BATON ROUGE, La. — If Florida’s performance on the field Saturday didn’t make the statement clearly enough, if the ending in particular didn’t speak demonstratively enough about the team he has built, coach Jim McElwain wanted to reinforce a message.

His No. 21 Gators are headed to the SEC Championship Game for the second time in his two seasons, clinching their return with back-to-back goal-line stands on third and fourth down from the 1 to seal a momentous 16-10 win at No. 16 LSU.

It was the signature moment of his tenure, and as he settled into his postgame news conference he felt it was time to make a point.

“I’m going to tell you this, the future’s bright for the Gators,” McElwain said. “It’s no small feat to go to that championship game back-to-back. … And I just can’t tell you how proud I am of our players, our staff and happy for the Gator fans, you know, that, you know, don’t think we’re very good, but all we do is end up back in Atlanta, right?”

That final play…. WOW!

The @GatorsFB Defense 💪💪💪

— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 19, 2016

McElwain, the first coach in SEC history to reach the conference title game in each of his first two seasons, earned the opportunity to beat his chest a little bit after this one, to let out any frustrations he’s had boiling internally.

He’s put together an 8-2 team (6-2 in the SEC) that answered a lot of questions about its ability to win on the road, prevailing as a 13.5-point underdog before an announced crowd of 102,043 in a place nicknamed Death Valley where only Alabama (three times), Mississippi State and Arkansas had won since the start of the 2010 season.

#Florida closed as a 13.5-pt

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