While the final score indicated an easy win for Florida over North Texas this past Saturday, the Gators suffered a potentially huge loss when starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was removed from the game after taking a hit to his lower body from Mean Green defensive end Joshua Wheeler at the end of the third quarter.

Though coach Jim McElwain has stated that the injury is not season ending, Del Rio has since been ruled out for Week 4’s game at Tennessee, with backup Austin Appleby set to start in his place.

McElwain was visually upset with the play and was seen at midfield screaming toward the North Texas sideline, but later cooled off and said there’s “no bad blood” between the two programs.

Wheeler, who also was the cause of an ACL injury to SMU quarterback Matt Davis earlier this season, has been placed under some scrutiny for his hit on Del Rio. North Texas coach Seth Littrell got a chance to defend his junior defender during Tuesday’s press conference:

“These people know nothing about the kid,” Littrell said of anyone who has criticized Wheeler. “That is what is frustrating. He takes it personally. He is an unbelievable person. If anyone knew him who was saying those things, they wouldn’t be saying them.

“He didn’t mean to do it. He was playing hard and trying to make a play. To be honest with you, if you look at it closely, he was pushed in the back and tripped. He was on his way down anyway. There is nothing he could have done. It is what it is.”

Littrell also responded to McElwain’s comments about the Mean Green having a history of similar plays.

“I understand their coaching staff and their frustration,” the first-year coach said. “That is their quarterback and their player. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.

“Afterward he [McElwain] said the we have had a couple of targeting calls. Those are not the facts. We haven’t had any targeting calls. He brought up that we took out the SMU quarterback. No, the SMU quarterback was running in the open field. He got hit. His cleat got stuck. It is what it is. It’s football. We are not trying to hurt anyone.

“I feel bad for both of those young men and want them to get healthy, but trust me. I am going to take care of my guys, too. No one is going to come over and yell at me or my sideline and say that we don’t have integrity or play the game the right way. That’s not the facts. I am not going to allow that to happen.”

Florida will kick off in Neyland Stadium vs. Tennessee this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and the game can be viewed on CBS.