Narrow victory reminds everyone of Ole Miss


Published: Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 10:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 10:03 p.m.

He stood at the podium answering questions, then suddenly found himself reaching for the smoothie he had just knocked over.

Another Florida fumble.

"Bad day overall," Tim Tebow said.

No, it wasn't. Any time you win a game it's a good day. Any time you have a drive for the ages to pull out a win with nine seconds to go, it's a good day.

I'm not saying all of the other stuff doesn't matter. The win doesn't make the warts on this team go away. But it was a win, an important win filled with high drama.

It was Ole Miss without the loss.

(If I had a dollar for every time the words "Ole Miss" were uttered, tweeted or texted in that stadium Saturday I could fund the health care bill).

All day it was going that way, even after Urban Meyer assured us during the week this wouldn't be the trap game it was a year ago. It wasn't a trap game, but it was nearly a flop game. Florida came out playing like they didn't want to win.

How bad was it? Let me count the ways.

A dropped touchdown pass.

A missed field goal.

A first quarter with 34 offensive yards.

Three lost fumbles, two in the red zone.

For the first time since the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game, Florida trailed. And they trailed most of the day.

"It was the worst first half we've ever played," Meyer said of his offense. "We're not playing perfect and there are times we're not playing very good at all. We're not on the same planet statistically as last year. I'm not happy where we are right now."

Because the Gator defense did its job in the first half, Florida was down only 10-3. Then, the defense, which was missing Brandon Spikes for most of the game, decided to fall apart.

After Florida took the lead on Tim Tebow's pass to Deonte Thompson, the defense allowed 188 yards on the next three series. A third-and-17 pass from Ryan Mallett to Greg Childs ended up being a 77-yard touchdown that sucked the life out of the Homecoming crowd.

It was going to be another Ole Miss-hap.

"I was thinking, 'Oh, God, there we go. Ole Miss again," said defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.

Didn't everybody?

But Tebow did what Tebow does, driving the Gators 67 yards to tie it and 69 yards to win it and somehow Florida escaped with a victory.

You look back and it hardly seems possible. Especially to the Florida head coach.

"How many sacks did we have?" Meyer asked looking at the stat sheet. "Six? Six sacks and four turnovers. I'm going to call them together in there and yell at them. Six sacks. I don't know if we've ever had six sacks.

"Let's get it out of our system. That's done."

Maybe, but what isn't done is a Florida offense that is struggling right now. You can blame the play-calling (a reverse pass on third-and-1 in the red zone?). You can blame it on the lack of quality receivers (Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper had 13 of the team's 17 receptions). You can blame it on an offensive line that seemed over-matched at times.

This performance came against an Arkansas defense that ranked last in the SEC. And, unless there is a dramatic improvement in Florida's offense, it brings every future game into play now.

I'm not saying you should cancel your hotel room in Atlanta. But hold off on the plane ticket to Pasadena.

This wasn't the No. 1 team in the country on Saturday (and we'll see today if the Gators are punished by the pollsters). It was a team with a lot of flaws.

"The first half was very frustrating," offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "We just flat blew opportunities. We had all of those chances and were down 10-3 at the half. It's hard for me to get my hands around it right now."

You can all get your hands around this.

You're undefeated.

And Saturday was a good day.

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