The Back Nine comes at you after a lost weekend with football, volleyball and soccer all losing. Those happen. Be thrilled you are in a fan base where it is a rare occurrence.
10. There are two camps in the Gator Nation right now with stragglers drifting into the moat in between. On one side, the glass is half full, but it still seems like there was more in it a couple of weeks ago. On the other side, it’s empty. Not half-empty, but bone dry. I run into the members of the first group casually. The second group is loud, vocal and sometimes spells Jim McElwain’s name correctly.
* Group A: It has been a tough season. But the loss of so many players is the biggest reason. Sure, we wish there was more imagination in the offense, but the playmakers are either sitting on the bench or back in their apartments watching the game on TV. McElwain has done a great job of patching this together and we are only a couple of plays away from being 5-0 in the SEC with as many as 17 scholarship players out. He’s building a roster and it would have been close to ready without the Knucklehead Nine. I sit in the stadium and see receivers running open, but he hasn’t had a quarterback in his three years other than Will Grier who ever sees those open receivers. Hey, let’s go beat Georgia and see what happens.
* Group B: Mac has to go. Now. And if they don’t want to pay his buyout, then Doug Nussmeier has to go now. You can’t blame the players. They do what they are coached to do. He said he could win with his dog, but he can’t win with a 6-foot-5 athletic quarterback? The play-calling has all the imagination of butterless grits. We’re tired of McElwain’s non-answers and stubbornness and nobody really cares that we won the East the last two years. The East was terrible. Let’s go get Chip Kelly. Or Brian Kelly. Or Kelly Ripa. Anybody who can grasp the concept that special teams is a third of the game.
11. So which is it? A little bit of both. McElwain, despite a depleted roster, had Florida in position to beat both LSU and Texas A&M at home and be unbeaten in the SEC and ranked in the top 20. He also had six possessions in the two games in the fourth quarter where — if his team could just move inside the opponents’ 40-yard line — Florida could have won the games on an Eddy Pineiro field goal. Those six drives resulted in two first downs. Florida has a coach with a stubborn streak, but his commitment to what he believes has allowed them to be in these games. At the same time, losing games the way they have is way more infuriating than getting blown out (which most people thought would happen Saturday night). Here’s one thing to consider — you get rid of coaches when they lose their teams, when the players are not playing hard. That certainly is not the case here. Want my advice? No? Well, you’re going to get it anyway. Ride it out. See what happens the rest of the season. If it gets no better, changes have to be made. And one more thing — you don’t have to be a coach to see that whatever Florida is doing with special teams is not working. You have a bye week. Figure it out.
12. Maybe Auburn got what it deserved, to borrow an old phrase that came back to bite Florida’s head coach. Its mascot dressed up as a Troy Trojan at one point to taunt the LSU fans who saw their team lose to Troy at home two weeks ago. Bad karma. And coach Gus Malzahn blew a 20-point lead in a place where Auburn still hasn’t won this century. So now Ed Orgeron is everybody’s crazy, but lovable uncle again and Auburn fans are warming up a seat that had gone cold. Such is college football. You are what your record is and you’re only as good as your last game.
13. I shared some text messages with Will Muschamp after his Gamecocks beat Tennessee and they will remain private. But Muschamp’s 6-0 record against the Vols should go into the Guinness Book of Records. And he won this one despite Tennessee getting off two plays in the final four seconds of the game from the 2-yard line. He sent that video to the SEC office (Muschamp sent so much video to the SEC when he was at Florida they probably have a library devoted to it). One thing I have learned in my many years on this planet is that you have to play around bad officiating. They are going to miss calls (and certainly missed a bunch in Gainesville), but that’s the human element in sports.
14. Which brings me to targeting. We are halfway through this season and have come to the conclusion that we have no idea what targeting is after what I saw in the FSU-Duke game and several other games this year. In my opinion, they can stick that rule where the sun dares not shine because fans are left in a state of total confusion. It’s like the whole “what is a catch?” in the NFL. Our sport deserves better.
15. I attended the Florida-Kentucky volleyball match and it didn’t go well for the Gators so I guess I am the jinx. But what I saw was a Florida team that was erratic and a Kentucky team that played like a Final Four team. Give the Wildcats credit. It was a nice crowd and they played with their hair on fire. It was a good lesson for Mary Wise’s team and illustrated something she already knew — that it’s not easy being the target no matter where you are playing.
16. We lost a real character this weekend when former Gainesville Sun employee Fred Roush passed away. If you ever met Fred you would not forget him. He was different, to say the least. He wrote a million headlines and cutlines that you read in the Sun back when there was no Internet. He loved his Chicago Cubs, his daily routine of lunch counter to-go sandwiches and razors over electric shavers even though he always seemed to miss a spot. When I came to the Sun 30 years ago, we couldn’t get a paper out without him because he knew every code for box scores and golf agate. More than anything, he was a sweet guy and we always hate to see those leave us.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from former Florida baseball player Nolan Fontana — “Disappointed in the Gator fans that are tweeting 18-21 year old football players hateful things. No one cares more than the player himself.” No excuses for that kind of behavior. Twitter needs a commissioner.
18. It is bye week, which means some down time for yours truly so there are no excuses for not getting into the gym and working out to this playlist:
* “Sorry Is Gone” by Jessica Lea Mayfield.
* “My Mind Is For Sale” by Jack Johnson.
* “Whole Wild World” by Cage The Elephant.
* “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish.
* And for an old one, “Goodbye” by Mary Hopkin and written by Sir Paul McCartney.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.