The Back Nine: A lot went wrong, but Gators still won

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Florida running back Lamical Perine catches the ball with his fingertips Saturday against Miami at the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Florida beat Miami 24-20 in the season opener. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

The Back Nine comes at you and I’m in love. I’m in love with the fact I have an actual game to talk about, statistics to look at and highlights to review. OK, maybe we’re just dating.

10. Don’t do it, Gator fans. Don’t jump off that ledge. Don’t spend your next two weeks grousing about your team and complaining about a victory over a fierce rival. And don’t make me say it. You know what. Look, there were a lot of bad things that happened in that game. One of them was throwing the ball on first down after a stop in your territory with 4:30 to go and the lead. I’m all for being aggressive and going for the jugular, but that seemed like a bad time to ask your quarterback — who started the half with a badly-thrown pick — to make that play there. And he has to be smarter. And so do a lot of other guys on that team. But let us remember that the one constant among Dan Mullen teams is they get better as a football season progresses. You saw it last year and I imagine you will see it this year. You won the game. Those of you who were there sat in a sauna for 3½ hours and walked away with a victory. You won on a night you couldn’t run the ball, committed 100 yards in penalties, forgot how to wrap up ball carriers on tackles and had a minus-three in turnovers. Take it, and move on.

11. Of course, one of the predictable takes on this game was that there should be no more Week Zero games (or as us sophisticates like to call it — Week Zulu). This game was so poorly played at times it was as if the two teams were trying to celebrate the 150th year of college football by making 150 mistakes. It was a bizarre game that was full of errors (many by the officials), but I think college football is more likely to expand the calendar on the season than contract it. It was a game of gaffes, but first games usually are. It’s just that this one couldn’t hide because it was exposed and fully hyped. What difference does it make when the teams played? They still had the same amount of practice. Maybe they let the enormity of the stage get to them, but would you rather have been watching The National Cornhole Championship or a Fantasy Football advice show Saturday night?

12. Sunday I got back and headed for the golf course where I played with a great group of guys and finished 18 holes on my own ball for the first time in three years. The knees held up, the score wasn’t great and then it hit me. I was Feleipe Franks. I hit just enough good shots to bring me back. If I had a fan base that hung on every putt and chip and drive into the creek, it would probably want me to quit playing and cussed at me through the TVs. (Luckily, none of the shots were recorded except the card). My point (yes, there is a point) is that Franks had a bad night in some ways, but he also made some terrific throws and was playing without a running game. It was also a strange game in that Florida only ran 54 plays in the game. Contrast that with Florida’s four-game winning streak to close out last season when the Gators’ offense averaged 76.3 plays per game. Of course, when you turn it over and go 2 for 10 on third-down conversions, that’s what you are going to get.

13. One of the biggest problems for the Gators was their inability to run the ball. And I think that goes back to the lack of plays and the impatience we’ve seen from Mullen before. Florida only ran the ball for 52 yards and even if you don’t count the one sack the Gators averaged 2.34 yards per rushing attempt. That’s on the offensive line, but we all (should) remember the Kentucky game last year when the offensive line struggled and then got better as the season went along (there seems to be a theme here). Let us all remember this — Miami’s defensive front is pretty darn good. It was the strength of the team coming in and allowed the Hurricanes to play two deep safeties for most of the game.

14. I was asked on a national radio show whether or not I would drop Florida in my AP voting. Nope. I didn’t have them in the top 10 before and won’t when we vote after this week’s games unless a couple of strange things happen above them. You know what I might do? I might stick Miami in at No. 25. That is a good football team that might have won the game with a veteran coach instead of a guy in his first game. I didn’t even look at Miami’s schedule until after this game and it looks doable. Of course, the ’Canes have that meeting with Jim McElwain’s Central Michigan team on Sept. 21 to look forward to. And yet.

15. And now, we get ready for Week One, or whatever you want to call it. There are some good games and some not so good that could surprise because TEAMS SOMETIMES HAVE HICCUPS IN THE FIRST GAMES OF THE SEASON! All I know is Dr. Football went 2-0 on the first Saturday thanks to Hawaii stopping Arizona’s Khalil Tate at the 1-yard line on the final play of the game. I’ll take it. Tate had 469 yards of total offense in the game, by the way. But it was another gut punch for the Pac-12.

16. It was crazy the buzz that went through the press box concerning Andrew Luck’s retirement. And way to show some class Indy fans who booed Luck as he left the field. (Note to self: root against the Colts this season. Man, my negativity bandwagon is getting full). Sometimes, guys fall out of love with the game. More specifically, they fall out of love with everything it takes to play the game. I think sometimes it takes as much courage to walk away as it does to keep going. His legacy will be a strange one, that’s for sure.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Jacksonville radio guy Denny Thompson — “Things to work on during the bye week for the #Gators

Tackling

Falling on fumbles

Tackling

Not hitting guys out of bounds

Blocking

Tackling

Holding onto the ball

Tackling

Not throwing the ball when you’re clearly supposed to run

Tackling

Red Zone Plays

Tackling”

Check to the 12th power.

18. It won’t bother me if I never have to go back to the stadium where Saturday night’s game was played. I will avoid the name to keep the sponsor from getting free pub. It’s in a terrible area of town and nobody seems to know where anything is. And my sources told me it took an hour to get out of there after the game. There also was a different vibe about that game because it was a true 50-50 split in fans and you know how Miami fans can be. Anyway, enough of me complaining about my free seat and free sodas. Let’s cleanse the palate with a sweet playlist:

• “Denver Haircut” by The Hold Steady.

• “Go” by The Black Keys.

• “I Wanna Be The One” by Pete Yorn.

• “Will We Talk” by Sam Fender.

• And for an oldie, one of my favorite songs from my old days at St. Johns River CC, “Where Do The Children Play?” by Cat Stevens.

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

17 COMMENTS

  1. Definitely plenty went wrong but now they have two weeks to fix it. The team did not play like a veteran team with all the mistakes but hopefully they learned that you can get beat on any day by any team.

    As far as the venue, it definitely wasn’t Ben Hill Griffith Steve Spurrier Stadium. The shuttle buses ran for such a short distance that it was faster to walk. The stadium definitely needs some upgrades. Start with changing the batteries in the paper towel dispensers so they work when the stadium is open! The experience really makes me appreciate Florida’s stadium even more. Here is to a productive bye week. Go Gators!

  2. As a Gator fan for decades (since mid 70’s as an elementary kid) the win over the ‘U’, the MIAMI HURRICNES, I’ll take it! Every day, and twice on Sundays! GO GATORS! JUST WIN BABY, that has been my mantra (from the late Al Davis) all summer, so… the Gators JUST WON! And I can dig it!
    CHOMP-CHOMP! So now, Gators, improve, get better, and then rock the SEC’s world!

  3. Great takeaways all around Pat! I was at the game and it was one of the most excruciatingly intense and draining games I’ve ever attended. Neither of the teams nor the officials had a great night, but WE got a WIN!

    UM fans base is one of the worst ever…in all fairness, I should say SOME are the worst. We had some nice folks around us as well, But there are more bad apples than most bases and the bad ones are WAY worse than most.

    And you are right about the stadium…four entrances and exits for 70k people….Too long to get in and WAY too long to exit. I couldn’t help but wonder how they ever got that past the Fire Marshall….emergency evac would be impossible.

    Overall. I’d give Orlando a big fat “F” for their performance as host. The airport, the stadium and the entire hospitality industry seemed totally unprepared for what was a big weekend. Atlanta United v Orlando Friday night, UF v UM Saturday night plus a bunch of old teens downtown for the Back Street Boys and it was like a regular Wednesday night for staffing preparation.”

    Yeah we had a good weekend, but it was in spite of the “hospitality” in the Big 0 (read ZERO)…

    Oh and GO Gators….HIT the tackling dummies for the next two weeks!

  4. “What difference does it make when the teams played? They still had the same amount of practice.”

    I am not sure I agree with that statement. I remember reading that the teams asked the NCAA for permission to start fall practice (one week?) earlier but don’t remember reading whether it got approved. If it was approved, was there a condition that the two teams could not practice for one week following the game, to offset the earlier start? Otherwise, the teams that played during week zero got more practice time in my mind. Can anyone shed light with the details?

  5. sorry for limited posting for a while. just like the st petersburg times the hedge fund that runs the sun will the paywall costs them profits and after that i will resume reading posting if my schedule permits. i the meantime, i saw little on saturday to change my main views:
    1, offensive line has a long way to go. i did think the run blocking would be better but pass blocking now looks their best area, might have to put gamble in at te because we need the blocking
    2 slaton should try ol. he is not needed on the d-line right now, ten other guys got sacks. oh well its money out of his pocket not mine,
    3 stewart gets suspended when ever a tough assignment comes his way. to me he is afraid and i look forward to his replacement. im sure the coaches privately feel the same way. no nfl money for him.
    4. CDM had my head scratching about not playing jones and the play call on the interception with 5 minutes left. franks is still the same guy he was. beating minor teams like fsu and the vols in disarray, any team of champs, idaho,, charleston southern,michgan’s jv team and ed orgeron does not show me you have the upper echelon talent. he will need to yelled at soon, because i dont see us beating the vols this year.
    5. ten wins would be an accomplishment with the ol/qb issues, which miami confirmed as i thought they would.
    sorry guys i dont have many opinions that are new, will communicate when i do. best to all

    • Damnit Mveal, don’t play hard to get! Us old guys are counting on you to do the American thing — just like voting, you need to keep posting frequently. Anyway, I’m glad you and Sly are back after a brief hiatus.

      Agree with your comment on FF. OK, the rust should be knocked off, we’ve got two weeks to grease the machinery and a warm up game before it all starts for keepers. But if Franks doesn’t get it together after that, get Jones in there for Kentucky. STAT. There’s also Trask, who has been waiting patiently and is the consumate Gator for that alone…..a lot of good football minds think he can do it too.

      I think the OL needs some time, but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. It must all come together before SEC play, tho.

      10-3 at the end and a Top-10 finish will indeed be not only an accomplishment, but progression as well. We can do it, we should do it, and we can even exceed that bench mark. But by the eternal, let’s get the character issues out of the way earlier than we did last season, and let’s restore sense of urgency, aka, relentless effort, as the defining characteristic of this team. I’ve seen enough arm tackling to last a lifetime already! As you stated last year, that is our “fragility”. KEEP POSTING!

  6. Yes we had some problems Saturday night. All of which are fixable. I guess my biggest disappointment was that Franks had not matured emotionally. He has all the physical tools but seems caught in some middle school mentality with his face to face moments on the field by getting suckered in by the opponent’s trash talk, his side line antics and the “Don’t try me” moment. He needs to concentrate on keeping his head in the game and leading by example. Hopefully CDM will work with him on staying focused and help him avoid the bonehead plays that have us all scratching our heads. I was hoping he had really turned the corner at the end of last year but if Saturday’s performance is any indication, he has regressed in some ways. Good (but not great) numbers on the night don’t tell the whole story. It’s the fumble and two interceptions that make you wonder. Again this can be corrected so there is still hope that he will find his mojo from the end of last year earlier this year.

  7. I had a good opportunity to attend the game since my temporary work apartment was just 2 miles to the east of the stadium, BUT being familiar with the surrounding BAD area and tickets being hundreds of $$$, I chose to come home to my 65″ curve TV. Games cost TOO much.

    (1) Running plays seemed badly designed, requiring blockers (just a couple), requiring some defenders to be fooled by the overall scheme. What about it experts, are the running plays bad designs to start with???
    (2) Franks did throw some excellent passes, offset by pure badness! He’s the same ole Frank.

    • Certainly no expert, but that’s never stopped me before. I don’t know about the design, but I think Perine needs more than 10 carries to get the running game going. He had some good, tough runs and averaged 4.2 yards per carry compared to the overall average of 1.9. Pierce and Davis are very good, but I still think Perine should be featured, and most backs seem to need 15 or more carries to get in the groove. Of course, the game was not typical UF in that the Gators only ran 54 plays. It’s hard to give one guy 15-20 carries in that situation.

  8. agree that a lot of issues are from this being first game of the season, playing UM for opener instead of the Chiefland Walmart third shift. I believe most gator fans will take the errors and the learning experience from playing a better opponent. that being said, did somebody whisper in the d line’s ear before the game: Quarterbacks are delicious! d line did not play like it was their first game of the season at all. also want to point out what was very good play from receivers, not just catching the ball, but blocking very, very well. season’s just starting folks.