The Bataan death march continued through Columbia, as Florida took only 56 scholarship players – 29 under the maximum allowed – on the road to yet another lackluster defeat. At least the players showed more effort and fight than in the previous two games combined, staying close throughout the second half after falling behind early – again.
In keeping with the theme of this lost season, Malik Zaire sustained a knee injury after a 31-yard run into the red zone……even a positive play ends in disaster. He gamely tried to come back a few plays later, but collapsed on the field after taking only a few steps and was done for the day – and perhaps the rest of the season. Doug Noosemeier further solidified his case as the worst OC at Florida since Lynn Amedee, discarding the only consistent threat the Gators’ offense had shown all season – a solid running game – instead choosing to have Zaire and Feleipe Franks pass way too often. Florida’s offense wound up with a large number of chunk plays both running and throwing, but again were undone by terrible red-zone play calling by Noose, leading to FGs instead of TDs. Speaking of adding injury to insult – it appears starting center TJ McCoy may be lost the rest of the season as well with a knee injury, to go along with Brett Heggie being lost the previous week at Missouri. I never thought I’d see anything approaching the depth chart disaster that was 2013, but here it is again, on top of the failed coaching.
The Gator defense again was gashed by the running game, consistently giving up long runs on simple off-tackle carries. David Reese was the only LB to play hard the entire game and actually make some tackles in the hole. Vosean Joseph embarrassed himself by whiffing on multiple plays all afternoon, and failing to prevent QB Jake Bentley from scoring – simply falling away on a weak arm tackle. The DEs were again pushed around and looked very weak against the run, consistently overrunning their rush lanes and allowing simple off-tackle carries underneath them. When Carolina was forced to throw, the D-Line was able to apply pressure……but not stopping the run killed any hope for a win. The secondary again gave up some surprising big plays. Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson seem to be wearing down late in the season. Henderson had the opportunity to tie the game in the first quarter on an interception return, but sloppily fumbled the ball away as he was getting ready to score……typical of this entire year. Even Chauncey Gardner, after making a huge goal-line interception, had a chance to score as well, but allowed a fingertip tackle to stop him at midfield with clear sailing ahead.
The worst thing of all was having to watch a mediocre team led by Won’t Misschump laugh their way to a victory. While I understand some of the players Misschump recruited wanting to chat it up with him after the game, knowing how he ripped the school after he was deservedly fired and subsequently poisoning recruits against Florida, if was sickening to see.
With no bowl game in their future, the Gators return home for the last 2 games of 2017, starting with UAB. The Blazers have made some noise against other SEC teams the past 2 seasons, and will be looking for an opportunity to get by an undermanned and uninspired Florida team. UAB is led by RB Spencer Brown, who has already rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. QB A.J. Erdely is a dual-threat player – his passing is average at best, but he does run the ball often to keep defense honest. IF……if the Gators play as hard as they did against South Carolina, they should find a way to win – even with a depleted roster. With Zaire injured, Franks will be the QB barring injury. If he gets hurt, then it’s wildcat time with Dre Massey and Kedarious Toney running the show…….which may be an improvement at this point.
I’m hopeful there’s a decent turnout by the fans this week, but sadly I expect a lot of empty seats. The only people that can rally and inspire the team at this point are the players themselves, as the coaches continue to not change anything and have checked out on these players – unforgivable.
Prediction: Florida 24 UAB 17