Despite win, coach Jim McElwain has strong message for Gators

Updated Sep 13, 2015 at 12:15p ET

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sometimes stories write themselves.

You could say this is one of those stories.

Before even one question was asked of Jim McElwain late Saturday night, the first-year Gators head coach indicated strongly he had something to say about Florida's 31-24 victory over East Carolina.

Three words were all it took.

"That was embarrassing," he opened his postgame press conference.

He then added six more: "Didn't deserve to win the ballgame."

By that time, McElwain certainly had the room's attention, everyone wondering where he was going next in discussing only his second game at Florida.

McElwain had plenty more to say after the Gators held on to defeat the Pirates for the second time in eight months. The last time Florida and East Carolina played, McElwain watched from the press box as the Gators won the Birmingham Bowl.

This time he had a much closer view of the action. And a more colorful vocabulary to describe what he saw.

McElwain used adjectives such as embarrassing, horrible, unacceptable and ridiculous for some of the things he witnessed.

  • Redshirt freshman Will Grier threw for two touchdowns to help the Gators hold off East Carolina.

"We won the game but that's unacceptable," he said. "And you guys should be embarrassed having to write about it."

Coach Mac, you pretty much wrote this one.

The mood after the East Carolina victory was nothing like a week earlier when the Gators opened the McElwain era with a 61-13 thumping of New Mexico State.

McElwain sensed something wasn't right with the Gators on Monday when 30 players showed up for the first meeting of the week without their ankles taped for practice. In McElwain's world, it's all about attention to details.

The details had been overlooked.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis, who had the best game of his career with 10 tackles and three tackles-for-loss Saturday — he made a tackle to seal with victory by bear-hugging teammate Alex McCalister to the ground in the final seconds — admitted some bad habits resurfaced in the locker room following the impressive season-opening victory.

"We got comfortable. We were really lazy on Monday, as a team," Davis said. "Guys weren't getting taped. Guys were late to the meeting. [Coach] ripped us. It showed in the game. We started slow. We should have come out and really lit up the scoreboard on these guys. But we started slow and they hung around with us."

In a finish very reminiscent of the Birmingham Bowl, East Carolina had the ball deep in Gators territory in the final minute with a chance to tie the game. In Birmingham, Vernon Hargreaves III picked off a pass in the end zone to clinch the Florida victory.

On Saturday it was a fumble recovery by McCalister when Florida defensive tackle Joey Ivie pressured Pirates quarterback Blake Kemp, who lost the ball as he tried to throw a pass on second-and-10 from UF's 13-yard line down by a touchdown.

Game over.



Sports News To Your Inbox!


*By clicking "SUBSCRIBE", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


And then, message time for McElwain. He said the Gators must play more disciplined, commit fewer penalties — Florida had 12 for 105 yards after being flagged just once a week earlier — and not be so selfish.

McElwain ripped into junior running back Kelvin Taylor — all caught by the ESPN cameras — after Taylor was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following his 7-yard touchdown run that gave Florida a 31-17 lead with less than six minutes remaining.

The 15-yard penalty gave ECU a short field on its next possession, which resulted in a touchdown. That made for a nail-biting final two minutes for Florida fans as the Pirates got the ball back one more time with a chance to tie the game.

When it was over, instead of celebrating, McElwain delivered a message to the Gators as they turn their attention to the SEC opener on Saturday at Kentucky.

"I wouldn't say he went off, but he was disappointed," senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard said. "He expects more from us, but we expect more of ourselves. We didn't win the way we should have won and I think we all know that."

If they have any doubts, McElwain cleared them up in his address to the media.

"Our lack of playing with discipline and understanding how you play the game crept up. It was embarrassing," he said. "We've got a long ways to go. It starts with understanding selfish acts hurt the team, and it will be dealt with. And it's not how it's going to be around here anymore.

"It was embarrassing to our administration, to our university, and almost came back to bite us in the end. There's not much to talk about positive other than the fact we figured out a way to win a ballgame. But it's not the brand or the style of ball that we're going to play."

A final question came from the back of the room as McElwain finished.

Did he have any thoughts on facing Kentucky, a winner at South Carolina on Saturday?

"I'm sure right now they are going to look at this and say, 'You know what, we can beat these guys.' "

Read more