Gators have fun in gaining much-needed win

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Florida Gators Eddy Pineiro watches one of his several field goals clear the uprights during first half action as the Florida Gators took on UAB at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

While their athletic director has been searching for a new coach, the Florida Gators have been desperately trying to find one simple pleasure that has been missing from their lives during a five-game losing streak.

Fun. Just a little fun playing the game again.

They found it Saturday in The Swamp.

There’s nothing more fun than winning. Winning big makes it even more enjoyable.

And that’s just what the Gators experienced with their dominant 36-7 victory over UAB before an energized crowd of 84,649.

For about three hours, the Gators put all their troubles behind them — the player suspensions, the loss of Jim McElwain, the rash of injuries, the demoralizing losses — and enjoyed being together and winning together again for the first time in 49 days.

“It was a good win for our team,” said place-kicker Eddy Pineiro, who was five-for-five on field goal attempts and had a school-record two from 50 yards. “Our locker room is happy. We’ve been down a lot and just this whole trouble with Coach Mac getting fired and all this stuff going on in our lives.

“This win was needed.”

It’s doesn’t change the outcome of this difficult season. The Gators (4-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC) are still going to finish with a losing record — and without their head coach. But it’s a win that eases a lot of the pain and puts this team in a more positive frame of mind heading into the finale against arch-rival Florida State on Saturday.

It was a feel-good day/night for the Gators, and it was badly needed.

“I’m really proud of this football team, the players and the coaching staff,” interim head coach Randy Shannon said. “They did a tremendous job, just never quit. They went through the whole ordeal and they came out tonight (and played well).

“We started off three points, then three points and we nickeled and dimed and finally in the second half we start scoring touchdowns.”

For a team that has struggled in all phases since a win over Vanderbilt back in late September, things seemed to come much easier and more naturally for the Gators on Saturday.

Led by quarterback Feleipe Franks and a trio of hard-working (and productive) running backs, the offense ran smoothly and efficiently for most of the game, rolling up 25 first downs and 409 total yards, 257 coming on the ground.

The defense created four turnovers and was dominant, giving up only one big play, a 74-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Other than that, the Blazers did almost nothing, making just eight first downs and rushing for only three yards.

The special teams also had a good night with Pineiro’s perfect performance. Pineiro has now made 14 field-goal attempts in a row since his miss in the opener against Michigan.

For at least one game, the Gators put the fun back in their football.

“They had a lot of fun,” Shannon said. “All they want is an opportunity to express themselves. They also understand that expressing themselves is doing it the right way. Those guys are doing a tremendous job at being who they are, and that’s what they were tonight.”

For the first time since September, there was noticeable improvement in a lot of areas, especially on offense, where Franks appeared much more comfortable in command and the Gators moved up and down the field with a balanced attack.

Franks completed 15 of 30 passes (and had several dropped) for 152 yards and two touchdowns and the Gators were strong on the ground, with running backs Lamical Perine, Mark Thompson and Adarius Lemons combining to rush for 243 yards and a touchdown.

“He did a nice job tonight,” Shannon said of Franks. “Our receivers dropped a lot of balls, and those can be demoralizing to a quarterback. But he stayed poised and made some throws and they made some nice catches.

“We really worked hard in the red zone offensively scoring touchdowns. We did a great job of that. Our run game really kicked in tonight. The running backs and offensive line did a tremendous job getting big plays for us and putting us in situations to score touchdowns.”

Franks seemed comfortable and poised in the pocket, often checking down to his second or third receiver to try and find the open man. For much of the season, he has locked onto his primary receiver.

“From game to game, I’ve been getting more confident,” Franks said. “The guys helped me get more comfortable. Our line did a great job tonight, just gave me time to throw it. It all went pretty smooth.”

And it led to a fun night in The Swamp for a team that really needed one.

“It’s always fun when you get a win,” Franks said. “That’s the main goal. Like Coach Shannon has said, you don’t have to like one another, but the common goal is to always win.

“When you get that done and all your hard work pays off with a win on Saturday, you’re going to be happy. We’re going to enjoy the night and just come back Monday ready to work on Florida State.

“You have to have your fun and then get ready for the next week. We’ll enjoy this. It was a fun game.”

It was a tough game for a bowl-eligible UAB (7-4 overall) team that came into The Swamp looking for a win against the struggling and banged up Gators.

“I told our guys before we left the hotel that I thought they couldn’t be any more ready to play,” UAB coach Bill Clark said. “We came down here giving it our best shot. This hurts to lose here, but we’ll put it behind us and move on to next week.”

 


Up next

Who: Florida State (4-6) vs. Florida (4-6)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Florida Field

CBS: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


55 COMMENTS

  1. The new coach is definitely going to have talent with which to work on both sides of the ball. Looking forward to some real good coaching going on next year. And Nussmeier will be gone after one more game. Glory, glory, glory………………..

    • I still dispute the idea that this team is loaded with talent. One 5 star on defense. Alabama is down to their 3rd team linebackers and both are 5 stars. One 5 star on offense. Still not much in the way of QB’s, and what is the status of Davis’ knee? If Pineiro decides to go pro who is the backup kicker? The punter will also be gone. The linebackers looked good against this team but I still question there speed, is it SEC type speed? i think the new coach is going to have a tough job for a couple of years.

      • George. Florida is not currently loaded with talent, and certainly not with Bama loaded talent. That takes years of consistent recruiting from one staff. But the new coach will inherit a very talented roster from which to build an even better and deeper roster that certainly could compete for the SEC title in a couple of years.

      • George: Why not consider switching out to Alabama as a fan since you have such a dim view of the Gators? You’d have so much more positive to share on their fan boards. Hopefully potential recruits aren’t judging all Gator fans by many of the classless comments on this board that denigrate the talent of the players. Florida has plenty of talented young guys, with the program consistently ranked in the top twenty in recruiting. We’ve also had a number of 5-star athletes who ended up on the bench. Potential is exploited through great coaching, and evaluation of potential is not just by assignment of stars. Chris Doering and Kerwin Bell are examples. Based on a rich tradition of player development, talented recruits will be excited to come to UF year after year. It’s Great to be a Florida Gator!

        • You obviously haven’t been paying attention to the comments of Chris Doering on the SEC Network, he has repeatedly stated his opinion on how Florida recruiting/talent levels have drastically fallen off over the years, I agree; years of bad coaching, combined with mediocre recruiting has set UF football back several years, new staff will have to start from scratch.

          • I’ve listened to Chris too, Kevin, and I agree c him as well. Each of these agonizing seasons we’ve actually been smack dab in the middle of the SEC (7th) for recruiting classes. And virtually, c minor exceptions, that’s also exactly where we finished in season standings too.

          • Actually, not many people in the know listen too or even care what Chris Doering has to say…even though he was great gator WR and I respect and like him as a football player…He is by far the worst analyst on TV …I don’t feel he represents UF in the best light. Both Jessie Palmer and Chris Collingsworth & Tim Tebow do a much better job at representing UF on TV than Doering…maybe it’s just his personality. I don’t judge the recruiting classes too much based on 5 star players and 3 star players…after all most of the recruiting services that rank these players are mostly journalist…and in reality most 3 star players in the state of Florida would probably be 4 star players in any other states because of the sheer population of this state (20M) and the numbers of players from this state, most all of the southern states with the exception of Texas have less than (10 M) in population…all of these rating services spread the 3’s, 4’s and 5 stars around rather than having them all from one state…which they could easily do in Florida and Texas… heck, when I played back in the Ray Graves, Shannon and Spurrier days at Florida we weren’t rated by stars…. several years ago someone came up with this big 6’8″ kid from Texas and rated him a 5 star player…then every recruiting service on the planet rated him a 5 star kid who couldn’t miss…well, the fact of the matter…this was all a hoax and no such kid existed. Moral of the story…the stars don’t mean anything…it’s just some sports writers opinion, so let’s let the coaches decide who they want rather than a journalist.

          • Cody–Good points and man, it must have been great playing in the Ray Graves era…..what a man and what a coach. Thing is, though, Doering isn’t there to represent UofF, but to be balanced in his reporting and insights. I do think all the guys you mentioned do a great job of that, and are still fair. Wish I could recall this jackass’s name….he played for FSU…now there’s one who takes every shot he can at the Gators every time he has a chance, virtually all compliments to the Seminoles no matter what. AKA, a fraud pretending to be a sportscaster. Glad our former Gators on TV don’t play that way.

        • All season long all I’ve read here is how lousy of a recruiter Mac was and how we have almost no talent to work with. One of the reasons for the slide (one of the reasons). Now all of a sudden we have plenty of talent for the new coach to work with. And posters who say as much don’t know what they’re talking about, aren’t good fans, etc. Puh-leeeze! Which is it guys? The talent pool right now is weak. A couple of decent running backs, two or three guys on D that look like they will pan out but after that it falls off the table. And no matter how much you despise Bianchi, I too believe the next coach better be a miracle worker.

    • We see new talent every game – look at Lemmons yesterday. Davis came out of nowhere, Scarlett is all but forgotten now. Lots of backups got critical PT this year. Corral coming in. I think the new coach is gonna like what he has to work with. Recruit O and D lines this year and we will be a force to be reckoned with next year.

  2. Very proud of how the Gators have responded today. This game made me think of the tune-up game we missed at the beginning of the season. Young and inexperienced teams need these kind of games to develop.

  3. Little Ricky, you have complained, bitched, and moaned about the players for weeks and now you say the next coach will have talent to work with. Poor Little Ricky, he just can’t stand being wrong so he just posts the other side of his previous argument.

    • Little Zippy,
      Rick is one of the more consistent and knowledgeable contributors to the reply section of this web site. I noticed you failed to provide any proof of previous posts from Rick showing us his “previous argument”.

      With a name like Zippy you should be a nicer lady and treat men with respect.

  4. Its much easier to look good, ” things seemed to come much easier and more naturally” and “checking down to his second or third receiver to try and find the open man” against a cupcake! Guess we’d be undefeated at their level, but were not, were in the SEC. Im so glad they got to have a game like this but lets keep it in reality, they played like this because of who they played. At least this lets us know where we are at. Somewhere between,the lowest level of FBS and SEC. Lets hope next week they will surprise us and play like this against a much better, more talented team.

    • Be Happy Daz, if we mailed it in like the Mizzou game UAB would have won. We showed grit and progress. The game against the clowns is winnable.

    • That thought naturally entered my mind too, Daz. The way we played in the last 5 losses? Seriously doubt that we’d have been undefeated in Conference-USA at that. But. But I did see flashes of how the Gators used to play before Mus and Mac, and that told me that they’re capable of it even c this depleted and under-coached roster. So that’s something to recognize and UAB, while not an SEC caliber team by any stretch of the imagination, still isn’t a bad team in the FBS. So going back to where Rick Gillmore started on this thread…….new coaches and sans Nussmeier……these factors alone certainly improve my mental health. Funny thing about that is, my wife (she can’t help it, she’s a yankee) has consistently asked me for the last 22 years why it is that I get so emotionally wrapped up in a football team, am I bipolar or something? All I can tell her is, “I dunno, it’s a Gator thing is all”.

  5. I was wrong about my the crowd size….it appeared +80K on TV. Made me miss my 19 years of season tickets. We have a chance against the Holes.

  6. Rick, pay no attention to this Zippy person. He’s not a true Gator and only wants to get your goat. You and the rest of the posters should just completely ignore his comments and hopefully he’ll go away.

    • Jasper. I think Mike Winter has just gotten a little more Zippy with his trolling due to FSU’s equally disappointing season. He cannot use FSU now, so he has started with personal attacks out of frustration. And then, the Florida basketball team destroyed the university he says he attended. North Florida. Way too much for him to handle effectively of late.

  7. I was impressed with how Ivey (they moved him to left guard) and Taylor (they moved him to LT) played together yesterday. They were good and aggressive together. I hope they stay there for the FSU game. And, if Ivey returns for his senior year (which I think he should and play guard), having Taylor and Ivey on the left side of the OL could be a really good think for next year. And why has not Forsythe not received more playing time. He looked like a natural at RT yesterday. And Tyler Jordan is a darn good center. He is not that good of a guard or tackle. An offensive line next year of:
    LT – Taylor
    LG – Ivey
    OC – Jordan/McCoy
    RG – Heggie/Johnson
    RT – Forsythe/Moore
    …..could be really good. And, if Ivey leaves, you just plug Heggie back into left guard and Johnson starts at RG. Still, not a bad OL.

    • I think the move tripped him up on a couple more false starts than required, but overall I’d have to agree. And Lemon looked very promising too, so c some promising depth at QB and running backs next year, and a seriously good offensive line…..oh….and proper conditioning and fresh coaching…..dare I say it? Actual offense that wins games big? I recall an old professor of mine saying that to know hot, you must first know cold, to know up, you must first know down….and so on. Hell, I’m ready!

  8. First of all, I want to congradulate our players on their win yesterday. They played hard, they tackled well, and they kept mental mistakes down to a minimum. The most infuriating part were the refs who came with UAB who could see a UF false start or make up phantom holds but couldn’t spot any of the five times UAB’s DB’s absolutely mugged our WR’s. The refs cost us two more TD’s in this game, and those holding calls on those back to back Lemmons runs? Total BS. Refs were just trying to be equalizers.

    That said, someone please toss Doug Nussmeier out of that OC chair in the skybox and put someone, anyone, in there who has just an inkling what they’re doing calling an offense.

    The reason we kicked all those FG’s in the first half is because we literally autographed everything to the UAB defensive coordinator. Pass, run, pass. Or run, run, pass. That’s pretty much it, and not changing out of run plays when UAB stacked the box with 8 or 9 men. How many times could we have burned them on that with a TE or slot receiver.

    Next weekend it’s the battle of two, bad 4 – 6 teams, UF and fsu. Pretty much everything is a wash in this game as weaknesses and strengths of each team sort of cancel each other out, but UF has home field advantage.

    But if Nussmeier is OC, we WILL lose, period. He will cost us the win, and the first time fsu has ever beaten UF five times in a row in the series.

    GET THAT IDIOT NUSSMEIER OUT OF THE OC BOX. At least promote one of th quality vcontrol coaches on staff, but for God’s sake Coach Shannon, don’t just stand there and let that incompetent cost a fifth loss to fsu!

    • Todd. If Nussmeier calls a pass play on first down and it is incomplete, he will almost always run the ball on second down. If he runs the ball on first down, he will almost always pass the ball on second down unless the first running play gains 7 to 9 yards. If it does, he will then almost always run the ball up the middle on second down and third down. I can call the play calls from my seat before Nussmeier does, and I am positive the DC for the opposing team can as well. But, sir, Nussmeier will be calling plays during the FSU game and the Noles defense will likely shut him down as they have the previous two years. And it will likely not be much of a challenge. But maybe he will come out of his play calling coma before the game starts. But I doubt it. But we only have to endure Nussmeier for one more game. Just one more game! Glory.

      • Maybe we can talk ’em into switching uniforms before the game? We paid UAB to come to the Swamp and lose, maybe we could pay FSU to do the same thing. Dunno. But what I do know c <.05 probability is that this FSU dominance thing ends soon.

  9. When will we acknowledge, nay, understand that head coaches coach coaches? Head coaches might have some contact with players, but in the end, it is the Offensive and Defensive coordinators (coaches) that have the day to day, game minute by game minute contact with the player. Look at the record of individuals who left the Gators to play another day – somewhere else. Driskel, Grier, and if no change occurs, Franks. Outstanding in a new venue with a new coach. Don’t take a new head coach because of his current winning record; understand, first, how well he manages his coaches. Head coaches make policy decisions, assistant/associate/coordinators create plans to implement those policies, and the head coach must approve those plans. The execution phase begins with kickoff. From that point onward, the head coach must “MANAGE THE GAME” (something we all know from experience, McElwain could not – he was out of touch).

    • Excellent points all, Gatorsprone. I’d use the word “leadership”, inasmuch as that infers subordinate leaders understanding the chief’s intent, but we’re saying the same thing just the same. Irony here–reading tonight that c UCLA having fired Mora, both Kelly and McElwain are being considered there. Were it up to me, they can have Mac and we’ll take Kelly. It’ll be interesting to see though, how all this plays out now that there might be some competition.

  10. SO GOING INTO THE GAME WITH FSU NEXT WEEK. We’re ranked #108 in Total Offense, they’re ranked #109. They’re ranked #30 in Total Defense, we’re ranked #38. In Passing Offense, they’re #86 and we’re #102; in Rushing Offense we’re #69 and they’re #92. I could go on and on, but it doesn’t end up meaning much of anything, except that this is a dead-even game on paper. It will probably simply come down to which team wants to win more than the other. The only thing I can predict for sure is that the team that scores the most points by the end of the game, usually wins. While it may look boring on paper, I seriously doubt that it will be. Unfortunately, we have ++family over next Saturday, none of them SEC or ACC people in the least, so my plan is to go out for a loaf of bread just before game time, hide my truck at a buddy’s house, and not come back until it’s over. Chances are they won’t miss me anyway, but if they do, I’ve got plenty of time this week to think of a good explanation. Or not, I don’t care, I’m not missing this game!

  11. And Rick not one of those Bama linebackers are is as good as 3star Jared Davis. Also I’ll take a healthy Tyree Cleveland over any receiver on their roster. Not to mention the nfl draft every year has more 3 and 2 stars in the first rd than 5.

    • You know, Derek, you’re onto something there. Virtually all the coaches up on our menu for hire right now, c the exception of Kelly, have made their bones by taking 3-star talent when they can get it, and a whole bunch more left over talent…..and winning very consistently in decent conferences.

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