Four years after a wild and wacky fourth quarter at nighttime in the Swamp ended with LSU on top, the Tigers returned to the Swamp and broke the Gators’ hearts in even more disheartening fashion.
Despite a huge special teams night by Andre Debose, the game was tied at 27 with a few second to go, and Colby Delahoussaye hit a game winning 50 yard field goal to give LSU its fourth win in its last five tries against the Gators…
Alright, I can’t do this anymore. Breaking down the game with in depth analysis like a sane person would do is pointless, because this team has driven me positively insane. Was every single thing that went wrong tonight Muschamp’s fault? No. In fact, most weren’t. Tevin Westbrook’s drop was not Will Muschamp’s fault; it was Tevin Westbrook’s. Jeff Driskel’s interception wasn’t Muschamp’s fault; it was Jeff Driskel’s. And if you’re going to respond to that with, “Well, then how can you call for Muschamp’s head tonight?” the answer is the same it always has been: Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt, 4-8, 0-3 record against Georgia, and so on. Muschamp dug his grave last year, not tonight.
I want to restate that last sentence, because it’s important: this game did not have a direct impact on Muschamp’s job security itself. Losing to LSU, from the other division, didn’t cost Florida anything. The Gators still control their own destiny in the SEC East (OK, technically that’s not true. Kentucky has to lose again… but they still have to play Georgia, LSU and Mississippi State). All tonight’s loss to the Bayou Bengals did was add more fans to the Fire Muschamp bandwagon. The newest members of this bandwagon have joined strictly because of emotion- this loss stings like hell- and not because of any legitimate, rational reason. You can’t construct a legitimate argument to fire him based on this game, but the loss does hurt like a bitch, and after a few years of losing now, these fans have had enough and want to point the finger at somebody. That somebody, naturally, is the head coach. And that’s fine with me. If you joined the anti-Muschamp parade tonight, I’ll welcome you with open arms. I just want you to know that losing to LSU at home isn’t a good reason to call for his head. It was agonizing, I know, but don’t try to use it to persuade others to want Muschamp gone. Use the reasons at the end of the last paragraph.
Anyway, there comes a point in time where the who, how and the why become irrelevant. At that point- which we really passed early last November- all that matters is winning, and as a head coach, Muschamp is about as good at that as I am at speaking Somali. “This went well”, “that could use improvement”, “if this had been different”… no. Screw that. That kind of talk is for first year coaches, or established coaches like Urban Meyer or Nick Saban in what’s clearly a rebuilding year. We’re WAY past the point in time where that kind of discourse is acceptable.
Sure, I could talk about what went wrong on the third and 25 bomb from Anthony Jennings to Travin Durel, about how Brian Poole bit and how Keanu Neal was badly out of position, but what’s the point? So we as a fan base can just discuss ways in which a real coach would get it fixed for next game but that our coach undoubtedly will not? What’s the fun in that? It’s not the first time our defense has been gashed for a big play in a key situation- Blake Sims says hello- and it won’t be the last. The Gators were burned for touchdowns of 33 and 60 yards by Garrett Johnson of Kentucky, and after breaking down those plays in detail, Kenyan Drake and Amari Cooper burned the same players responsible for the Johnson touchdowns the following week. And tonight, Travin Durel gashed the same Gator players in the secondary. And guess what? It’s going to happen again. Here’s betting Jabari Gorman, Brian Poole and Keanu Neal are responsible for giving up a big play by Bud Sasser or Jimmie Hunt from Mizzou.
I could also go into the penalties and turnovers issue for about the decillionth time, but again… why bother? I wrote about these same issues THREE YEARS AGO and said they had to be fixed if Muschamp wanted to win. At this point, you have to be on heavy doses of crack to believe that a Will Muschamp team will stop self destructing. Tonight, the Gators turned it over three times, including one that directly led to the game winning field goal, and two pass interference penalties on two straight third and longs gave LSU new life twice, allowing the Tigers to score a touchdown on the drive. Why even bother saying that these issues have to be fixed? I know they won’t be. It’s like telling a coke addict on the streets of Manhattan that he needs to stop. It’s a waste of time; he’s just gonna keep snorting coke after you walk away. It’s an addiction, the way this Florida football team is addicted to self destruction (more on this tomorrow or Monday). This team simply cannot get out of its own way as hard as they may try, the way alcohol addicts just can’t put the bottle down as much as they want to.
Bottom line: Georgia Southern still happened, folks. Will Muschamp still led Florida to 4-8 last year. He’s still 0-3 against Georgia. None of that has gone away, and it never will. It was all just shoved aside as the new year started. Revenge Tour UF. We’re gonna be back. Unleash Hell. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing has changed. The shine of the new season has worn off, and we’ve been subjected to the same old bullshit every Saturday that we were forced to endure last year. The difference is that this time, there are very few Gator fans who still believe in Muschamp.
And so, Jeremy Foley: on behalf of Gator Nation, I beg of you. FIRE. WILL. MUSCHAMP. Somehow, someway, the Gators still have a chance to win the SEC East. But it’s not going to happen with Muschamp at the helm. Let’s give Kurt Roper a trial run as head coach and see what he’s made of. Who knows, he may pleasantly surprise us. And should talks with our big targets (Dan Mullen, Kevin Sumlin, Bob Stoops, Chris Petersen, Kliff Kingsbury) all fall through, we have a solid backup plan in our back pocket. Now, is Roper my ideal candidate to be our next head coach? No. He probably wouldn’t be the right man, for various reasons. But we know Muschamp isn’t the right man for the job. And I’d take “probably not” over “definitely not and we have dozens of volumes of proof that he is not” any day.
One last thing: there’s no one player to blame for tonight. Jeff Driskel is not a good quarterback, and turned in his usual terrible performance. Tevin Westbrook should have caught that touchdown. Keanu Neal and Brian Poole should not have been so badly toasted than Travin Durel had an easy catch to convert a 3rd and Missouri to go. I know. But think about this. Andre Debose’s special teams heroics gave Florida one touchdown, and led to another with a two play, nine yard drive. Other than what Debose gave them, this Florida offense generated 13 points. That’s absolutely abhorrent against the weakest LSU team in Les Miles’s ten years there, and it’s on the offense as a whole.
OK, so you can kind of blame Roper for less than stellar play calling, but who’s in charge of the program? It’s Muschamp, and like everything else I’ve called him out for, it’s nothing new; each of Muschamp’s offenses have ranked outside the top 100 out of ~125 FBS teams. This one is no different; it plain sucks.
Anyway, I’m off to bed, probably with a long night’s worth of nightmares awaiting me. But know this, Gator fans. After tonight, Muschamp is one loss away from being fired. I said before the year that he had to win the SEC East to keep his job, and I stand by that after talking to a source close to the program. Once the Gators are eliminated from Atlanta, Muschamp will be finished. Count on that.