What was once an annual sight has become a rarity these days in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, and the sight of it today made me smile from ear to ear.
I mean, of course, the sight of Mark Richt looking depressed, frazzled, frustrated- and defeated.
It was the perfect visual conclusion to a day of Gator dominance. Florida ran through, around and over the Dogs to the tune of 418 yards on the ground (and 11 rushes of 10+ yards), 38 points, and most importantly, a win. It shatters a three game losing streak to Georgia in rather emphatic fashion, and finally gives Will Muschamp a victory in a rivalry he previously carried an ugly 0-7 record in.
The long term implications are more sobering, though. Florida’s too far back in the division race to even think about making a push for Atlanta. However, Gator fans can take solace in one thing. The loss for Georgia in Jacksonville completely wrecked their national championship dreams- just like in 1992, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Let’s get one thing clear. Georgia did not lose this latest one because of the absence of Todd Gurley. Nick Chubb torched Florida’s defense for 156 yards and a touchdown. The only difference Gurley would have made is decrease Chubb’s carries and basically earn the same yards that Chubb earned himself (and maybe a few more because he’s slightly faster). But let’s be real, he wouldn’t have seen a ton of carries anyway. Florida spent most of the second half way ahead.
That didn’t mean there weren’t some scary moments early.
Like the last three Cocktail Parties, there were some signs right off the bat that this game was going to go badly. 2011 featured a 72 yard catch and run by Jeff Demps on the opening possession that ended with no points, 2012 had the early fumble and Georgia touchdown, last year, well, everything went wrong early… and today Nick Chubb busted a huge run for a touchdown on Georgia’s second possession to give the Dawgs an early 7-0 lead.
But unlike the like three Cocktail Parties, the Gators fought right through the adversity and clawed back- and finished. A few drives later (after some great Gator defense and a missed Marshall Morgan field goal), Treon Harris (sort of) drove the Gators deep into Georgia territory. That drive eventually stalled, but Michael McNeely- the Gators’ third string holder- picked up the snap on a fake field goal and took it 22 yards to the end zone. From there, things just kind of snowballed. A so-so Georgia punt turned into a Kelvin Taylor touchdown and the Gators scored again to open the second half, this one a 44 yard run from Matt Jones. A knuckleball field goal from Frankie Velez on the next drive pushed the lead to 24-7, and that was the score at the end of three- to the shock of everybody on both sides.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense was completely ineffective. Hutson Mason couldn’t hit the side of a Winn-Dixie with a pass, nobody other than Nick Chubb could do anything to hurt Florida and the cold, blustery conditions in Jacksonville didn’t really help either of those situations. This meant that when Matt Jones scored again to make it 31-7 early in the fourth, the game was over, and the party was on. Kelvin Taylor’s 65 yard touchdown run with two minutes ago merely provided Gator fans with one more reason to cheer, and me with some more fodder for my next Florida Owns Georgia video (You’re damned right I’m making an updated version of it this week. Stay tuned.)
Aside from merely beating the Dawgs, though, there’s something to be really proud of. Florida beat Georgia on the ground today, a total 180 from what I predicted. Then again, I didn’t count on Georgia’s normally stout defensive front suddenly being allergic to stopping the run. Think about this: Florida rushed for more yards against Georgia than any team has since 1978. This is a Georgia defense that features three NFL caliber linebackers (Ramik Wilson, Amarlo Herrera and Jordan Jenkins). It’s certainly a major upgrade from last year’s porous defense. Yet they could not stop Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, particularly when they bounced the run outside.
So I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of the Gators for beating Georgia. And I know what the next question is in advance, so I’m going to answer it briefly right now, and in more depth on Monday.
The answer is a resounding “HELL NO“.
No, I still do not want Will Muschamp to coach the Florida Gators going forward. I thought a lot about this in the hours after the game, and let the emotion of the big win wear off. When making up your mind about something like this, you have to consider the entire story, the big picture, and all the data. Muschamp’s win today was one win. It was a big one, sure, but it’s one piece of data among 45 (games he’s coached). Again, I’ll get into this in much greater detail during the week, but I’ll leave you with one more piece of info right now to consider about this.
Had Florida lost today, Will Muschamp’s winning percentage would have been 55.5%. That would have been the single worst winning percentage of any Gator coach since the 1940’s (Raymond Wolf). To even flirt with a stat like that is unacceptable, but that was the reality; he was a loss today away from being the worst Gator coach in 65 years. His W/L percentage is 57.8% as it is with the win, but that still makes Ron Zook’s 62.2% look like a Hall of Fame coach by comparison. Oh yeah, and this team also (probably) isn’t going to Atlanta this year- isn’t that what we as a fan base agreed that Muschamp had to do to stay on as coach?- which makes four straight years under Muschamp that we haven’t played in the SEC Championship Game. So no, I don’t care if this team wins out, beats Florida State and wins a bowl game. It’s still not going to get Florida to Atlanta. I’m as adamant today as I was after Vandy last year: I want Muschamp out.
This is the fourth time I can ever remember being truly joyous after a Florida football game coached by Will Muschamp: Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, South Carolina in 2012 and FSU in 2012 were the other three. Four times in four years doesn’t do it. Nuh-uh. No bueno.
It’s a very similar scenario, at least to me, to the one we saw ten years ago in Tallahassee, when Ron Zook’s Gators beat FSU despite the knowledge that he was on his way out. Regardless of what Foley says, I personally feel even stronger about wanting Muschamp gone than I did with Zook at that time. A big win over a rival doesn’t change that. It’s little more than a sweet bragging point to rival fans; it holds no substance in terms of winning any championships. Again, Florida wasn’t playing in Atlanta this year before today, and they’re not playing in Atlanta after today barring a Missouri collapse of epic proportions.
So let’s call EverBank Field Will Muschamp Field to piss off Georgia fans, because a) I guarantee it will, and b) the win does nothing but make us feel really, really good. And hey, I’m all for feeling good about Gator football, because again, that’s been a rarity under Muschamp.
Enough about Muschamp for now, though. We got a win over Georgia, which is great. Period. I can now mockingly bark like a little doggie at all my Georgia friends and family members (and a few not so friendly Georgia fans I’ve had the misfortune of meeting). All that jazz about the 20 year curse may have just been lit on fire and stomped out. 12,329 days and counting since Georgia last won a national championship- and now it’s guaranteed to be at least 400 days more.
And most importantly- 19-6 since 1990.