Fall from top brutal


Florida State Seminoles cornerback Greg Reid (5) intercepts a pass intended for Florida Gators wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (9) during the first half on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.

Two thoughts kept rattling around in my brain Saturday night after Florida State had made it two in a row over Florida.

The first thought -- what a waste.

What a waste of a defensive effort that was the best of the season for Florida. One of the best ever. You give up seven first downs and you're supposed to be celebrating.

What a waste of a crowd that came ready to root and made The Swamp electric again.

What a waste of some really good tailgating before the game.




The second thought I had as a hurting bunch of Gators walked off the field -- thankfully, it's over.

This regular season has been hard to watch and hard to stomach for the Gator Nation. On Thanksgiving weekend, they could be thankful for the same things I am thankful for:

* Neither Ronald Powell nor Jon Bostic can be called for a silly personal foul penalty for at least a month.

* We won't have to watch Florida's diminutive tailbacks get tossed around like seals by killer whales for much longer.

* We have a one-month sabbatical from watching four-yard passes on third-and-7.

Saturday night was a fitting end to the regular season for these Gators who once again demonstrated an uncanny ability to get the least out of a game they could have won.

They were humiliated by a pedestrian FSU team that lost last week to Virginia. They lost six games for the first time since 1987.

The only reason they avoided their first shutout since 1988 was because of a late FSU fumble.

And so we play the blame game.

Blame the players.

Blame the coaches.

Blame the previous coach.

Blame away.

Just know that it's all over except the bowl loss.

This will go down as the worst Florida team since 1986 and I will tell you this -- I covered the '86 team and it was a lot more fun to watch than this team. Actually the 1979 team was more fun to watch and it went 0-10-1.

“Self examination is hard sometimes,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “I've been called a lot of things in my life but soft isn't one of them.”

This loss obviously wasn't on the defense. FSU's touchdown drives in the first half covered 20 and four yards thanks to two of John Brantley's three first-half interceptions, both of them absolute gifts. The Seminoles had 15 yards in the rest of the first half.

FSU went over the 100-yard mark with a minute left in the game before E.J. Manuel took a knee to knock them back below the Mendoza Line.

But because Brantley imploded and a fourth-and-1 lost 14 yards and Muschamp can't scrape the Zook-luck off of him (No helmet-to-helmet on Brantley's injury? No horse-collar? Can you wait until the runner is down before blowing the whistle?) even a fired-up crowd couldn't help these bumbling Gators.

And at halftime, with Florida down 14-0, you knew this game was over.

Brantley was out and we know how that has worked out for Florida this season. It's not like he was lighting it up, but Florida has no offense when he's not in the game. Florida ran 25 plays for 39 yards in the second half.

FSU knew the Gators couldn't score and basically played Tea Party offense -- very conservative. They waited for another gift and Jacoby Brissett obliged with the game-clincher.

Brantley killed the Gators early and they had no chance with him in the locker room. It was an embarrassment for a program to look that inept for 60 minutes.

It was as if all the things that have been wrong with this offense in the previous 11 games all decided to show up on the same night.

Here's the good news -- I don't think it can get any worse. Things were so great around Gainesville for 20 years, but the nose dive from the top of the mountain has been amazingly rapid. This is the low point, the bottom of the barrel of despair.

At least I think it is.

“We're doing all we can do with what we got,” Muschamp said.

There has to be a lot of self examination within the program. There are reasons for optimism on defense but offensively, it's hard to get excited about 2012.

Maybe we'll all look back on this season and the way it ended and have a laugh some day.

Nobody was laughing Saturday night.

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