Deceiving opener for UF?


Florida's head coach Will Muschamp encourages his offense after a score during the first half of the Gators opening game of the season against Bowling Green in Gainesville Saturday Sept. 1, 2012.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 8:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 12:53 a.m.

You said it to yourselves so many times this summer you started to believe it.

It has to be better this year.

It has to be better.

It has to.

And now, one game into the 2012 football season, you are already convinced it won't be.

Florida's football team gave you no reason Saturday to feel that way. No reason to think it will be different. No reason to think your team has a chance to be something special this year.

And, like so many times last year, the first thing you did when you got home Saturday night or this morning was to erase the DVR recording of the game without watching it. These guys are hard enough to watch once.

To say things were getting a little uneasy in The Swamp on a steamy afternoon is an understatement. To say anyone walked out of the stadium with a dry shirt and a feeling of optimism for this Florida football team would be a downright lie.

The team that committed far too many penalties a year ago committed 10 in the first half and seemed hell-bent on breaking the single-game record.

“Believe me, we've exhausted every measure we know,” said coach Will Muschamp.

I'd suggest trying hypnosis.

Or acupuncture.

Herbal medicine, hot yoga, transcendental meditation, bamboo under the fingernails.

Something. Anything.

“Penalties are going to kill us,” said quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Yes, they will because this team isn't good enough to overcome them. Against Bowling Green, they almost cost the Gators big time. Think how crippling they'll be once SEC play starts next week.

We saw a team that could run the ball, but not when it had to run the ball. The line could not open holes when it was third-and-1. Muschamp blamed himself for this.

“I've got to give the offensive coordinator a little more latitude,” he said.

But he wanted to send a statement from the start. This is not the soft Gators you saw last year. This is a bigger, meaner, tougher version. And at times against the undersized Falcons, they were. Just not when it was third-and-short.

We still don't know who the quarterback is except that we do. Clearly, Florida isn't going to College Station next week with a starting quarterback who only played 11 plays in the opener.

So it's Driskel, who according to sources moved past Jacoby Brissett in the last 10 days of practice, who will be asked to get Florida's conference season off to a good start. Florida fans who were hearing all summer that the two quarterbacks were neck-and-neck assumed that was a positive. Today, they probably feel differently.

But here's the thing. The Gators won. They are 1-0. They caught a bunch of breaks, but they won. It didn't hurt that the biggest play of the game was a dropped pass or that Bowling Green's field goal kicker had a case of the yanks.

The Gators didn't look like a team that can improve on last year's 7-6. I'm right there with you on that. But openers can sometimes be deceiving. You got the impression from Muschamp that half of the plays the Gators ran were for Texas A&M's benefit.

And I remember back in 1995 when Florida opened with Houston and there were some boos because the Gators didn't play well, and I wrote that if the Gators didn't play better it could be a long season for Steve Spurrier's team.

And then at a function before the Fiesta Bowl that year, Spurrier said to me, “Remember when you wrote it could be a long season? You were right. We're playing all the way to Jan. 2? Longest one yet.”

That story is to make you climb off the ledge and understand that Saturday may not be an indication of what is to come. Then again, it might be.

In the Gator meeting room there are a bunch of slogans neatly mounted on walls and pillars. One of them reads, “This Is a Show Me Game.”

Saturday night obviously was not one of those.

You hope.

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

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