That’s not OK, Gators.
In fact, that’s the sorriest I’ve seen the Gators play since the 2004 Mississippi State game.
At least one of the units (offense or defense) showed up in every game since then to a greater extent than they did today.
From just looking at the 54-32 final score, the average person would probably think that the Gators blew the doors off the Paladins, and allowed them to crawl back to make it somewhat respectable.
The fact is, if not for a complete turnaround in the players’ mindset, the Gators would have fallen victim of maybe the biggest upset of all in a weekend filled with them.
The 4 best non-SEC teams all went down- #2 Oklahoma State, #4 Oregon, #5 Oklahoma, and #7 Clemson to all but ensure that the SEC will put two teams in the BCS Title Game with LSU, Alabama and Arkansas vying for those two spots (if Arkansas beats LSU on Friday, hell breaks loose). But had Florida lost to a mediocre FCS team, more people would have been shocked than all the other four upsets combined.
Not me. And not many other Gators fans, either. We with knowledge know this team is comically bad- and has been pretty much all season.
The saddest part is that there wasn’t a single reason, stat or bad play that caused this early meltdown- it was a total team effort and commitment to playing as if their heads had been dumped in sleeping powder. What? There’s no such thing as sleeping powder? Well, I didn’t think there was such a thing as allowing an FCS team to walk into the Swamp and jump all over us for a 22-7 lead after the 1st quarter, so pardon me for making something else up.
The point is, the Gators all pitched in to help form one big mess of a performance, albeit a bowl clinching performance. The defense was terrible in the first quarter. They routinely missed gap assignments, allowing Furman QB Chris Forcier to run around like a wild man and complete any pass he felt like- which was a LOT. The offense couldn’t do much after their first drive, either, unless you count snapping the ball over Brantley’s head for a safety, until they scored to make it 15-7. Then the defense was caught completely flat footed for a trick play TD to make it 22-7.
After that, the Gators woke up and played better. Sort of. But they had lots of help from Furman, who offered up a pair of pick 6’s, allowed Andre Debose to simply run a fly pattern with no safety in the same zip code for two long TD’s, and just generally replaced the Gators as the team trying to beat themselves. Aside from the 76 yard TD for the Paladins that was stuck in the middle of all these mistakes (which was nauseating), the Gators played relatively mistake free football after the first quarter (for them, anyway).
The good news is that Florida is going bowling. Missing out on a bowl game is the ultimate indignity for a Gators program that’s won 3 national championships in the past 15 years. and two in the past 5. At least the Gators dodged that bullet.
Now, though, comes a huge test for Will Muschamp- the Florida State Criminoles.
Forget the whole Beach House Bowl deal. This is Muschamp’s huge chance to show what a great motivator he is. Today’s game is the equivalent of an entire store’s worth of ammunition for Muschamp to get his guys ready for a huge rival. This game against FSU will go a long way in determining how fired up Muschamp’s guys are for a rivalry game- and maybe in general.
And one more thing- don’t call for Muschamp’s head yet. We didn’t lose the game, first of all, and besides, Nick Saban lost to Louisiana Monroe in the lowlight of a truly gruesome 7-6 inaugural season as head man of Tuscaloosa. Everybody wanted him fired after that season. Funny, those “Fire Saban” chants kind of died down in 2008, didn’t they?
Once Saban got guys who were committed to running his gameplan, the Crimson Tide ripped off 12 straight wins before eventually falling to Urban Meyer’s explosive Gators. Turns out Saban’s Tide was just putting it off a year- because with even more/better/older players ready to play Saban football, the Tide did it all over again- this time defeating the Gators and then the Texas Longhorns for a BCS Championship. Now he’s got a statue of himself outside Bryant Denny Stadium, a mere 105 weeks after being criticized and hated and wanted fired.
In short, the Gators were horrible today, but let’s see if Muschamp can turn into a blessing in disguise- not just against the Criminoles, but long term.
Or if it’s really an accurate representation of who we are.
Which would be sad.