Vanderbilt Review / S. Carolina Preview

All good things……

Might as well tear down everything that has been built since 1979 and start over.  It seems as if every football power has eventually tanked at some point, despite the hopes that a program will always be self-sustaining.  It’s difficult to step back and objectively analyze what has been accomplished over the past 34 seasons when you get so immersed in the current season and results.  That being said, 2013 is an especially disappointing season, and a nightmare that hopefully will be not be re-lived for a LONG time.

Losing to a mediocre Vanderbilt team is just another shock to the system for Florida fans at this point, as Gator Nation has almost become numb to the pain as this season has unraveled.  It’s obvious that this team’s spirit has been beaten down by an unbelievable amount of injuries, a tough stretch of games, and poor coaching on offense.  The hope for the balance of the season is that somehow the coaches can keep the players interested and playing hard and with pride.

The statistics will show that the Commodores were held to less than 200 yards of offense, but the gifts of turnovers allowing to start inside the Florida 20-yard line 3 times is way too much for this Gator team to overcome.  Another dull effort by the offense, with Tyler Murphy getting beaten up even more behind a porous O-Line.  The end of a 22-game winning streak is just another dismal result of this season.

The upcoming trip to Columbia will be unpleasant.  Florida laid it on the Gamecocks last year, and the Pariah will look to pay back the Gators with a beatdown that almost looks inevitable at this point.  Tyler Murphy is severely banged up, and quite frankly should be rested the next 2 games.  Neither Kyle Mornhinweg or Max Staver looks to be a long-term answer at QB, so why the hesitation of pulling their redshirt and playing them now?  You may need at least 2 QBs every game behind a lousy O-Line that was embarrassed by Vanderbilt and is far less than SEC-caliber.  It’s become so bad that it really doesn’t matter what the game plan is going in or how well some plays may be designed – this unit simply can’t stand up to any decent talent across the LOS.

The Carolina defense must be licking it’s chops, waiting to feast on this O-Line and deal out some punishment.  Even with Jadaveon Clowney severely underperforming this year, the rest of the D-Line is taking advantage of the attention paid to him and cleaning up.  The Gamecock secondary is nothing special, but Florida doesn’t have the passing scheme or protection to consistently take advantage of them.  Looks like another long, painful day ahead for the Gator offense, which will try somehow to generate some points and take the air out of the ball and shorten the game as much as possible.

Sadly, even the Gator defense is failing to bail out the offense at critical points, as they have worn down under the physical and emotional toll of crappy offensive play.  The hits just keep on coming, as Tank Morrison is the latest casualty and will miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus.  The front seven hasn’t held up this season – a combination of injuries, and lack of size and talent.  The secondary is one of the best in the country, but can only hold out so long if there is no pass rush, or simply won’t be tested if the opponent is running the ball successfully.

The Gamecock offense seems to have found it’s footing with Connor Shaw playing well at QB……as long as he stays on the field.  Mike Davis may be an all-SEC RB, and has helped take the pressure off of the passing game and a WR corp that is nothing special.  As well as they have been playing recently, I expect a full onslaught to try and get the Gators behind early, and then sit back and watch the Florida offense implode……again.

So……the count stands at 8 starters and over 20 players to miss either multiple games, the majority of, or the entire season, an unprecedented run of misfortune.  Some is simply luck, but perhaps the S&C staff will need to re-evaluate some practices in the off-season……god knows there will be plenty of time with no bowl practices or game to look forward to since that fateful 1979 season.

It’s funny to listen to younger fans bitch and moan about how bad things are, since they have never experienced a lost season like this one.  Any Gator fan that only knows 1990 or later has no perception of what a real struggle is.  Well, they are about to see it first hand, as it’s gonna take years to turn around this mess and get back to championship-level play.  That will all start with recruiting, and when your team is struggling on the field and the coaching staff is under fire, that begins to suffer as well, and it is extremely difficult to turn around that self-perpetuating cycle.

Seeing overhead views of a half-empty Swamp as early as the 3rd quarter is unacceptable.  This isn’t your typical scUM “crowd” of inmates, or front-running Criminole “fans” that suddenly are crawling out from under their rocks.  Perception sometimes becomes reality, and that is a sight that will sicken even the most ardent Gator fan, and will just inflame the fan base even more.  Jeremy Foley sees it, and certainly hears it from influential Gator Boosters……count on it.

Will Muschamp likely never expected anything like this to happen to start his head coaching career, especially at Florida, but it’s not just injuries that have led to this point.  He has to re-evaluate his entire methodology, from coaching to player development to management of his staff to recruiting oversight.  He has some difficult decisions to make about his staff, and they have to be made soon and decisively to save this recruiting class and to start rebuilding confidence within the locker room in his ability to lead this team.  Recruiting is the lifeblood of a football program, and an infusion of talent is needed at Florida, no matter who is here to coach it.

It’s a tough time for the football team, but it’s still great to be a Florida Gator, and the program will rebound at some point.  The hardest part will be putting up with all the negativity sure to be loudly heard the next few years, especially within the state from the “fans” of other “universities”.

Prediction:  S. Carolina 38          Florida 7