In a game that was never as close as the final score, the Gators ended the regular season on a winning note, defeating the Criminoles 24-21. Gator Nation could enjoy themselves again, and I am so happy for the players, as they were shafted by the former coaching staff. They finally have something good to remember from this terrible season.
The Gator defense pretty much had their way all afternoon, less some sloppiness in the last 8 minutes. F$U QB Jordan Travis could only hurt them with his legs, and he did when some players lost discipline and allowed him to break containment late. But they did the proper things in shutting down RB Jashaun Corbin and containing Travis in the pocket for the most part, where he was never going to threaten them. Florida’s D-line dominated the LOS for much of the game as expected – F$U’s O-line is worse than Florida’s, and was exposed.
It’s a shame Florida didn’t win by at least the 4 TDs they should have, but that can be traced directly to the horrific play of Emory Jones. Despite his nice throw to Kemore Gamble for the opening TD, he had 4 additional chances in F$U’s territory in the first half to put the game away, and delivered 3 terrible interceptions and a blown option read. It’s a shame it ended that way and led to him being benched, but at least the interim staff had the guts to put him on the sideline and let Anthony Richardson do some work. AR didn’t have to do anything special – just be efficient and supply the occasional run to move the chains. He made the throws he needed to, including a nice corner route to Justin Shorter in the end zone to make it 17-7 in the 3rd quarter and give the Gators some breathing room.
Props to the Gator RBs – they all played well when they were called upon, and Dameon Pierce’s disallowed TD run in the 4th quarter after his helmet was ripped off juiced up the entire stadium. Here’s hoping he gets his shot in the NFL, as he was criminally underutilized at Florida. Malik Davis had some nice 3rd down runs, and a clutch catch-and-run on 3rd and 21 that led to the TD pass to Shorter. Nay’Quan Wright had a few good plays until his nasty ankle injury, which will sideline him at least through spring practice.
The Criminoles played true to themselves – a trash team with trash players and a trash culture. Late hits, undisciplined play, penalties, trash talk……all while being handled by a team with an interim coaching staff, being gifted 3 turnovers that were the only reason they were still in the game at halftime, and simply terrible ACC officiating. All the talk about them being a team on the rise was bullshit – the ACC was even worse than usual this year, and they still had their 4th consecutive losing season with no bowl game. Conquered – again.
As of this writing, Billy Napier has been hired as the next head coach for Florida. He will bring a desperately-needed infusion of work ethic, professionalism, organization, and an understanding that recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. Dancin’ Danny and the MSU Mafia have left him with a very poor recruiting class. He has essentially 2 weeks to try and salvage it by trying to get some kids that decommitted to return, get some new names that are still available excited about the Gators again, try and retain some current players, and then hit the transfer portal especially hard in order to try and fill out the 85-man roster. He also has a lot of dead weight on the current roster that simply isn’t SEC-level talent. It’s a monster challenge, but he and the guys he hires for his staff will be working with his overall plan and vision for the program.
It will be announced after Championship Saturday where the Gators will go bowling. It won’t be a game of any real significance, other than the opportunity for Napier and some of his new staff to evaluate what they have to work with, and allowing the younger players that were ignored by the previous staff to get more reps in practice and possibly some live playing time in the bowl game.
Recruiting is already seeing signs of life, and Gator Nation is already emerging from under the dark cloud that followed Dancin’ Danny around the past 11 months – kind of like Pig Pen in ‘Peanuts’. There is excitement and real hope for the future. It will take time to rebuild the roster and brand that have been gutted, but Napier has boundless energy and work ethic, which is what it will take.