way to win,” Mullen said upon the team’s arrival in South Florida on Wednesday.

The Gators aren’t playing for a championship, but the chance to build momentum heading into 2020 is a focal point for the program.

“It can build a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. For the team that’s why bowl games are huge,” Mullen said. “This year’s team gets one more game together, but there are a lot of guys on this year’s team that will also be on next year’s team. You play on Dec. 30th, and then you don’t have another game until September. You have a lot of off-season training, conditioning and developmental growth. You have 15 spring practices and 25 training camp practices before you play again. The momentum a bowl game and a bowl win can do for you builds yourself up through this huge developmental stage until you get on the field again.”

“These practices are everything, kind of like an early spring practice basically, so a lot of younger guys getting a lot of reps, lot of older guys getting a little rest that they need after a long season,” offensive tackle Stone Forsyth said. “It helped me a lot (last year). I was rotating a little bit but came to these (bowl) practices and got better. You go back to the basics, (work on) techniques for the first couple of days.”

There’s the proper amount of respect for UVA (9-4), which played two Florida opponents in 2019 – both beat Florida State; Florida defeated Miami, which knocked off the Cavaliers mid-season.

“They have a good quarterback,” defensive back Donovan Stiner said, referring to Virginia senior QB Bryce Perkins, who was second in the ACC in passing yards (3,215) and 13th in rushing yards (745).

“He runs he ball a lot, even more than their running backs, so that is a big key we are looking at. Mainly staying disciplined in our rush lanes and things like that,” Stiner said.

Story by Chris Graham


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