Drama-filled week ends with ugly loss to Bulldogs

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Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Reggie Carter (45) hits Florida Gators wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) hard on a screen pass during the Florida-Georgia Game in Jacksonville. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

JACKSONVILLE — This rivalry game was pretty much over midway through the first quarter Saturday.

But when did this humbling Florida loss to arch-rival Georgia first begin?

Was it Monday, when UF coach Jim McElwain, out of nowhere, brought up death threats?

Was it Wednesday, when he apologized for his remarks but still refused to clarify them?

Or was it Saturday morning, when social media caught fire about the possibility of McElwain losing his job, maybe as soon as today?

Whenever it began, there was no doubt about where it basically ended, with 7:32 still remaining — in the first quarter.

Playing like a team that was distracted and indifferent, the Gators came out flat and were knocked down by a 21-0 blitzkrieg in the game’s opening minutes that led to a 42-7 rout at the hands of No. 3 Georgia before 84,107 at EverBank Field.

It was UF’s largest loss in the rivalry since falling to the Bulldogs 44-0 in 1982.

The Gators have been dealing with distractions all season. And this latest — and greatest — distraction is one that was created by McElwain on Monday and hovered all week.

It obviously followed the Gators to Jacksonville, where McElwain learned Saturday morning about a post on Twitter claiming that school officials were negotiating with his agent, Jimmy Sexton, about a possible buyout that would lead to his termination.

McElwain talked to his players about the report heading into the team breakfast Saturday morning.

“It’s hard to tell (how it affected our players),” McElwain said. “I thought our guys, they prepared well all week. Obviously, I was made aware of the stuff right before we walked into pregame meal. First time I’d heard anything of that nature. I talked to them immediately. We’ll see.

“At the end of the day, we were all brought here to win and we haven’t done it. My concern isn’t about my job. My concern is about these players, our staff. We have a fantastic staff — coaches, support staff, their families. That’s the concern. It isn’t about me.”

The question is what happens next? There are reports that school officials are in discussions about whether they can fire McElwain without cause due to the claims he made about death threats that he would not provide details about.

As it stands now, McElwain has a $12.9 million buyout in his contact.

McElwain said he has not had discussions with UF athletic director Scott Stricklin and school officials about his job status.

“I haven’t been told anything,” he said. “There’ve been no conversations about that. I talked to (Stricklin) when he was down here, I guess on Thursday. I talked to him on the phone, just normal talk of what was going on, but nothing along those lines.”

McElwain was asked if he would be surprised if he’s no longer UF’s coach today.

“Nothing in this world surprises,” he said. “I know what I was brought here to do. Look, we haven’t been good on offense. I get it. We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough, haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That’s life.

“That is this business, and I take full responsibility for all of it. There’s no doubt. Like I said, my concern has to do with those players, seeing them in that locker room and seeing that stuff just work so hard to get to where we are even at now, that’s what’s hard is to just see the unknown, you know?”

McElwain sounds like someone who would like to keep his job. But the decision is not his — and that decision could come down soon, maybe as early as today.

“This is a dream job,” he said. “It’s a great place. It’s great fans. Great support. The resource is there to win. Obviously, I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to deliver in the time I’ve been here. But you know what, it’s an opportunity. This is one of those places that I’ve said from the start, that you have an opportunity, even being able to be in a game like this, it’s something that’s real special.”

There certainly was nothing special about Florida’s performance Saturday. The Gators (3-4 overall and 3-3 in the SEC) fell into the big early hole and never had a chance to climb out against a team that was clearly better.


THREE THINGS

1. Midway through the first quarter, the game was basically over after the No. 3 Bulldogs sprinted to a 21-0 lead, the crushing blow coming on a 74-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel.

2. Struggling Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks certainly aided the Georgia cause. He gave up a pick-six in the first quarter and lost a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.

3. Franks was benched in the fourth quarter and replaced by Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire, who led the Gators to their only score — a 1-yard TD run by Mark Thompson with only 2:42 left in the game.

— Robbie Andreu


“It was a shocker,” sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. said of Georgia’s 21-0 start that featured a pick-six and a 74-yard TD run by Sony Michel. “We knew they could put up points, but not in that short of a time. We just have to move on and play the next game.”

It was a nightmare day for struggling quarterback Feleipe Franks and the equally struggling offense. Franks threw an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter and lost a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown in the third quarter.

And the passing game was non-existent. The Gators, who knew coming into the game they would need to complete some passes down the field to have a chance against the UGA defense, threw for a mere 66 yards, 36 by No. 2 quarterback Malik Zaire who led the Gators to their only score — a 1-yard run by Mark Thompson — with only 2:42 left in the game.

Franks completed only seven of 19 passes and was sacked five times.

“I take all the blame,” Franks said. “I have to play better. I’m not going to fold. I’m just going to keep working and we’ll come out next week ready to play.”

The Gators know they’ll be playing next Saturday at Missouri. But they can’t be certain who their head coach is going to be.


Up next

Who: Florida vs. Missouri

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Missouri

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


“You have to keep going, keep pushing,” Gardner said. “We’re a team. We stand behind Coach Mac. He stands behind us and this program stands behind us.

“Outsiders are going to be outsiders. We’re not going to worry about them. We’re just going to keep doing what we have to do.”

While the Gators seemed distracted Saturday, especially early in the game, the Bulldogs clearly were not. They were locked in and focused.

“I thought we came out with a really good demeanor and a good attitude,” UGA coach Kirby Smart said. “Throughout the game, the kids had a really good focus. They were not distracted by streaks and those kind of things. They focused on the job at hand and got it done.”

41 COMMENTS

  1. The University of Florida should be embarrassed for hiring this huckster! uncoached, undisciplined and no imagination with the offense. Franks looks like he has tremendous talent but he has no feel for being a quarterback.

  2. I could literally see Florida keeping McElwain after asking him to fire Nussmeier this week. If he does not agree to do so, then they would likely fire McElwain. But the play of the offensive line also shows a strong lack of good coaching as well. I have never seen an offensive line move before the snap so many times during a game, and it happened every time the team got something going on offense and it killed drives. And Zaire has to play QB for the rest of the year. Even if it was against the Georgia’s subs, he showed control of the offense, decisive decision making, and a passing touch. Franks shows none of that and I am tired on watching his ineptitude at QB. Games on Saturdays should not be a training ground for Florida QBs. The practice field is. And if you cannot do it on Saturdays, which Franks has proved he can’t, then you can’t play QB for a program like Florida on Saturdays. Zaire has proven he can play on this level in the past. He looked like that today. Let him play the position the rest of the year and maybe he will be good and can petition the NCAA for a 6th year for next year. And maybe McElwain can right the ship and save his job and this year’s recruiting class. And then McElwain can go get a younger, more innovative and up tempo oriented OC for next year as well. Time for change. But not sure the head coach should be changed just yet. But if he is unwilling to adapt and change, then it is definitely time to change the head coach.

    • So we have a continuing problem for three (9 really) years at QB, and on the offense that MacElwain was hired to fix… but he bears no responsibility for it? I’ve been a defender of his for three years but I’m beginning to see that he is not up to the job required at Florida. His “aww shucks” demeanor is likeable but hasn’t stopped the rot undermining UF’s football program for years now. Put Shannon in today and start a complete rebuild with an established coach in a major, even if it means a terrible season next year. Otherwise we will lose our draw power in recruiting (WTH goes public with “death threats” even if they were real?) on both sides of the ball and become Missouri or another Tier 2-3 FBS PROGRAM with a quickness. UFs inherited quality defense has carried the team for years now, but we are running the risk of losing that too. It would take years maybe a decade to rebuild then.

      • There’s no doubt there’s been a problem at QB since Tebow left after the 2009 season. Mac does bear responsibility, but what other coach has lost his best QB after 6 games in his first season and 3 games in his second season and still managed to ride a scrub back-up to the conference title game both seasons? Grier’s suspension and Del Rio’s injuries are certainly not Mac’s fault. You could argue he should’ve recruited better QB’s, but how do you get 4 and 5 star prospects to come to a school that already had a five year history (2010-14) of being a place that highly rated QB’s (Brantley and Driskel, 5 stars, & Brisset 4 star) come to, only to fizzle out in a poor offense? At the time, it was something of a major coup for Mac to flip Franks from LSU, but obviously that hasn’t turned out well, either. Mac’s demeanor and sometimes inarticulate press conference statements are a concern, but I still think he should get one more season to right the ship. It appears that’s not going to happen, though.

    • No a new OC at this point Won’t work,it would be the same last ditched effort they tried with Muschamp hiring Roper…Gators need complete Culture change once again. Focus!
      Go Gators!!

    • Everything in this comment is on par. Franks cannot start the remainder of the year and Nussmier must be fired on Monday morning. This staffs inability to make in-game adjustment is unacceptable!

      • Why do most people want to wait till Monday? For the life of me I don’t know why I didn’t see it on ESPN at 11:00. Mac fired! Time to clean up the mess in Gainesville.
        Story at 11.
        Sorry, but this Gator is frustrated.

    • I have been in the give Mac a chance camp, and still could not blame the AD if he decided to do so. On the other hand, if the relationship between Mac and the administration is as bad as some reports suggest (and who knows how accurate this is?), I do not see how he can have a chance to succeed. In that case, it would be better to make the change sooner rather than later. We lack the inside knowledge that would be necessary to know what is best.

      One other thing that has been working on my thinking is how poorly the AD seems to be handling this. He has allowed a situation to develop in which the rumors are mushrooming everywhere without doing much of anything to minimize the damage they could do. I realize that there is a limit to what is under his control, but I also think he could have been doing more to try to keep control of the narrative. At this point, he would need to express strong support for Mac if he were keeping him, and it’s not likely that anyone would believe such statements. It’s just an unfortunate situation for the UF.

  3. When has a UF Head Coach Wife (Blondie) ever posted a picture with the UF Head Coach (Jim) and family eating corn-on-the-cob (HUSKERS) along will two (2) Nebraska hats in the picture and still has it up on FaceBook??? Do they even GET being GATOR(s)? We (UF) still hates Nebraska! And no, Mac & Blondie will never GET being a GATOR and caring about the secondary programs like a softball, soccer or volleyball program as they are from the Northwest and from the BAMA glory days. There is only 1 GATOR who really, really GOT IT and SOS, the HBC would be a great place to start for helping UAA to pick the next true GATOR Head Coach going forward . . .

  4. Only 1 Gator Head Coach that really loved all the programs and the single reason being that SOS’s team was the FLORIDA GATORS, his school. Meyer tried but flamed after 5 or 6 seasons and Mac & Blondie don’t realize what a POST on Facebook with a family picture with them and 2 Nebraska hats do to Gator Nation? It was a slap in the face for Gator Nation. The reason for the pic may have been that Blondie was in attendance when Big Boosters were cussin’ out loud in the Sky Boxes during either the L$U or Trans A&M games as I had heard . . . but know this, they are NOT a fit at UF. They will never be. They are from the Northwest and from the BAMA tree. Not Gators, like SOS, this was HIS school. Let Steve Spurrier have some input on the next hire and I bet’cha it will be a HR!

  5. Do you realize Mac got EXTENDED less than a year ago ? After winning the east and winning the bowl game in a blowout. People are completely nuts.

    Mac has a top 5 recruiting class stacking up, no joke just check ESPN. Lose Mac, or even if people think we are losing Mac, then we are screwed for recruiting. Also there is nobody waiting in line to be the next coach, that is why LSU is still stuck with Ogeron, they couldn’t get anybody else in spite of being a top program. If we get another coach soon it will be somebody we never heard of.

    • I have to agree, Frank. This time it has to be a coach c a proven track record at a high level of competition, hopefully c some championships under his belt. If the Gators bring in the right man, somebody 4 & 5-star high school athletes will definitely want to play for, who can develop them, then I won’t worry so much about the damage to recruiting this year, or in the out years.

    • Frank, with his ill advised statement to the press about receiving death threats and then refusing to be specific and even refusing to consult the University or the proper authorities, it seems to me like a death wish on his part, don’t you think?, What parent would wish to allow his kid to be a part of a program that if it failed to win, would be receiving death threats? NOT MANY!!!. And then after a bye week the team is not even prepared to compete. I think is a complete embarrassment and it should be dealt with, Harshly!!!

  6. ” ‘This is a dream job,’ he said. ‘It’s a great place. It’s great fans. Great support. The resource is there to win. Obviously, I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to deliver…’ ” ~Gatorsports.com
    And in 2 short years, (Coach Mac’s been at U.F. 3 years) the school to the north, U.G.A., and the school to the south, Miami, have both shot up in the national rankings (Top 10), and deservedly so.
    In the meantime, Florida has won 2 S.E.C. East titles (utilizing Muschamp’s strong ‘D’ leftovers, if we’re honest), and has had a couple ”big hits” in recruiting, like Davis & Toney. Other than that, he hasn’t been ”able to deliver” on offense. And after a Herschel Walker beat down from Georgia, without Herschel playing, well… it just doesn’t make much sense, on any level. Time to hire some Gator players turned coaches. And start with the Q.B. coach and the O.C. (hint: same person).

  7. For the 1st time in 29 years, I did not watch the entire game, whether in the stands in Gainsville or on TV. Mid 3rd Q I flipped over to CNN and watched Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown. He was sampling roasted baboon balls in Nigeria. Beat the hell out of watching UF Comedy Football. We’re a B-ball school now, Kentucky is the new big game

  8. We lose to arguably the best team in the country this year after losing 22% of our players and the fans want coach Mac’s head. FSU loses just it’s QB and they are 2-5. Fire Jimbo too? Gator fans obviously did not actually graduate from UF.

    • It’s not just about wins and losses at this point. He is a disgrace to the University of Florida, from which I graduated. Get a clue.

  9. Bill, Jimbo has won a NC. Who cares about what F$U does, anyway? Mac, as he himself said, was hired to resurrect our offense, and it’s as bad or worse than under Muschamp. And the D is average now, with Muschamp’s recruits gone. Special teams suck, despite perhaps the two best kickers in the nation. 6 or 7 false starts! A complete dumpster fire, an obviously poorly coached team.
    And MORE importantly, if a university employee knows of death threats to students(not to mention other employees and their families), and won’t divulge more information, because he is lying, or just won’t, he HAS to be fired. That is obvious. What legal position would UF be in if they retained said employee, and a tragedy happened? Goodbye, Mac.

  10. 10 years of experiments with Zookeeper, mus hump and Mac and cheese teeth. Can we get a proven winner?
    Les Miles has a good 5-7 years left.

  11. This situation is a total and complete indictment of Jeremy Foley. Foley was too enamored with the Title IX allure of fake media adulation. The main question Gator Nation must face now is to identify what kind of an AD we have. Certainly, it is in these situations that AD’s earn their pay. This hire must be right. We have suffered as a Nation, we are seeing our Brand being stolen from us and we have eaten the apple and our eyes are know open and we see this terrible drama where what is near and dear is being taken away. Be ready for a rough ride ahead. This will not be easy. The core of the AD’s decision making MUST be that at UF we always expect to win championships. This is not a tailgate social club we’re running.

  12. As long as we are all young enough to see it happen. Some of the Georgia fans didn’t live long enough to see yesterday’s game. This could and probably will be a slow ten year burn. This program feels like Galen Hall days are ahead. This sucks!!

  13. Does language matter?
    It bothered me from the beginning of the McElwain era, that he sounded like a folksy Ron Zook. While Zook often spoke in unintelligible fragments (literally Not complete sentences) and could barely his catch his breath between phrases, McElwain is the king of kinda/sorta run-on sentences that left you wondering where the heck he was going with this, only seconds after he started. He continues self-contradicting himself with a myriad of ‘and yet’ phrases tacked on to the end of the confused beginning phrase.

    Muschamp was always about to explode, especially on the sidelines, making you wonder how in his screaming, vein-popping brain, that he was managing to think about strategy for the next play. Urban was a little short in his answers and they are littered with jargon that he assumes the public gets like ‘Mike linebacker’, but he at least made sense. Spurrier was always a little country, but with his wit, his intelligence shined through every time (and still does).

    So, we try not to judge a book by it’s cover, but I think you can judge a person by their speech – it indicates their thoughts (you can debate Noam Chomsky here if you like). McElwain’s thoughts from the beginning have been confused and scattered seeming like HE doesn’t know what to do next. I’m sorry that seems to have turned out to be an accurate analysis of his abilities, or lack there of.

    Time to move on.

    • Good comment Pierre. Mac wasn’t properly researched by Foley prior to offering this job; the qualifications that he was hired for (offensive guru and QB Whisperer) simply are untrue with McElwain and further waiting for him to become either is pointless. But he would remain hired at least for another year if not for his mental meltdown in his Monday presser claiming death threats. Makes me think his mental bandwidth is nowhere near what it takes to be successful as HBC – anywhere. But he’s a multi-millionaire now and has it made for life.

  14. I do not feel firing a coach every three years is the best way to return to relevance. This whole yea has been very bizarre. The past week being entirely of Mac’s making. We have no word from Scott Strickland yet all the news media and fans say Mac is fired, so the weirdness continues. I will remain behind the coach until he is not the coach. If that eventuality happens I hope current AD is better at picking a head coach for football than his predecessor.
    Coaching is a small fraternity and our reputation of maltreatment of our head coaches is well documented and thus reduces of potential candidate pool. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    • A good young coach would jumb at the job. The argument that not keeping coaches deters coaches from joining a school is erroneous. The coaches know that if you do not win you are gone. If you are supposed to a offensive coach and your offense has been one of the worst in the country for three consecutive years you know your job is on the line. No coach would be deterred by firing an ineffectual coach

  15. No Mike Leach (too strange, and never championship quality – again, look at HIS speech patterns), No Chip Kelly – only spread offense, and possible NCAA offenseS. Gruden not coaching college.

    Spurrier – only if he would. Maybe as temporary O.C. just fun for him.
    Scott Frost at UCF best choice.
    Charley Strong still good despite the baggage if he can forgive and forget from almost 10 years ago.
    Gene Chizik?? Les Miles?? – these guys would not be long-term solutions

    Just a coherent coach with fire in the belly who wants to win without breaking NCAA rules. Is that too much to ask??

    • Frost has a better job, would probably not leave Orlando for a run of the mill SEC team. Too bad, but if you want to get outside of the box, here’s a thought: Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. Truly an offensive genius, just need to pair him c an equally genius defensive coordinator who can both coach and recruit, and who will stay. (insert smilely face here)

      • GATOR-6, I’ll grant you that this Gator team is a run of the mill SEC team, but UF is certainly not a run of the mill SEC program. Although its history and tradition are fairly recent, the SEC titles and national titles put UF in the upper echelon of SEC programs. I fail to see how UCF is a better job. If that’s the case, there’s no reason for Kingsbury to leave Texas Tech for UF, either. If what you say is true, wouldn’t we be relegated to trying to get a coach from an FCS school? Maybe you’re right, but what’s your reasoning?

    • I remember Stong when he was DC here at UF. I do not think he was that good, and pretty much rode Bridgewater’s coattails and then bolted to UT when Bridgewater went pro. Strong SUCKED at UT, which has more resources at their disposal than UF. NO STRONG. Kingsbury has an insane offensive mind, but he is a TTU alum and would not leave TTU, it’s where he wants to be. Mike Leach won at TTU and now as WSU when no one else has. Scott Frost would be great, but doubt if he wants to leave UCF.

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