Florida in control of its SEC East fate

12
1997
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As ridiculous and ludicrous as it sounds, the Florida Gators actually still control their own fate in the SEC’s Eastern Division race.

Win out and go to Atlanta.

It’s as, well, improbable as that.

Coming off a crushing one-point loss to LSU and given the way Florida’s season has played out so far, the arrow is definitely pointing down (or sideways at best) for the Gators.

It seems unlikely that this struggling team, especially with a depleted offense, could sweep Texas A&M, No. 4 Georgia, and Missouri and South Carolina, both road games.

But the goal is still sitting there, precarious as it may be.

“Our goals, everything is still out in front of us,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “How we approach that and how our guys choose to attack that is really going to be interesting. I don’t care who is missing, there isn’t any of that. It’s the guys that we have, go out and execute, play your tails off, and that’s what has to happen.”

The big problem — among many — is that each game from here on out is an elimination game. Lose one, and there’s likely no path left to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game.

But, what the heck, give it a shot. Go for it, Gators.

“We know what’s at stake for us,” sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. said. “We control our own destiny. We’re not worried about any other team. We just have to go out there and compete. It’s football. Anything can happen. Our motto is just focus on us, go out there and have fun and just play football and just do what we’ve got to do to get a W.”

Getting the W tonight is going to be tough, really tough.

The Aggies are heading in a different direction than the Gators. Their arrow is pointing up.

Since blowing the big lead and losing at UCLA in the opener, Texas A&M has been improving appreciably every Saturday, including last week in a loss to Alabama.

If there’s such a thing as a good loss, that would be one for the Aggies. They came out of the game probably feeling better about themselves than they did going in. For much of the game, A&M competed on an even level with the nation’s No. 1 team, before eventually falling 27-19.

“I saw a team in A&M that was very hungry and well prepared and their athletes played,” McElwain said. “You could see the quality of guys that they’ve been recruiting and the energy they’ve played with. These guys, they’ve got speed. They’ve got a bunch of talent and played really well.

“They’re really good. They’ve been recruiting at a high level for a long time, and they just keep rolling (players) in and out. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin’s done a great job to get people in there and they’ve invested a lot in that place and they’re seeing it by the players they’re getting.”

One of Sumlin’s biggest recruiting victories since he’s been at A&M occurred three years ago, when he was able to sign a speedy receiver from Scottsdale, Ariz., by the name of Christian Kirk.

Kirk has been an impact player from the start and is now one of the nation’s elite playmakers in his junior season. He can beat you four ways: receiving, running, returning kickoffs and punts.

The Gators know they have to account for him.

“We’ve got to punt it out of bounds, Eddy (Pineiro) has got to kick it through the bleachers and we better have a guy over the top of him when he’s out there as a wideout,” McElwain said. “But in saying that, A&M has a high level of really good players all over. They’re really playing good.”

Conversely, the Gators are not. They’re missing two of their biggest playmakers on offense (wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney) and are struggling to convert third downs and sustain drives. Defensively, there have been too many meltdown moments in too many different areas.

The Gators again will go with redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks, who threw for only 108 yards in the 17-16 loss to LSU last Saturday. McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will try to help Franks by going to a quicker pace of play in hopes that it will create some rhythm in the offense.

“I think his confidence level is pretty good,” McElwain said. “He’s done a really good job continuing trying to see the things we need to get a little bit better at. I think some of the tempo pieces we worked this week are going to hopefully help him, kind of with the comfort of getting things in and out. He’s been good. Like I said, he’s a confident guy. And doesn’t waver. That’s one of the good qualities about him.”

While the Florida offense continues to search and struggle, the A&M offense has gotten on a pretty nice roll with quickly emerging true freshman dual-threat quarterback Kellen Mond.

“What he does creating with his feet and getting them first downs, he’s done a real good job,” McElwain said. “Kind of the scary thing is, obviously you saw us last week get beat on the perimeter time and time again. Well, these guys do the same stuff, just a lot of times with a back or swinging it quick and blocking on the perimeter. I’m sure they saw that and got really excited to play this game, because they’re probably going to have 900 yards of offense.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

12 COMMENTS

  1. So, Coach Mac is stating that A&M is probably going to get 900 yards of offense. Wow, how pathetic. This is the main issue right here; he himself doesn’t even believe in his own team and badmouths them to the media. Even though he thinks he is joking, it doesn’t matter. His words carry weight and the defeatist mindset is already there, which explains why he plays so tight and not to lose. I am so tired of reading his antics and aw-shucks stupidity.

    Either way, Maybe the Gators can make some plays, and improve, but they need to improve in all three areas of the game.

  2. If they want Franks in a rhythm, put Toney in for a series and stop pulling Franks when things are going good. Florida struggles after a Toney play because Franks gets out of rhythm fast. The entire team lacks leadership and that fire in the belly. No Tim Tebow, no Lawrence Wright, no Brandon Speights, etc. Somebody has to step up and get the team motivated. The coaches can’t do it. They are too passive. I fear this game will get really ugly. It will be hard to sit one row back from the field and watch this unfold no matter how much we scream our lungs out. Unfortunately it is becoming too common.

    • Maybe I’m missing something, but I have yet to see Frank’s get in any type of rhythm. It seems that most of the time that Toney touch the ball something good happens. If Toney and Cleveland can’t go today, we definitely won’t be able to pull this one out. Our defense is to young and inexperienced in the secondary to carry this team.

  3. So sick of McYet and his idiotic sarcasm. This team reflects his middle-aged surfer boy “win with my dog” mentality. And it shows with the horrid play and losses on the field. Bama and UGA have coaches, and YET we have Zook 3.0 with a massive contract buyout. Gator Nation is stuck with this excuse of a coach for at least 3 more years…sigh

  4. All Gator fans just need to relax and go for the ride. Unless you have a ton of money and are a bull gator, you have no say in the direction of this program. If Mac continues the AVERAGE recruiting and continues with Nussmeir and the PREDICTABLE offense, then UF will CONTINUE to lose and a CHANGE will be made. I told my wife on the day of his hire that Mac was Muschamp 2.0 and predicted he would last 5yrs (as God as my witness). In years 1-2 most new coaches get a pass and Mac earned goodwill off a garbage SEC East. Year 3, boosters again will give him another pass on excuses( red shirt QB, suspended players, injuries). In year 4, I thinks excuses will be very very thin. And in year 5, there will be no tolerance of excuses and eventual firing will happen. Again, this is assuming, Mac digs his heels in ala Muschamp and makes no changes.

    • I think you are right on the money…McYet will last 5 years, using the excuses of injuries, suspensions, young QBs, and his dog not being eligible to play. And yet…Hopefully, Stricklen can do better than Foley with the Football HC hire.