No excuse for loss


Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp leaves the field following the Gators 26-20 loss to the Georgia Southern Eagles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Saturday, November 23, 2013. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

Doug Finger
Published: Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 7:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 9:01 p.m.

The historic run continues for this Florida football team down a road filled with sinkholes and rusty nails sticking out of mildewed boards. Nobody can say it has been forgettable.

Not when there is so much history. Losing season, no bowl game, first loss to an FCS team.

And not just any FCS team. A mediocre FCS team with one of the few injury lists that can match Florida's. And that mediocre FCS team, with losses this season to Wofford, Furman and Samford, not only beat Florida with a bunch of recruits that no respectable SEC team would consider, but with a team that looked faster and tougher than the mighty Gators.

In other words, Georgia Southern looked like the better team.

All you Gator fans who I've been talking off the ledge? You have my permission to jump.

I can give you reasons but there are no excuses. Not for what we saw Saturday. Not for Florida being the team that didn't make mistakes for three quarters (no penalties or turnovers) and yet found itself digging out of a hole.

And then you knew it was coming. A chance to win the game because Georgia Southern missed consecutive extra points and field position to start a drive at the opponent's 49 and … wait for it … wait for it … bam. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Keanu Neal.

Will Muschamp called it “embarrassing,” this turned-over tackle box of a game. He could have been talking about the entire, miserable season.

“We're going to get it fixed,” he said.

Not this year. This year is over. If I'm Muschamp, I'm calling my old pal Jimbo Fisher and asking for a running clock next week. Maybe shorten the quarters?

This team clearly has nothing left. On Saturday, a season that has been hobbling around in a couple of walking boots saw the Gators lose three linebackers and end up playing a walk-on middle linebacker when the defense had to have a stop.

If you didn't watch or listen or were not there, you need not read further. You know it didn't happen, the stop that had to happen, because it hasn't all year. Instead, a fullback named William Banks ran for 53 yards on third down.

Of course he did.

And when Skyler Mornhinweg's final pass was batted down and the clock showed 0:00, Georgia Southern celebrated like lottery winners in The Swamp. Bolstered by a surprising number of fans (tickets were cheap and available and they smelled blood), the players didn't want to leave the field long after it was over.

When that final play was over, there was this look of disbelief on the faces of the Florida players and coaches. They thought they had seen the bottom of the pit two weeks ago against Vanderbilt. Turns out they weren't even close.

“It's all disappointing,” Muschamp said. “It's hard to really measure it.”

There will be plenty of people to do that for him. Plenty of people will point to the inevitable 4-8 record and wonder if it's worse than 0-10-1 in 1979. They will bring up the fact Florida has now lost eight of 12 games in 2013. They won't be able to see the injuries for the losses.

“We're going to bounce back and we're going to be Florida,” said linebacker Darrin Kitchens.

Maybe some day. Maybe next season. But Florida isn't Florida right now. And while I've explained over and over why Muschamp isn't going anywhere, the biggest question facing the Gator Nation right now involves direction — where is this program going?

Certainly there is only one way to go and that is up. This is a low point in Florida football. It's not the lowest. But it can't get much lower. Of course, we thought that two weeks ago.

I get how this team has been devastated by injuries, but should a team with a former scout team lineman starting for it rush for 429 yards and have 22 plays of five yards or more against any group of Florida players ever assembled in the history of the program?

Nope.

The end is near. That's the best thing we can say about this season.

We won't have to watch this team for much longer. And we won't have to listen to another winning coach talk about how UF has “ a great football team.”

We know better.

You know how I always say that college football seasons fly by so fast and we don't take enough time to embrace the days and weeks? This one can't get over quickly enough.

It has been ugly, a wet diaper that keeps showing up in the pool, a black sheep of a relative with hairy warts, an ingrown toenail next to the one you jammed against a door.

Hey, history isn't always pretty.

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

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