Ga. Southern Review / Florida $t. Preview

Wow – even with a vote of confidence for Will Muschamp after losing to Vanderbilt, few saw this latest blow to the football program coming.  As bad as the offense is right now – essentially a high-school scheme with a QB to match – being held to under 300 yards and only 20 points against an inferior opponent is the last straw for the current offensive staff.  Changes are a comin’……but will it be Muschamp making them?  I still believe he’ll be back for 2014, but any thought he had of keeping most of the offensive coaches is out the window now.  The hue and cry from the masses is deafening, and he’s in danger of losing the players……which is when the Head Coach gets fired.  I’m not sure how hands-off Jeremy Foley has been willing to stay up to now, but he has to address this with Muschamp immediately.

Despite the scores of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the offense should have been able to score enough points to put GSU in passing situations and out of their comfort zone, allowing the Gator defense to get some rest.  Sadly, it became obvious that the defenders were wearing down quickly in the 2nd half.  The triple-option is tough enough to deal with……especially with less than a week to prepare.  But overcoming an inept offense has finally broken the will of those guys, and it’s a damn shame.

Again, the offense came out solidly and then flattened out after early in the 2nd quarter.  The performance of the O-Line doesn’t excuse Brent Pease for making puzzling and ineffective play calls to maintain momentum at key points in the game.  Even with Skyler Mornhinweg’s weak arm, there were plenty of chances to throw the ball against an 8-man front geared up for the run.  Maybe the bad coaching of Tim Davis has Pease so spooked he can’t see the forest for the trees at his point…….but those problems run deeper than that.

With nothing left to play for except pride, the Gators host Florida $t. this Saturday at the Swamp.  It would be wonderful to have a competitive roster to field  to try and ruin the championship hopes of the Criminoles and (notoriously) Famous Jameis Winston, but maybe it will be up to the Florida Attorney General to do the dirty deed instead (doubtful).  While I still believe the defense has enough manpower to put up a decent fight for a while, it looks like it would take a decided advantage in turnover margin plus an entirely risk-adverse offensive game plan to pull off the upset.  I simply can’t look at the numbers the F$U offense has piled up against pretty much a crap schedule and be overly impressed……but sadly they can pretty much play conservatively until the Gator offense wears the defense down……the Gator defense.  Still, I would dare the Criminoles to run the ball and stick with the run, while taking away TE Nick O’Leary and taking your chances with the jump-ball strategy to Kelvin Benjamin.  Luchiez Purifoy and Marcus Roberson have the size to fight with Benjamin, VH3 can stay with Kenny Shaw, and Brian Poole or Jabari Gorman can man up with O’Leary.  Run a defense with 5 and 6 DBs the entire game (the strength of the entire team), and even if F$U has some success running, so be it.  Given the lack of quality numbers on the D-Line and at LB, go with your best payers and unit to try and lead the way.

If Tyler Murphy plays and plays well, I think his mobility can help create a few chances for points, but the RBs and WRs have to make something happen on their own.  A dink-and-dunk pass attack simply won’t cut it……it’s time to go for lower-percentage pass plays down the field, and see if the WRs can make a few plays on the ball and/or runs after the catch.  As always, expect the opponent to stuff the box and dare Florida to throw the entire game.  It’s been hard to watch the high-school offense resorting to direct snaps to the RBs as a staple the past 2 weeks.  As good as Kelvin Taylor can be, there’s no way he has any real success if Skyler Mornhinweg plays……you’d be looking at the distinct possibility of a shutout barring a defensive or special teams score……his arm is that weak.  Unfortunately it’s looking less likely that Murphy plays, pretty much sealing Florida’s fate.  If that is the case, I hope Max Staver gets some snaps – at least he has a real arm, and maybe can get lucky on a few deep throws.

It’s bad enough that Florida is playing only for pride at this point.  The other shoe to possibly drop is that this was to be the biggest recruiting weekend of the year.  With all of the dysfunction exhibited by the offensive staff and the media hype on Will Muschamp’s status, this could crush this year’s class, and seriously impact the 2015 class as well.  Having the stands half-empty (again) in the second half, with more Criminole fans left than Gator fans, is almost certain death to closing on the quality players left on the board.

All good things must come to an end it seems…….but so will all bad things in terms of Gator Football.  No matter the dark days, weeks, and possibly years ahead, Florida will eventually come back to prominence.  This fact is completely lost on those who only have known Gator football since Steve Spurrier arrived in 1990, or even going back to 1980, the year after the infamous 0-10-1 season.  Times have changed…….wall-to-wall media coverage, social media, instant gratification, salaries, the pressure to win immediately……and the environment in and around big-time college football is completely different than just a generation ago.  Short-term thinking and mindless hysteria are what’s in vogue right now.  Make no mistake – these factors are definitely causing damage to the program right now……as has the bad coaching and less-than-stellar CEO performance by Coach Muschamp to date.  In addition, there are forces in motion behind the scenes that may take years to repair, which could put Florida in a cycle of rinse-and-repeat coaching changes that only prolong the pain and make it that much more difficult to recover.  Of course, no one wants to hear that, and even to try and contemplate the thought would make any Gator fan sick.

Despite the storm over the Swamp these days……it will always be great to be a Florida Gator.  It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since my dad took me to my first Gator game in 1973 to see a JUCO transfer RB named Nat Moore and QB Don Gaffney lead the Gators.  I’ve seen it all since then……a winless season, “Run Lindsay, Run”, crippling probation, the first (unrecognized and recognized) SEC Championship, dominance in the best league in the country for a 20-year span, Heisman Trophy winners, Hall-of-Fame players like Emmitt Smith and Wilber Marshall, and truth-is-stranger-than-fiction coaching sagas.

And it’s all worth it.

Thanks dad……and Go Gators!

Prediction:  F$U 38        Florida 14