Gators may have Experienced a Rebirth on Saturday

Two weeks ago, they were dead.

Leaving behind a disgraced Swamp with chants of “Fire Muschamp” still echoing across Gainesville, you were certain their spirits were crushed. More certain was the notion that Will Muschamp had finally done it, and for good. It would only be a matter of time now, and with Georgia on the horizon, it seemed like the beheading of Florida’s coach was inevitable. Many Gator fans would have called it overdue.

The leash that Athletic Director Jeremy Foley placed upon Muschamp, (you know, the ones that seem to stretch out…oh, roughly about as long as it takes to cripple a football program) well, Muschamp finally stretched it past its breaking point. Foley let him tug and tug, and there went Coach Boom — screaming and sweating and flailing about — dragging on until the leash snapped right at the center, whipping the entire program across its face as he approached the edge of a fiery cliff.

You can’t blame the fans for their collective sentiment towards Muschamp. A loss to Gerogia had to result in his firing.

After Florida’s 42-13 Homecoming loss to Missouri, what else was there to say? It was worse than Zook’s loss against Mississippi State. Even worse than Georgia Southern. It was the epitome of fireable offenses at the University of Florida.

It seemed this 2014 season, once filled with hope and redemption, would end in October; just like the season before.

This year was finally supposed to bring us answers. Instead, leading up to the 92nd edition of Florida-Georgia, it had delivered nothing but a trick-or-treat-sized bag full of despair, and full questions: Why is this coach still representing this program? Why is Driskel so bad? Why’d we think this year would be any different? Why isn’t it basketball season yet?

That last question alone, in all honesty — despite our passion and love for Gator basketball — should never rest in the minds of Gator fans, certainly not the week before Georgia. And yet, it’s a crystal clear reflection of how bad it has been for such a large portion of Muschamp’s tenure. Missouri was simply the culmination of all the frustration.

If there were any Gator fans still supporting Muschamp before the Missouri game, they flipped like a switch after that rancid Homecoming night from Hell in The Swamp.

All except one — Jeremy Foley, ironically — the only man with the power to end this nightmare. All he needed to do was say two words.

Instead, it turned out the team that died two weeks ago still had a pulse. And as Mike McNeely raced to the goal line on a fake field goal, the beating pulse was about to kick-start a beating of its own against the stunned Bulldogs.

Even if it only meant for one night, the Gators would put this nightmare to rest on its own. Led by the powerful rushing combo of Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, the growing confidence level was palpable, and Georgia had nowhere to hide. The Gator offense was commanding, disciplined, and shockingly impressive. Jones and Taylor ran behind an offensive line that played with a chip on its shoulder, having its manhood questioned. The linemen opened holes and surged through Georgia’s front seven, getting stronger as the game went on. The receivers, in particular Ahmad Fulwood and especially Demarcus Robinson, played a tremendous role in the running game themselves with their blocking efforts.

You couldn’t believe it. You hoped it’d never end. And now here we are, still getting goosebumps over the Saturday in Jacksonville that not even the wackiest, die-hard Gator could have predicted.

You almost forgot how it felt to beat those Dogs. You almost forgot how it felt to watch the red and black side of Everbank Field evacuate the premises when there was still plenty of football to be played.

And it felt better than ever Saturday night.

Shoot, by now you had probably forgotten what it was like to see a performance like this from a Gator team at all. But at the same time, almost as if you’d been waiting for it, you knew the Gators had a game like this in them.

Florida’s 38-20 triumphant upset of Georgia will now go down in the history books of this storied rivalry in one way or another. Did it save Muschamp’s job? Will it become a turning point for the Florida program?

We don’t know. At this moment, I’m not even positive that we care. All we know is that the season was over in October, and now it’s alive again in November. Nothing more than that — I mean, really, it’s not like any expectations have re-emerged.

Florida could lose to Vandy this weekend, and the “Fire Muschamp” chants will be back in queue. That’s just the reality of it all. It’s a much better reality than the widely accepted idea that Florida would probably head to Nashville at 3-4 overall, with its fourth straight loss to Georgia under its belt.

Remarkably, an SEC Championship berth isn’t quite out of the question — but that’s only if a whole lot of stuff happens. The Eastern Division teams have displayed a knack for shooting themselves in the foot recently, so I’d expect it to come down to the final week of the season.

Obviously, questions about the program remain and you can never take too much out of an emotional victory like we just experienced — but one vital question concerning this Gator team was definitively answered in Jacksonville:

This team is going to put it all on the line for its coach, who was given the game ball in the locker room following his first victory in the rivalry.

Make no mistake, Florida still has very little margin for error offensively; it would be unrealistic to count on replicating that kind of performance again, and I doubt anyone is. From a fan’s perspective, it has to be said how encouraging it was to watch a these players prove that they understood both the magnitude of the game as well as the condition of the program. If there was any question of division among the players, it was answered Saturday on the field by the way they came together and competed. That can make for a dangerous team.

It’s hard to believe, just two weeks ago it seemed as if they had nothing to play for. That’s no longer the case heading into Nashville to play Vanderbilt, a place where Florida has historically played poorly.

Will it put too much pressure on them, knowing they’re potentially a bad game away from losing their coach? It could, but pressure is no stranger to this team. Confidence, however, now that’s been a stranger around the offense in Gainesville for quite some time, and this team picked up a ton of it last weekend.

Another thing to add — Saturday proved that no matter what, Florida should always believe it has a chance to beat Georgia every year. Mark Richt may have thought he had the Gator curse figured out, but not anymore. Three out of the last four years, Florida has entered the Cocktail Party with four wins or fewer, and Georgia, while finding ways to win, can’t seem to put the Gators away without a fight. Saturday, Florida had them tapping out by the 3rd Quarter.

The Gators were determined to leave Jacksonville without any regrets or doubts.

These guys didn’t come here to go 4-8, and they didn’t come here to go an entire career without beating Georgia. They came here to add another championship to the walls of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium’s South end-zone, however unlikely as it may be.

These players came to the University of Florida for moments like Saturday. And for the first time in a long time, they never let that moment slip from their grasps.

It won’t be easy, and you probably won’t see the Gators run the ball 60 times in a game again as long as you live. Treon Harris will have to throw some balls and his receivers will have to make the catches that have escaped them nearly all season. We all know the road ahead will be a tough one to travel.

But at least, for now, that Dead End sign on the horizon has been torn down.

Because for now — Will Muschamp, his team, and the Florida fan base still have a chance ahead of them. That’s all you can ask for in life.

Especially for a team that was dead two weeks ago.

  • I'm a 22 year old college student in Jacksonville, FL, and come from a long line of Gators—dating back to my great-grandfather, John A. Mulrennan, who graduated in 1932 and received an honorary doctoral degree in 1972. The whole family bleeds Orange & Blue, and writing about Gator football is my passion! Follow me on twitter: @joosyjoost And on instagram: @njoost92

11 thoughts on “Gators may have Experienced a Rebirth on Saturday

  1. You are a kid so I will cut you some slack. NOTHING is as bad as Georgia Southern. Not the choke at Doak. Not even the Fiesta Bowl vs Nebraska which was pretty bad. Losing in grand fashion to the rebuilding east champ will never be as bad as losing to the 41st ranked FCS team that had injury issues greater that Florida’s

    1. Hey, hey, I’m two years younger than Nick.

      Look, you know I completely agree with you about pretty much everything regarding Will Muschamp, including this. Georgia Southern was the single worst loss in school history, and though I’ll admit Missouri came close, it didn’t leave me as embarrassed as the GSU game did. Missouri isn’t what they were last year. They may be the defending SEC East Champs, but they just aren’t as explosive offensively this year.

      That said…

      Nick makes a legitimate argument. It’s possible that Florida wins out and goes to the playoff next year. And if that happens, people will look for the one game, the one moment that kick started it all. 2008 was Tebow’s promise. That was the moment things became 100% positive. And if Florida is better than we think next year, this game will be easy to point to as the catalyst.

      Now I’m going to stop you before you answer and say no, I doubt this is going to happen. We’ve both seen enough of Muschamp to be pretty sure it won’t. But hypothetically speaking? Yeah, it’s possible. All Nick said was that it “may” be a rebirth and that this team “could” turn around.

      1. I am not talking about hot seats, firings or anything. I just don’t know how anyone can consider ANY loss to be worse than Georgia Southern. As mentioned, Mizzou is the defending east champ. Georgia Southern was the 41st ranked FCS team who had MORE people injured than Florida and travel with fewer to begin with. Florida didn’t have experienced depth; Gs didn’t have ANY depth. At all.

    2. T, no need to cut slack dude! You’re right, I am a kid but I’m 22 so I’m a big kid now (boom boom).

      You’re right, and when I went back and read what I wrote, I realized that I probably didn’t phrase myself correctly. The Georgia Southern loss is BY FAR the worst loss a Gator team has experienced in my lifetime — possibly in the program’s history. I didn’t mean that the Missouri loss this season was a “worse loss” but I do think it was a far greater fireable offense.

      By the time we lost to Ga. Southern last year, it was pretty evident that UF had already chosen Brent Pease as the accountable source (along with the injuries) for the entire 4-8 2013 season. Hindsight is 20-20, and maybe firing Muschamp at that point would have been the right move — but after Florida went 11-2 in 2012, you had the argument that Muschamp’s philosophy brought success with a healthy team. And with defense being his forte, the fact that our 2012 and 2013 defenses were so statistically dominant was enough for him to last another year.

      Ga. Southern was absolutely a worse loss, but when you take everything into account from last season and what had gone on before Fla-Ga this season, it would have been more justifiable to fire Muschamp after Mizzou than after Ga. Southern last year.

  2. I don’t know man. GS attempted what, 3 passes all game, completing none ? They dressed like 50 players, 20 of whom were freshmen. And of course, they were a middle of the road FCS team. Appalachian State was a FCS juggernaut just starting their bid for a 3-peat (which they ended up doing) and their victory over Michigan is effectively what got Lloyd Carr fired. Georgia Southern was a middling team.

    1. I totally get you man, we might just have to agree to disagree. I just think the accumulation of a bunch of things kept Muschamp alive no matter what was going to happen in 2013. I guess the best way to put it is this:

      There has never been a time in which there was a better case for the firing of Will Muschamp than after the 42-13 Missouri loss.

      I don’t know, you might be right but maybe neither of us are wrong. I personally was just so numb by the time Ga. Southern beat us, that it didn’t hurt as bad. I guess it was because the Missouri loss this year had more of a “all our hopes have been crushed, we’re doomed” kind of feel to it.

      1. Fair enough. For me it was first losing season since the 70s, loss to Vandy, loss to a FCS team. 4-8 with a loss to an FCS team. Not to mention Florida players blocking each other

  3. I’d love to agree with you but I’m so done with Muschamp. Even after Georgia. Missouri did it for me; I don’t think he could do anything short of winning the national championship next year if he gets it to salvage my faith in him. You presented the counter argument very well, it could be the start of a Gator renaissance; or it also could just be an oasis that we all forget about after losing to South Carolina. And since he’s lost so many big games during his time at Florida, there’s no reason to believe he’ll start wining most of them now.

    1. I’m not saying that I think beating Georgia will turn this season around and save Muschamp’s job. Consistency has been one of his biggest problems at UF… because we’ve looked so good at some points (FSU, LSU in 2012) and equally as piss poor at other times. There’s no reason why one game should restore your faith in this coach.

      But, I think there’s about a 90% chance that he keeps his job if Florida beats Vandy, South Carolina, and Eastern Kentucky. You could just see the elation on Foley’s face when Kelvin Taylor took off on that 65 yard TD — he will ride out Muschamp as long as humanly possible. And Florida will be favored in all three of those games you’d think.

      I’m not saying I agree with it. If Ron Zook had the same kind of leeway that Foley’s given Muschamp, Zook might still be our coach today!! And I’m half kidding of course. But as long as the team is playing hard for him and showing signs that they will progress under Roper and Harris, that’ll be reason enough in Foley’s eyes (which is all that matters in regards to WM keeping his job) to keep him for 2015.

      1. Nicholas:

        I am one of the few fans on here that agree with you. It was clear in last weeks game what Foley wants. I think most of our issues are with QB and the O line.

        We looked like a different team with Treon against Tennessee and UGA. I think its more about that then Muschamp.

  4. Brantley was way overrated coming out of high school. As was JD. Nevertheless, here is what opposing coaches can say –

    Their offenses are in the bottom third of the country. They can’t develop qb talent. Take a look at Brisset; he didn’t magically grow talent when he left. There are plenty of coaches who can develop lesser rated quarterbacks but Muschamp doesn’t seem to be able to even develop his highly rated talent.

    That is why it will be hard to attract truly elite qb talent.

    Their biggest problem is Muschamp; he is sitting in a state full of elite athletes with great finesse and skill and he is trying to turn them into mashers. Don’t think for a second that isn’t post of the injury problem.

    I am not saying Muschamp is THIS bad but I had a coach during my playing days who put me at guard. I was 170 pounds (high school) and his reasoning was I was tenacious and fast and would be great when pulling. I kept my mouth shut and did what was asked if me until both the DC and OC piped up. The DC said “we have the fastest man in the province, a member of the Canada Games track team, and we are playing him on the line ? If you aren’t going to use him at a skill position give him to me and I will then him loose.”

    They ultimately won out. The DC played me all over – mainly corner but sometimes rushing off the edge to get a sack. On offense I was mainly a running back but would split out wide at times. I was KR and PR. I also was the main seeker on returns and was the main kick blocker.

    And to think the HC envisioned me as a GUARD !!!!

    Why is this important ? To show that sometimes HCs are wrong and have to defer to the Coordinators. That and Florida has DEs playing TE

Comments are closed.