The Back Nine: Ring of Honor ‘means a lot,’ Tebow says

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1987
Former UF football player Tim Tebow will be in Gainesville with the SEC Network this Saturday.

The Back Nine comes at you after back-to-back road trips, so pardon the grouchiness. I stepped in a hole on the sidewalk in Mississippi (can I sue?), wore headphones at the game because the P.A. was so loud and kept playing Imagine Dragons songs and needed a nap Monday. On a positive note, the Old Hickory is still the best dive steakhouse in the South.

10. So it may get loud in The Swamp on Saturday with a team on a three-game winning streak, the opponent not being well-liked and LSU kind of being the darlings of college football right now. But the loudest cheer may be when Tim Tebow is inducted into the Ring of Honor during the first quarter break. Gator fans have been waiting for this ever since his last game as a Florida player, Jan. 1, 2010. He was eligible to go in earlier, but Florida had to wait until it worked out with Tebow’s schedule. In fact, if not for Tebow suffering a broken hand to keep him from being called up by the Mets, we might have continued to wait. (It’s not being done for the LSU game because that was Tebow’s break-out game as a freshman. It’s because it’s the biggest home game of this season and easier to work out with SEC Nation to assure Tebow would be here). When he was in Gainesville three weeks ago, I asked Tebow about the honor and about being in the locker room when the first four players (Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Jack Youngblood and Emmitt Smith) were honored in 2006. “Honestly, I never really thought about that,” Tebow said. “It’s definitely a huge honor and it really means a lot. I think it means even more to me because my mom and dad went here, my two siblings went here, my grandad had dreams of one day to see Florida win an SEC championship. He died before that happened. All those things make it more meaningful. That was his dream and one day maybe I’ll get to bring my grandkids to the stadium. But I think that’s more about the nostalgia of it than the moment.” Enjoy it Florida fans, because not only is it a deserving award but it may be many years before it will happen again because of the strict criteria.

11. I’m not ready to declare Florida’s defense as elite yet, but the performance Saturday night was elite. Especially when you consider the Gators lost their best cornerback in Week 2 and lost Trey Dean III for targeting in the first quarter. You know who they may have been missing in the first part of the season? Safety Shawn Davis. The sophomore got his feet wet last season and was supposed to battle for a starting role this season. But he missed the first four games with a knee injury. Finally healthy, Davis was a difference maker against Mississippi State. According the Pro Football Focus, he graded out at 75.1 percent, second on the team in the game only to linebacker Vosean Joseph. Stats of note — Florida is second in the nation in pass defense, ninth in points allowed per game and still leads the nation in takeaways despite not getting one in Starkville. The SEC as a whole may be going old school on us. Half the league’s 14 teams are ranked in the top 12 in points allowed. Only three finished in the top 12 last season.

12. My friend Cole Cubelic caught a lot of flak from Gator fans when he said this on TV Saturday — “Florida doesn’t know what is going to hit them when Mississippi State takes the field. This game is going to mean more to every State player and every State fan than it will ever mean to anyone putting on a Florida helmet.” The thing is that he wasn’t wrong about the atmosphere. That only goes to illustrate how impressive Florida’s win was Saturday night. It WAS that important to Mississippi State’s players and its fans. That stadium was electric from start to finish. But it was more important to Florida than I think anybody realized. These guys knew this was the make-it-or-break-it game of the season. And they played their tails off. Who knows if the outcome is different if Mississippi State doesn’t drop a touchdown pass and an interception? But you know every season comes down to a handful of plays in a handful of games.

13. It doesn’t seem fair Alabama now has an explosive offense to go with a suffocating defense and the schedule looks so easy. Really, who has Alabama beaten? And October is almost a joke with Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee before a bye week. Do you think any Tide fans are complaining? Certainly, November will be a little more interesting. But there almost seems to be no reason to watch Alabama football for a month unless you are a diehard fan. It feels like there is Alabama, then Georgia, then LSU, then three or four teams, then the rest in the SEC. It will certainly be interesting to see if this is the year the East can catch the West after getting off to a 2-0 start thanks to Mississippi State losing to Kentucky and Florida. This is a big week for the East with Florida facing LSU and Kentucky at Texas A&M. If the ’Cats win that game, watch out.

14. We like to say, “That’s why they get paid the big bucks,” when talking about coaches. In that case, there are some who may want to offer a rebate. Bobby Petrino? Yep. James Franklin? Definitely. Frank Reich. Yessir. The Petrino decision might have been the dumbest, throwing the ball when running the clock down would probably have clinched the game against FSU. Franklin’s fourth-down call with the game on the line against Ohio State was so bad his fans turned on him. And Reich going for a fourth down in OT to basically forfeit the game against Houston has its share of defenders, none of whom apparently understand math. What’s weird is that I was watching all three games, two on my laptop. I need a hobby. It’s also important to note that if all three of those decisions had worked, we’d be talking about how gutsy those calls were right up there with Todd Grantham’s decision to blitz three on fourth down Saturday night. That’s the game.

15. Here’s the thing that came up in the wee hours of the morning in Mississippi — is home field advantage that big a deal? Well, yes. But it still depends on the players you are putting on that field. Like Dan Mullen said after the game, “Loud is loud.” Most places are tough to play in. It was really loud Saturday night and it will be really loud (and sweaty) Saturday afternoon at The Swamp. But it still comes down to the players playing and the coaches coaching. There were two white-outs Saturday in Starkville and Happy Valley. Both teams lost. Being at home helps, but it is no panacea. You still have to go play the game.

16. So how much of the Euros’ blowout win over the Americans in the Ryder Cup was because of “togetherness” and how much was home course advantage? Or do we put the blame on captain Jim Furyk for the pairings and captain’s choices? Look, there is no doubt the European players have found the formula for playing as a team in an individual sport. And when Patrick Reed is on your team, you are going to have some issues. Playing in front of your fans helps, as we have already noted. And Phil Mickelson was a disaster, Tiger Woods looked like he was out of gas and the U.S. was outscored 16.5-7.5 after the Friday morning sessions. It was a combination of everything. I would think we saw the last of Mickelson — and maybe Tiger — in the Ryder Cup as players. But this was a collective collapse. The Euros know how to keep momentum going. Unfortunately, the Americans wilt like an unwatered flower when they are on the road.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Peter Burns of the SEC Network — “Worst decisions in all of football 1) Goal Line Fade Passes 2) Shotgun formation on 4th and inches.” I buy both of these arguments, especially the fade passes. Nothing irritates me more than a team throwing a fade on third down into the end zone. It’s at best a 50-50 play. I know it’s easy to question coaching decisions from the cheap seats (and nothing is cheaper than the press box), but there are a handful of strategies that seem so obviously dumb to me. One is the onside kick too early because your chance of recovering is about 20 percent. And then you have to defend a short field and will probably get miserable field position. Another is rushing three defenders. Another is not having that one special play when you have to have a two-point conversion or a fourth-and-goal from the three. I saw all these mistakes this weekend.

18. I know I’m jinxing us, but we have had four flights this season and all four have been on time and smooth. It has helped to have some great music on the flights. Here’s a new playlist for you:

• “Feeling Good Again” by Robert Earl Keen, a great suggestion from a reader.

• “Still Rainin” by Jonny Lang, who I will see Friday night at the Phillips. And there is a long history of me seeing great music the week of the LSU games. Which is interesting only to me.

• “Damaged One” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters.

• “Magic Man” by Paris.

• And for an old one, because Ken Block and Drew Copeland were on our plane ride home after playing at Woodstock (and both claimed they called the blitz), “Just Remember” by Sister Hazel.

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

34 COMMENTS

  1. #16: That ones easy, too much golf prior to the Ryder for Americans…all emotion and caring was gone…they mentally “mailed it in”. End of the season play-offs drains everyone before they even start. Phil, Tiger and Bubba were sick. Its an over blown exhibition. Glade I wasn’t one of the ones to pay big bucks to watch that non-competition.
    #17: Glade someone finely stated the obvious.
    #18: Yes, you do need a hobby with some exercise. Going through that much unpopular songs has to take time, LOL.

    • Blough hard. What position does Wilson play for FSU? Dean, McWilliams, and Edwards will are excellent fills at corner for the Florida Gators. And Dean, if he does not lower his helmet to tackle during the game, will be a big corner that matches up well will the LSU receivers. Edwards is also a big corner that can do the same. In fact, Dean and Edwards, both at 6’2″, may be a better physical matchups at corner vs. the LSU WRs than the shorter Wilson would have been.

  2. I look forward to the Back Nine every week; I guess it is the one article that reminds me the most of the late Tom McEwen — in a nostalgic way I suppose, since the writers stand each on their own merits. Regardless, nice job, Pat — and yes, Alabama may pay later for having it so apparently easy now (although you didn’t say that).

    One minor nitpick, actually a pet peeve: If I hear, or read as the case may be, “Played their tails off” again, I think I will either gag myself with a spoon or barf myself out the door, which ever is most appropriate at the moment. Human beings don’t have tails!

    • Gator6. As a then much less politically correct young man, I would have whole heartedly disagreed with you concerning certain human beings not having tails. And if one stays far away from Walmart and its shopping isles, one might sill believe in and appreciate (without whistling and yelling out loud) a certain “tail wag” to be true; but only from a purely non-PC point of view. When I stop believing in and appreciating a certain human tail wag, then please put me down like the real old dog that I would have become. Thank you very much.

          • Why don’t you become more self effacing on here and I will try to become more sagacious. If you can understand my point.

          • Difficult as it may be for you to follow, I not only cannot understand your point, I can’t seem to find sufficient motivation to be interested enough in it to try. Suggest you try somewhere else.

    • gator mike. Actually, it makes him look not biased, which he should be as a broadcaster on the SEC Network. And he presented some good reasons during the Saturday SEC Nation broadcast to justify his pick against the Gators (and everyone on SEC Nation picked MSU by the way). Jesse Palmer also comes across not biased as an ex-Gator as well on ESPN. But I know for sure that Timmy was very happy to have been wrong concerning his prediction.

  3. Congratulations to Tim Tebow for going into Ring of Honor. He is a true Ambassador of the University of Florida. (Soap box moment: still waiting on Lomas Brown!) I’ll bet the stadium will be rocking for this event!

    Sooner or later, you’re going to need to score points! Yes, the defense is playing at an elite level. But you cannot rest your football team and season on the theory that you can hold every team you play to 10 points. 21 points is ok as long as you get 6 turnovers. Someone has to keep repeating (i’ll take on the dirtiest of tasks) that our offense is not showing us anything new. They’re not moving the ball up and down the field, they’re not able to score points when they need to, or WANT to, and our receivers are apparently very easy to cover. Not to mention that a young running back shows his performance rather than potential and he still cannot get in the game early. I’m actually resolved now that our offensive line will need to be recruited to be repaired. These guys may be big, but they’re not SEC caliber linemen.

    Unfortunately, coming to a Gator game soon, there will be a team who moves the football and scores some points. They’ll maybe score 17-21 points, not turn the ball over, and when they punt, they’ll punt down to about the 10-20 yard line of Florida and then see if we can do anything about it. So I wonder, can we develop an offense that can score some earned points?

    • We must not be watching the same games. The offense I’ve seen is far from a juggernaut, but it is also doing much better than it has for years, with obvious improvement week to week. You can’t judge this only by the number of points scored in a game since every game has its own personality, so to speak.

      • gator67 – it appears that our offense is being efficient as they can be while improving from week to week. I find this not only acceptable, but much appreciated from what we have had the last several years. Coach Mullen will bring in more talent and resurrect our GATORS back from the (mostly offensively) grave. If we had a better O-line we would be much a much better team. This season should bring us back to a bowl game at a minimum, but we are still in the thick of the SEC race. GO GATORS!!!

    • Watch CDMs presser from this week. I think it’ll do you some good. They just played probably the best D line they will see this year and found a way to overcome. Franks isnt going to be on a Heisman ballot but the guy is doing better each week. Week 2 Franks loses that game. Week 5 Franks would beat KY in a rematch. CDM explains in the presser why Pierce isnt playing more early; he needs to learn the protections and he gives UF a bowling ball to run games out. Keep the faith. Go Gators!!

    • So 47 points against Tenn wasn’t enough. Like CDM said, the gators are learning how to win in multiple ways. It reminds me of the 2006 season, where in some games we blew people out and some games it took a blocked field goal attempt in the waning seconds of the game to win. Results of that season: National Championship. Now I’m not saying this is a national championship run, but you gotta love that we can win in a high-scoring affair and a slobber knocker affair as well!!!

      • They were averaging 41 pts a game and Franks was tied for the SEC lead with 12 TDs until the MSU game, in which they slowed down a bit but still won. His name is Grump E, so don’t expect to see much positivity coming from him otherwise he’ll have to change his name to Happ E.

    • If Lomas Brown makes it to NFL Hall of Fame, then he’ll be eligible for the ring of honor. Until then he will never be there no matter how good he was. The criteria is very strict. You have to be a Heisman winner, a former All-American inducted into the HOF, a former All-American and NFL career category leader, a collegiate category leader, or 2 time All-American who has won NFL offensive or defensive player of the year. As a coach you have to have a national championship or have at least 3 SEC championships. Brown is a one time All-American in 1984, but doesn’t meet any of the other criteria.

    • Grump – Ditto on our receivers. It seems like for years every team can “scheme” their receivers open at least a couple of times per game. The Gators? Nope. Or nearly nope. Certainly not enough. I don’t know if that is lack of talent (doubt) or bad scheme (maybe – I hope not) or poor route running/technique (likely – coach ’em up!).

      • Mark Hoffman. Seriously? Did you not see Hammond get open two times down the middle when Florida needed a lot of yards on third down? And did you not see Stephens get schemed wide open for a TD? And did you not see Grimes get open deep only to have his long catch called back because of a holding penalty. And did you not notice that the game plan for MSU was not to throw the ball down the field a lot because of the fierce pass rush MSU has but to throw quick bubble screens to get short gains and wear out the MSU defensive line. And many times the Florida WRs do get open but the still developing Franks does not see the entire field well or go quickly through his progressions to hit them with quick and accurate passes. He is also often too late on his delivery to receivers who do break open down the field. Franks has improved this year, but he still has a long way to go before Florida can have an explosive, down the field passing game week in and week out.

    • Grump, I think we are moving the ball considerably better — certainly not at Gator standards yet — but better. Now, if you’re really referring to Red Zone offense in particular. no matter how we got there in the first place, I would agree with you. Keep the faith tho — it may not be pretty right now, but I’m confident that we’ll get there and I think secretly you are too. Be patient.

    • grumpy. FSU was lucky to beat Louisville and the Louisville HC gifted your team with that win. And the Florida OL is light years better than the Noles OL. And the Florida offense moved the ball enough on MSU in the Starkville very hostile and difficult environment to keep the Bulldogs stuck deep in their own territory and to allow the Florida defense to repeatedly do its thing. If you cannot see that the Florida offense is much better this year and that Franks and the Florida OL are playing better and are getting better each week (For example, MSU had one tackle for loss after being one of the top teams in the country in that category coming into the game, and the one TFL was due to a RB going in the wrong direction and was not the fault of the Florida OL), then you are completely blind in addition to being a Nole troll. And if by miracle you are not a Nole troll, you are the most negative and biased “Florida fan” I have ever read on this site.

  4. Your friend needs to be less arrogant. The Gators well understood what they would be seeing at MSU, that motivated them and having a great plan and knowing that they have a chance to bring back the Gators played like they wanted the win. He was stupid as well, perhaps LSU will be the same this week.

    • Orlandogator77 – Too right. DW was about the best there was at completing that pass. That was money! The other teams always knew it was coming but couldn’t stop it. In general, I have no problem with the fade from inside the 10 – and especially inside the 5.

      The 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1 shotgun formation? The OC definitely should be shotgunned for that. Unless the center/qb simply can’t execute that exchange (stay late at practice anyone?), DON’T take the ball 5 yards off the line of scrimmage. Strap it on a little tighter, block the guy in front of you, impose your will, move the pile and sneak it for a yard. No subterfuge. No finesse. This is football for crying out loud. Man up and gain a yard!

  5. Lets quit the griping. Every win (except perhaps Idaho) is icing this year. This year is solely to transition into our new schemes, get S&C on par with the rest of the SEC, and learn fundamentals at each position. That will take all year. We were REALLY bad end of last year. You don’t change that with one training camp and a few games. We have not ‘arrived’. But, each game we are getting a little better. I am not interested in wins/losses this year, just getting everyone coached up. If we win some of those, great, but again, that is icing. I’d be happy just with a bowl game, and only then just to get the extra few weeks of practice in. CDM is a very good coach, lets allow him to do his thing. How many ledge jumpers will there be if we happen to lose to a top 5 team this weekend?

  6. I stand by doolets law…apply pressure in pressure situations. That means pressure…not low probability reaches. I liked the Grantham blitz since we had shut them down. 4th down odds can be decent.but not 4th and dumb.
    Anyway we have the right coaching imo. let s play the games and see what happens.

    With tebow the honor is ours. I heard Tim preach in Bradenton. He said he didn’t know whether god wanted him at UF or bama. To me
    Both schools sorta won. We did and bama got Nick out of it
    To me They can have Nick
    … I prefer tebow

    ..