Thankfully, mercifully, it is over. Finally.
And what an ending the Florida Gators put on this long, agonizing, losing season, a season that will surely go down as one of the worst in program history in the modern era.
They took this cumulative mess and concluded it with the messiest performance of all.
And no need to worry about cleaning it up now, or fixing it. Just shovel it out the door or sweep it under the carpet and forget about it as Florida now prepares to pivot in a new direction under a new coach, who likely will be in place sometime over the next two weeks.
Saturday’s turnover-plagued 38-22 loss to arch-rival Florida State before 89,066 in The Swamp certainly summed up the Gators’ season.
One giant mess.
“Tough loss today,” interim head coach Randy Shannon said. “We fought back in the game trying to end it on some positive notes. It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to.
“We had too many interceptions, two of them for touchdowns and then another one gave them another opportunity to score. So, really, (28) points off of turnovers. We can’t play games that way.”
So it ends for Florida, the Gators closing with a 4-7 record. The Seminoles (5-6) still have a chance to become bowl eligible next week with a win over Louisiana-Monroe.
Certainly, it was a bad day for Gators everywhere — and a horrific one for beleaguered redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks, whose four turnovers led to the 28 points for the Seminoles.
FSU didn’t need any help, but Franks gave them plenty.
Franks lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, threw one pick-six, should have had another had FSU linebacker Matthew Thomas not fallen inches short of the goal line on his own accord, and threw an interception that set up another touchdown.
Those 28 points were the difference in the game.
“It’s kind of just how you see it,” Franks said. “(There’s) not really anything to say. Everyone is going to have their own opinion. No matter what I tell you guys, it’s going to be twisted around and things like that. A turnover is a turnover. It happens in the game. Tom Brady throws three interceptions, anybody does it. It’s just part of the game, part of playing quarterback. That’s what a lot of people don’t realize.
“It’s something I need to improve on going into the offseason. We were talking about it on the sideline, BP, all those guys have straight confidence in me, just saying. ‘You’re going to be the best quarterback.’ If the guys have confidence in me, that’s all that matters.”
Franks spread out his turnovers over the course of the game.
His fumble that was returned for a touchdown came in the game’s opening five minutes to give the Seminoles the early 7-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, his interception set up an FSU touchdown pass to make it a 14-7 game after Mark Thompson’s 10-yard TD run had tied the game late in the first quarter.
Then, just 3:46 before halftime, Franks threw an interception that was returned 18 yards for a touchdown by FSU cornerback Levonta Taylor.
His personal turnover fest ended early in the fourth quarter when Thomas came up with his interception that should have been a pick-six. Thomas started his celebratory dive into the end zone a little two soon and came down just short of the goal line.
The Seminoles scored a touchdown a few minutes later to make it a 38-16 game, sealing the win.
After the game, Franks was nursing a sore left shoulder and injured ribs. He was asked if this was the toughest day he’d ever had on the football field.
“Toughest day? Turnover-wise, yeah,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever thrown three interceptions and a pick-six and obviously another pick-six. I don’t think I ever did that. Yeah, like I said, it’s part of the game. It’s something for me to learn from and get better at it.
“The guys have confidence in me, that’s all that really matters. I’m not worried about everybody in the nation having confidence in me. I’m not really worried about that. The guys have confidence in me. Then we’ll go from there. We’re definitely going to rise. We can’t go any lower. We’re definitely going to be fine.”
Franks also was sacked five times. He finished with 18 completions in 39 attempts for 184 yards and the three interceptions.
Turnovers were the difference.
“We turned the ball over four times,” wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “It’s hard to come back when you have to come back from a deficit like that.”
The Florida defense deserved better. The Gators held FSU to just 216 yards of total offense, only 88 on the ground.
“We just wanted to give our seniors our best shot,” sophomore middle linebacker David Reese said. “We knew how much it meant to them and we just tried to give them the best game. Duke Dawson played unbelievably. We had a lot of seniors that stepped up.
“(Junior tackle) Taven Bryan, probably leaving us next year, he played unbelievably. We had a lot of good players on that defense. We were just excited to try and get those guys our best shot.”
Their best shot wasn’t enough to prevent a fifth consecutive loss to the Seminoles, UF’s longest losing streak in the rivalry.
“It means a lot,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “In a year that people have been calling a washed year, we were able to go out and accomplish something that has never been done before.”