Florida $tate Review

The Song Remains The Same……

There was one final bitter pill to swallow as Will Muschamp’s head coaching career at Florida closed with another brutal loss, this one at Taliban City against the Criminoles. Just another in the long list of improbable scenarios leading to a close loss played out, as the Gators managed to waste a brilliant performance by the defense that forced 4 interceptions of Shameless Winston and repeatedly gave the offense the chances to put the game away. Sadly, the game was a microcosm of Muschamp’s tenure at Florida.

The Gator offense actually did open up the playbook some (as it should have continued to do even after the debacle at Alabama), breaking tendency by throwing the ball occasionally on first down and taking shots downfield not just to Demarcus Robinson. The inexperience and lack of accuracy of Treon Harris, however, were glaringly evident as he missed a handful of clutch throws that would have extended drives and definitely led to more points being scored. He was bitterly disappointed leaving the field after his last incompletion, throwing behind a wide-open Robinson that effectively ended the game. He has tools to work with, and importantly the poise to not panic despite his youth, but simply needs to be coached up in his timing and doing a better job of leading a receiver – that will come. Florida continued to run the ball, even when it was apparent that F$U was daring them to throw more often. Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor weren’t as effective as needed to provide balance and help Harris out, but that points more to the poor development of a passing game than to most of the players. Harris did scramble for some first downs, and actually had some clutch runs called back by penalties in the fateful second half.

Of course, the play of the game was the pick 6 that change what would have been a 12-0 or 16-0 lead into a 9-7 lead that completely changed the complexion of the game and gave the Criminoles life. While the play call wasn’t that bad, planning a throw to Tevin Westbrook, knowing his history of drops, was poor personnel management. The throw was a little behind him, but history suggested that he wasn’t a reliable option, and that falls on the offensive staff. Really feel bad for the kid, but he directly contributed to 2 crushing losses this season. Ugh.

There were some critical penalties throughout the game that were partially a by product of the rivalry, but also a lack of poise that doomed some scoring chances and contributed to the loss. The frustrations of the past 2 years and losing their coach obviously influenced some of the behavior that led to dumb penalties.

The Gator defense was terrific, forcing the many turnovers and pressuring King Crab all afternoon. The game plan to shut down the passing game did allow F$U to have success with Dalvin Cook running the ball, but that success should have been limited by some better tackling in the second half. Overall you can’t ask anything more out of that unit. They flew all over the field, blanketed WRs, and laid the wood on some punishing hits. The secondary has come a long way from the meltdown at Alabama back in September, completely shutting down the F$U passing attack except for 2 TD receptions by Nick O’Leary.

Now comes another turbulent off-season, as recruiting remains in flux and some potential big-time players are either de-committing or wavering. Jeremy Foley claims that he will have a new coach named by mid-December, and it’s critical for a new head coach and staff to have as much time as possible to hold the class together. It’s remarkable that, despite the many losses on the field, Will Muschamp is still well-liked and hasn’t been vilified by many fans and in the press. He inherited a real mess from Urban Meyer inside and outside of the locker room, and has cleaned out a lot of bad apples while rebuilding camaraderie within the team. But as he stated after being let go, the bottom line is winning, and he didn’t get that done. He leaves behind a very good defense and scheme, and I hope that a few key coaches like Travaris Robinson and Brad Lawing are retained by the new head coach – they are excellent positional coaches as well as ace recruiters. Despite the poor results on offense, there is more talent than has been shown that is left behind, and needs to be developed. Foley stated that he wants a head coach that has exhibited a more wide-open and explosive offense, and as evidenced by the results of the past 4 seasons and also across the country given more liberal rules benefiting the offense, Florida has no reason it can’t get back to what was seen from 1990-2009.

The Will Muschamp era ends at Florida, but another is soon to begin. With some improvement on offense, Florida should contend for the SEC East as soon as next season. Here’s hoping the new head coach can improve the offense while continuing the tradition of solid defense, and getting the Gators back to winning ways.

I’ll be back with a bowl preview, wrap up, and then an analysis of the new staff and what I hope is a solid recruiting class, despite the coaching change.

It’s been a rough 5 years, but better days are ahead. Go Gators!