The Florida-LSU matchup didn’t need any extra hype.
But don’t tell that to Arden Key.
Speaking to local reporters on Monday, the Tigers’ star defensive end added fuel to a rivalry that had been hovering over both programs’ heads ever since the original game was postponed in October due to Hurricane Matthew.
“I know they’re scared to come up here because they don’t have all their stars or what not,” Key told NOLA.com . “So, we feel comfortable.”
Florida will be without at least seven starters when it faces LSU this Saturday, including its starting quarterback, Luke Del Rio, and both of its veteran linebackers, Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone.
UF players are well aware of Key’s comments. On Tuesday, offensive lineman Fred Johnson said some of his teammates were talking about Key’s words in the locker room, and somebody even showed him a video of the LSU defensive lineman speaking to reporters.
“I looked at it and I was like, ‘OK.’ They were just talking,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t affect me.”
Junior cornerback Jalen Tabor had a different response.
“I don’t think we’re scared. It says something about somebody who is going in someone else’s neighborhood when you’re supposed to come to our neighborhood and fight,” Tabor said. “I don’t see how that is scared at all.”
Johnson said that this Saturday’s game will feel different than past ones against LSU, and that Key’s comments heightened the two teams’ rivalry even further.
“There is definitely a sense of rivalry, and it’s a strong one,” Johnson said.
But most UF players were reserved about LSU on Tuesday, reinforcing that Key’s words didn’t bother them.
“We’re not worried about what anybody says or anything like that,” redshirt freshman center T.J. McCoy said. “So I’m glad that (Key) got to say what he had to say, but when we play football, we’ll see what happens.” Contact Ian Cohen at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @icohenb .