Florida coach Dan Mullen said he spoke with Marco Wilson after the Gators' surprising 37-34 loss to LSU, and called the cornerback's unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing a shoe "unfortunate."
The Gators stopped LSU on third down late in the fourth quarter with the score tied when Wilson helped tackle Kole Taylor following a 6-yard completion short of the first-down marker with just under two minutes remaining. Taylor's shoe came off in Wilson's hand, and Wilson threw it down the field, drawing multiple flags from the referees.
Six plays later, Cade York hit the 57-yard, game-winning field goal with 23 seconds remaining.
Mullen said after the game that he didn't know what happened. But after watching the game tape Sunday, he said Wilson "made the tackle, and part of the football move, the kid's shoe was in his hand, and he kind of threw it and jumped and celebrated with his teammates."
"He's disappointed," Mullen said on the SEC Championship Game teleconference. "It's a shame. It's pretty unfortunate in that situation. I don't think there was any intent to taunt, and it wasn't like he was throwing it at their sideline or doing any of that. It was a huge play, he thought possibly a game-winning play, and he kind of threw the shoe and went to celebrate with his teammates, and unfortunately, it was a penalty. So, I think that (was) a mistake instead of somebody really trying to disrespect the game or taunt the opponent."
Mullen added that the penalty is not the reason the Gators lost the game. They had multiple red zone failures throughout the contest, and their own kicker, Evan McPherson, missed a 51-yard field goal as time expired that would have sent the game into overtime.
"I know for (Marco), he'll look at things and realize that's certainly not the reason that we lost the game," Mullen said. "There's many, many factors that went into that. That's just an unfortunate one in that situation because it was a key moment in the game."
Florida must put the disappointment behind it as it prepares to play No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday in Atlanta. In some good news on the injury front, Mullen said he expects tight end Kyle Pitts to be cleared to play. Pitts didn't practice last week or play against LSU with what was described as a lingering injury, and his presence was clearly missed for the Gators' offense.
"We'll see how it goes," Mullen said. "We don't practice until tomorrow, but talking to our trainers, they expect him to be cleared to play this week."