Dooley: Gators deserve applause


Scenes from the sidelines during the game between the Florida Gators and Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Missouri 14-7. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 7:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 7:55 p.m.

It was the same new story for the Florida football team.

The “new” being the way this team keeps piling up victories.

It may be old-school football, but it’s new around here. You win seven conference games at Florida and you’re supposed to have a Heisman Trophy candidate and a scoreboard operator with carpal tunnel, right?

But not these guys.

These guys almost seem to wait until a few boos are floating down from the stands before they get it going. They win with a defense that is stingy with points and heavy on turnovers gained.

These Gators intercepted four more passes Saturday, and as easy as they might have been with James Franklin floating balls like they were filled with helium, that’s still seven picks in two games.

Alas, Gator Nation, it probably won’t be enough to get you to Atlanta. Unfortunately, this 7-1 record probably isn’t going to cut it. I know, a 7-1 record is usually good enough, but unless Auburn, say, fires Gene Chizik today and hires Bobby Petrino, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher to replace him, the Doggies are almost certainly heading to Atlanta in December.

And that’s not good enough.

“I just want to go to Atlanta,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. And he reiterated what he said prior to the season, that any season that falls short is not considered a success at Florida.

I agree. But that doesn’t mean this team shouldn’t be applauded, even if you have to look away while doing so.

After all, they secured another trophy for the glass case.

You may not know this, but Florida will receive a trophy for being co-champs of the SEC East. I only know this because one day in 1995 I walked into the office of Georgia coach Ray Goff. There, on his desk, was a very nice trophy.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“SEC East co-champs, 1992,” he said.

At the time, I thought it was lame to display a trophy like that. And I’m sure that — assuming Georgia beats Auburn — that this trophy won’t have a light shining on it in one of the biggest trophy cases at UF.

But these guys deserve something.

They had a brutal schedule and brutal injuries. On Saturday, they were leaving the field faster than a dodgeball team. Florida was down to its third-team tailback, its second-team kicker, two backup offensive linemen and only Omarius Hines left to run the speed sweep.

And they found a way to win. It wasn’t entertaining or gorgeous. You want sexy, you’re in the wrong place.

But it has been that way all season.

“You are what your record is,” said Muschamp. He was referring to last year’s 7-6 mark, the one that had the Gator Nation wondering if the right guy was wearing the headset.

But if you are what your record is, this is a pretty good football team.

Muschamp acknowledged this team is not where it wants to be, that it wants to be more explosive on offense. He doesn’t enjoy these nail-biters any more than you do. But it’s what these Gators have to do to win.

“This football team has more resolve than any football team I’ve ever been around,” Muschamp said.

And patience.

When things go bad, when things are bogged down, when the defense could easily point a finger at the offense, they believe they will find a way.

“We just pulled together,” said tackle Chaz Green. “Our mental intensity is really good and we never feel like there is a time to throw in the towel.”

Instead, they have won eight out of nine games. They swept their conference games at home. They swept their conference games on the road. The neutral-site loss to Georgia is a sting that won’t go away, a scar they’ll wear forever.

But there is no question that this SEC season was a large step forward for this football program.

It doesn’t matter if it was hard to watch at times. Doesn’t matter if you wore out a bald spot scratching your head.

Because this isn’t just a line of scrimmage league.

It’s a bottom line league.

And if Florida is what it is this season, so is its bottom line.

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

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