Back Nine: Gators need faster starts on both sides of ball


Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) tries to shed a pair of Georgia defenders in the Commodores' 31-27 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 19. Matthews leads all SEC receivers with 66 catches for 890 yards. (AP Photo)

Published: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 4, 2013 at 8:31 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after another Saturday in Jacksonville that sent 40,000 fans home disappointed. Of course, that's the scene after every Florida-Georgia game. And every Jaguars game.

10. Maybe it's the pre-game meal. Maybe it's the way they warm up. Maybe it's because the other team has studied film and has come up with a plan. Whatever the reason, one of the biggest reasons Florida is having a bad season is because of the way the Gators start. UF has been outscored 62-29 in the first quarter. The Gators have won the second and third quarters 105-45 (and the fourth 34-30) but those slow starts have been a problem. They aren't just an offensive problem either, although 3.6 points per game in the first quarter isn't exactly getting it done. This defense seems to always make early mistakes that put the Gators in a hole. In the four losses, Florida has been outscored 41-13 in the first quarter. For all of the criticism of the offense (and it is warranted), the defense seems to need a quarter to adjust to what the other team's offense is trying to do. Will Muschamp went all technical on us in trying to explain what happened on the two early touchdown drives by Georgia, but the bottom line is the defense needs to start showing up ready to play.

11. Another Sunday reading emails and Tweets about how Florida needs to fire its head coach or its offensive coordinator or its cheerleading coach or its hot dog vendor. Is the answer always to fire everyone? What is especially interesting is that so many of you think Chip Kelly would return to college coaching and take the Florida job. Do you not remember that in June he was given an 18-month show-cause by the NCAA for recruiting violations, which means basically that he can't coach in college football in 2014? No? Well, then you probably don't remember that Florida is playing without its starting quarterback, tailback, both offensive tackles and its best defensive player. Or that when the Gators play Vandy on Saturday it will be their first home game in 35 days. Or that three of Florida's four losses have come against teams ranked 8, 11 and 13 in the latest BCS standings and the other against the team overwhelmingly picked to win the SEC East in July. Look, I get it. This has been a miserable season for Gator fans punctuated by FSU's return to glory. The offense is hard to watch. But Muschamp isn't going anywhere and he shouldn't. Do things need to improve? Absolutely. But Florida won 11 games last year. Or did you forget that, too?

12. We could call Saturday's game the “Bowl-Eligible Bowl” because both Florida and Vanderbilt are sitting at four wins and need two more to get to a bowl game. Florida will have to find a way to contain Jordan Matthews, who leads the league in receptions with 66 for 890 yards. And the Gators need to take advantage of an uncharacteristically-porous Vanderbilt defense. In their four losses, the Commodores have surrendered 45.3 points a game. Mostly, the Gators just have to find a way to win. The fact Florida has won 22 straight against Vanderbilt is irrelevant except that if Florida is going to keep America's second-longest bowl streak going it needs to keep its streak against the 'Dores going.

13. Florida State's biggest day of the season wasn't Saturday when it throttled Miami and it wasn't two weeks ago when it destroyed Clemson. It's biggest day of the season is Thursday when Oregon plays Stanford. If Oregon and Alabama win out, all projections have FSU being left out of the BCS Championship Game. The Seminoles finish with four games against teams with a record of 13-21 (remember, Gator fans, every Florida loss hurts FSU's BCS chances) and even an ACC Championship Game against a one-loss Miami team probably wouldn't be enough. FSU is certainly hurt by it's non-conference schedule, the same way Ohio State is. Other than Florida, the average Sagarin rating of FSU's other non-conference opponents is 129th in the country. You can get away with that in the SEC, but not the ACC or Big 10. You need help. I wouldn't be surprised to see Baylor, whose schedule is back-loaded, make it interesting if it wins out.

14. Ah, to be a fly on the wall when the SEC football coaches meet in Destin. The Bret Bielema-Gus Malzahn feud is such a classic. The latest was a blatant fake of an injury by Auburn's Anthony Swain during an Arkansas scoring drive. I know, it's difficult to believe — there was an Arkansas scoring drive. Google the video of the fake injury. It's priceless.

15. Speaking of video, check out the Sacred-Monmouth game if you get the chance. Moses Webb pulled a rare hat trick on one play. He fumbled, forced a fumble and scored a touchdown. Webb was stripped after making a reception, but chased down the Monmouth player who was returning the fumble, stripped him, scooped the ball up and scored. That still wasn't the most amazing thing that happened over the weekend. That had to be Florida Atlantic's upset of Tulane after a tumultuous week that saw its head coach Carl Pelini booted after he admitted drug use. Heck of a job by the Owls to stay focused.

16. I'm not saying Riley Cooper's racial slur before the season has been forgiven, but has anyone else noticed how it kind of went away once the season began? I mean, a Raider fan threw something at him and another gave him a pair of middle fingers after his third touchdown catch of the game Sunday, but I think that's more about being a Raider fan than anything else.

17. The Tweet of The Week comes from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com — “The temperature on Mars right now = Michigan's rushing total today.” Dennis was exaggerating as the average temperature on Mars is minus-80 degrees. Michigan rushed for minus-48 in a 29-6 loss to Michigan State. OK, maybe he wasn't exaggerating that much.

18. So I'm not sure how this happens (something to do with a Cloud I hear) but all of a sudden my iPhone has all of these Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber songs on it. Kelsey, how do we delete these things? Anyway, I did find some good music — “Sort Of” by Ingrid Michaelson, “Nobody Knows Me At All” by The Weepies and for an oldie but a great one by an underrated band “Hungry” by Paul Revere and The Raiders.

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

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