Dooley: Game-changing plays indicative of Florida’s season

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Florida interim head coach Randy Shannon talks with quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) during the first half Saturday against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina defeated Florida 28-20. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Brandon Powell sat on the cold, hard bench as the players from both sidelines headed to the middle of the field. He stared straight ahead while chewing on a blue mouthpiece like it was bubblegum.

He didn’t have to speak for you to know what was going through his head.

How did this happen?

How could a team that came into the summer with so much promise be fielding another kick in the gut?

How could this team, these guys with such high aspirations, be staring into the barrel of a bowl-less season after five straight losses?

How could he have muffed another punt?

In a season that feels like moccasins are taking turns chomping on bare chunks of flesh, if it could go wrong for Florida it did again Saturday.

Snakebit? Murphy’s Law would be a 10-point favorite over these Gators.

“There are no moral victories,” UF interim coach Randy Shannon said.

Well, duh.

This is Florida, not Wofford. There are never moral victories at this place. Instead, a season on the brink has been officially pushed over the cliff and onto the jagged rocks of misery and despair.

“It’s been a bumpy path,” said linebacker David Reese, who played his rear end off Saturday. “We’re going through an ugly spot.”

That Florida never quit Saturday even when it was down to 53 scholarship players (and not the right 53) by game’s end is commendable.

But let’s face it.

The reason this game came down to the last possession was because the coach on the other sideline tends to find himself in a lot of games like this one. It’s just that his mojo has been better in Columbia than it was in Gainesville.

There were times when this game looked like two drunks trying to put together a stereo with the wrong kind of screwdriver.

You try it. No, you try it.

There were so many plays that summed up over and over again what has gone wrong with Florida this season it was almost comical.

You want Florida’s season in microcosm? How about a whole game worth of microcosm? (Is that even possible?)

There was what looked like another pick-six for CJ Henderson, except, of course, he left the ball on the ground short of the end zone.

And South Carolina recovered.

And ran it back for a what ended up a 20-yard gain on the play.

Really. I’m not making this up.

“That was tough,” Shannon said.

Florida looked like it had another pick-six but Chauncey Gardner Jr. was tripped up by a shoelace. Of course he was.

There was the costly, hard-to-understand sack that Feleipe Franks took at the start of the fourth quarter to take the Gators out of Gamecock territory.

Or my favorite, the third-and-18 play later in the quarter when Doug Nussmeier dialed up a perfect call and Franks threw a perfect pass and Freddie Swain perfectly dropped it at the sticks.

This one hurt these guys a little more than the last two if only because it wasn’t over at halftime and there was actually a chance late. But it still ended the same way.

A losing season now secured (there’s no way Florida would appeal for a bowl game at 5-6 with no players and a new coaching staff on the way), the Gators made the walk of shame into the northwest tunnel of Williams-Brice Stadium with South Carolina’s student section chirping in their ears.

“You’re a bum, No. 13.”

“How do you like that ‘L,’ buddy?”

“You know how many wins you have? Three. Count ’em. Three.”

“You guys stink.”

I’m sure those young men spent the rest of the night polishing all of the SEC football championship trophies won by South Carolina in its history, but fans will be fans.

What matters is that the players on this team don’t deserve what has happened to them.

None of them were arrested in the offseason, choosing to put themselves over their teammates. None of them asked for their coach to be fired in the middle of the season.

None of them signed on to lose a game to a hurricane or to see teammate after teammate in walking boots and hospital gowns.

“Not making any excuses,” Reese said, “but we’ve lost a lot of numbers.”

One group of those numbers more than any other.

2017.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

36 COMMENTS

    • Joe. They did more than just “lost.” Georgia got gloriously dominated and embarrassed by Auburn. They were exposed as a fraud of a team, which kind of defines every team in the SEC East right now. I really thought the East would be greatly improved this year. I was wrong. The East is worse than it has ever has been, as is Florida nearly is in its own right.

      • Funny how when UF is down the entire SEC is down. Take heart in realizing you are no longer relevant. UGa is not a fraud. It is a team and program that it is on the rise with a very bright future. Way ahead of schedule with young lines of scrimmage and 2 years of 4 star recruits on the bench getting ready for a five year run. UGA is a program in control of its own destiny in November with a head coach in Year 2. UF looking for its 5th coach since 2001. UF staring down the barrel of a decade of irrelevancy. Enjoy!

  1. As a Gator, I’m very proud of the effort of our team today. Way to play your butts off young men…be proud…tomorrow is another day.

    • They did very proud of the Gators! Regardless of the negativity surrounded by the local media. Starting to think this is the National Enquire; Bianchi would fit right in here.

    • James. As a Florida grad, I am not proud of just giving good efforts in games. And I do not think repeatedly dropping key third down passes, tackling your teammate on pass plays, repeatedly jumping off sides on defense, repeatedly not filling gaps on defense, repeatedly going in motion before the snap, the QB throwing the ball into the back of his own offensive linemen’s helmet, a RB fumbling the ball going into the end zone, OL and RBs repeatedly missing blocking assignments, and defensive backs and LBs consistently missing tackle after tackle is….great effort??? I think not. It is sorry effort and worse execution. Today’s game was repeatedly comical today (the kind of comical that makes one cry), and such is not acceptable ever at the University of Florida. So, sir, I respectfully disagree with Gator Nation being proud of the effort today. The effort was again embarrassing. I love Florida football and have been a fan a long time and a UF grad who watched the Gators once go 1-10. But that terrible team with John Brantley, Sr. at QB gave more quality effort than this far superior team gives from one week to the next. But change is on the way, thank you. I hope Stricklin effort is much greater in getting a head coach than the effort the team gave today. If not, this program is in a lot of trouble.

      • Thank you, you wrote an excellent summary! Agree with you! Oh, you will get a laugh out of this, I grad’d from UGA in 1972, but after my ( and my wife’s) Military Career’s, we retired here, so became “Gator Fan’s!” Oh brother, what happened to GA today? Fun watching both teams! I enjoy watching the games, no matter who wins. With a combined 44 Year’s of Air Force Service, Adelina and I wish all our fellow Veteran’s. and those serving on active duty, a Happy Veteran’s Day!!!

  2. Decent column, Dooley. Poor start, but proud you didn’t quit, Gators.

    Now start watching FSU tape. We can still end the season with a smile.

  3. Sorry but this is on the coaches…with that said, I do recognize they’re in a tough situation.

    The offensive play calling continues to be mystifying and almost never plays to the strengths or tries to offset weaknesses of our players. I don’t understand why the train wreck named Nuss is still calling plays because he’s just downright awful…33 yds in 25 mins in the second half up to the Franks bomb speaks for itself. Were there plays that worked or times when players were open and we missed them, sure but odds and statistics will say some plays will work, if not by just pure accident, which is more likely with Nuss.

    The reality is, hiring Nuss as OC and promoting Shannon to DC were really, really bad decisions. Everyone said Coach Shannon was a “respected defensive coach” that’s code for being around awhile. Never heard anyone say Coach Shannon was a great DC. Our coordinators other than Collins have been crap…I do like several of the position coaches…Nord is, well….Nord.

    Wonder what the swamp will look like the next two weeks because Gator Nation is tired of our coaches not putting these kids into positions to be successful.

    Please send help ASAP – Kelly, Frost or Patterson please, anyone else other than Stoops or SOS will be a major letdown.

    • We should PACK THE SWAMP for these last two games. There is no statement that fans need to make other than their total support. MacElstain is long gone and a new horizon awaits for Gator football. Show your support for the Gators against UAB and the criminoles. PACK THE SWAMP and let people talk about that!

  4. Wofford made the FCS semifinals last year and is ranked #8 in the FCS this year. Know something about another team before you use them as an example Dooley.

  5. Very sad we are proud of our effort when we lose again. When we start celebrating how hard we played in defeat it is sad. Too many excuses this year. Everyone has injuries and suspensions.

  6. Very sad we are proud of our effort when we lose again. When we start celebrating how hard we played in defeat it is sad. Too many excuses this year. Everyone has injuries and suspensions.

  7. It may be supterfuge on stricklin’s part but an always reliable friend has told me they are hammering out details with Kelly. This guy told me a couple days before the Grier news broke and also was early on coach mac’s hiring to name a few.

    Again, it could be purposeful misdirection but there is smoke on Kelly.

  8. It seems like every week the coaches are saying they need to get the ball in their playmakers (Toney, Cleveland) hands, yet they only touched the ball maybe a couple of times each. Toney makes something happen every time he touches the ball and Cleveland doesn’t drop easy passes, yet these guys rarely get involved in the offense any more. But they keep calling bubble screens that don’t work. If that same pass was thrown downfield instead of to the sideline it would be good for 10-15 yds at least instead of a 2 yd loss. Mark Thompson still hasn’t found a cure for his fumbleitis, which is a shame because he could have been an awesome back.

  9. Not celebrating, but it was good to see effort and fight. Those are qualities that can lead to progression on and off the field. Play design and execution not so good. We will have better football days. Just keep caring. Go Gators!

  10. I would say except for the turnovers they played about as well as the LSU and A&M games. Zaire was just getting hot when he got hurt , I think we could have won with him the whole game.

  11. so, academic fraud, no offense, no defense, ur coach hated gainesville, and a former coach just beat you with an only decent team , and you celebrate a UGA loss ??? this is what UF has become, and its HILARIOUS … ur the laughing stock of the conf, and you don’t even realize it …

  12. Ashamed of the Gators. NEVER! Proud to be a Gator. ALWAYS! I made a point of being in full Gator regalia the whole weekend after every loss. Embarrassed by the Gators. YES. When you have three int’s, a fumble recovery and stop your opponent on fourth and one in their territory and lose. That, Gator Nation, is terribly embarrassing. When your only solace is that your two most hated rivals got trounced, well enough said. The only thing left to say is GO GATORS!!!

  13. I am a Gator fan and I live in Spartanburg SC. I take a bit of an offense to the comment in the article about Wofford. Wofford is a D 2 school in Spartanburg and won it’s conference title on Saturday. 9 and 1 record and a team that would seriously challenge the Gators should they play head to head. There is no doubt Florida is a figment of their once powerful selves, but there is no reason for Mr. Dooley to cast stones on Wofford. I have never had much respect for, nor found Mr. Dooley to be a highly credible reporter. I now have his own testimony to confirm my opinion. Go Wofford Terriers. You maybe be the joke to Mr. Dooley, but you have post season games to play.

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