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Police Chief Troy Lane talks about department plans to send officers to work the UT-Florida game after Hurricane Irma has left the area short staffed.
Rachel Ohm/ News Sentinel.

 

Florida coach Jim McElwain said the families of more than 60 of his players were affected by Hurricane Irma in some way.

McElwain struck a somber tone during his remarks on the SEC teleconference and at his news conference with local media on Wednesday. It was his first time making public comments since the storm rocked the state on Sunday and into Monday.

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Despite the storm causing flooding and damage in Gainesville, No. 25 Florida (0-1) will host No. 23 Tennessee (2-0) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) as scheduled. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium did not suffer major damage.

Of the seven FBS programs in Florida, only Florida, South Florida and Florida Atlantic will play their scheduled games this weekend.

“Our opportunity to play the ballgame this weekend is something our guys are looking forward to,” McElwain said, “but it’s one of those things that sometimes you’ve got to sit back and put into perspective. I don’t think we can ever say that we’re going to get back to normal because, through this storm that hit us here the last week, there is no normal.”

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McElwain said he hopes Saturday’s game will offer Floridians a few hours in which their minds aren’t on the storm or the damage it caused.

“I know that our guys are excited to play and hopefully play with a little bit of passion and desire for the people of the state of Florida,” he said.

Florida hasn’t played since its season-opening loss to Michigan on Sept. 2.

The Gators canceled their home game with Northern Colorado, scheduled for last Saturday, as Irma approached. McElwain said that cancellation was “the right choice.” It marked the third opponent Florida scrapped because of weather in the past four seasons.

Last year, Hurricane Matthew caused Florida to postpone its home game against LSU. That game was rescheduled for later in the season but shifted to Baton Rouge, with this season’s matchup flipped to Gainesville in return. As part of the rescheduling, Florida and LSU each canceled a game with a nonconference opponent.

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Butch Jones speaks to media ahead of Florida game this upcoming Saturday.
Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel

McElwain described the effects of Irma in Florida as more wide-sweeping than that of Matthew.

“This particular storm caused great, great damage to the whole state,” McElwain said. “I think last year’s had a huge impact on the east side of the state, and yet, this one has been devastating for everybody throughout. We were, obviously, in shelters for about three straight days.”

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