Dooley: Repeating errors frustrating


Florida head coach Will Muschamp cheers on his team following a field goal during the first half against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday, November 12, 2011.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Will Muschamp was speaking in hushed tones and you could hardly blame him. He had seen this game before and he is tired of watching the same movie over and over again.

But then his voice became louder, almost defiant.

He wasn't talking about his team, how his quarterback had battled through injuries or how the defense stuffed South Carolina in the third quarter.

He was talking about the Gamecocks' personnel.

“They're very good up front,” Muschamp said. “They're deep. They keep rolling guys in there. Look at their roster. They've recruited well.”

The inference was obvious.




He doesn't want you to look at South Carolina's roster. He wants you to look at his. The one with no quality offensive linemen. The one with no defensive ends.

He wasn't making an excuse as much as he was asking the Gator Nation to focus on the reality of it all.

“Are we where we want to be? No,” he said. “Will we get there? Yes.”

It's going to take awhile. Florida lost another game Saturday it could have won. Auburn was winnable, Georgia was winnable, South Carolina was winnable.

Florida just can't find ways to win.

Instead, the Gators find ways to lose.

Whether this is a character flaw, a lack of experience or poor coaching is up for interpretation. That this team kept fighting and scratching and put itself in position to win the game when all looked hopeless in the first half is a testament to the staff and the players. That they found a way to blow another one is an indictment.

Muschamp said he sees a lot of improvement in his team. It must be subtle. All I see is a team that is the first Gator team to have a losing SEC record since the conference went to divisions in 1992. And the real possibility is there that Florida will finish with a losing record once bowl season is over.

Florida is the only school in the conference not to have finished below .500 since the league went to 12 teams. But the way this team keeps aiming for its foot until it blows off a toe is enough to drive the Gator Nation to the ledge.

As Muschamp said after the loss, Alabama and LSU are very good and then the rest of the SEC could be “thrown in a sack and shaken up.” I'm not sure I'd want to be in a sack with Kentucky or Ole Miss right now, but his point is well taken.

And that's what makes these losses so difficult to take. Auburn's no better than Florida. Georgia's no better than Florida. South Carolina is working with a backup at tailback and a quarterback it doesn't trust to do anything more than take off running.

Muschamp talks about the team not executing, about pass rush discipline, about miscommunication. I have one question: Why? Why does Florida still have these issues in the 10th game? I'll give you the transition factor in the first half of the season, but not now.

This season can be summed up with the last nine minutes of Saturday's game.

Florida looks like it has a chance to drive down the field and win the game. Three Chris Rainey runs move the ball to the South Carolina 44. First down. Brantley checks to a run right instead of a run left. Rainey goes left, Brantley goes right and Florida loses six yards.

On the next play, guard Kyle Koehne completely whiffs on a screen block and Florida loses another five yards.

End of drive, but there is still hope.

Third-and-2 for South Carolina with plenty of time left. Dominique Easley jumps offsides.

That's how you lose games. You lose them with mistakes (like Xavier Nixon false-starting on third-and-2 at the SC five) and with turnovers (another game with more given than taken) and with red zone trouble (aye-yai-yai).

And you lose them when your freshman quarterback is scrambling to make something happen on a 2-point conversion to tie the game and one of your seniors is standing in the end zone just watching the play instead of trying to get open.

This is not a football team that plays smart. It does play tough and it doesn't quit. There is no question that the numbers are down and the lack of depth has contributed to the losses.

But with a little better football IQ, this season would not be the disaster it has been.

And that may be the most frustrating thing of all.

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

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