The Back Nine: Big boys just ahead for Gators

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Florida players sing the school's alma mater after beating the Miami Hurricanes in the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on August 24, 2019. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The Back Nine comes at you after the first real Saturday night watching college football on TV. It didn’t stink.

10. No matter what you think about the way they have played, it is certainly noteworthy that Florida over two seasons has now won eight consecutive games. That’s the most since the incredible 22 straight during the 2008-09 seasons. Now, those eight wins wouldn’t help Florida out a bunch if this were basketball and the Gators were trying to reach the NCAA Tournament because the opposition has been less than stellar. Seriously, who is the second best team (behind Michigan) that Florida has beaten in that run? I thought Miami was going to go on to play well after its loss to Florida and do some great things, but the Hurricanes lost their next game and got pushed to the limit by Jim McElwain’s awful Central Michigan team at home. Kentucky getting handled by Mississippi State didn’t help either. But you can only play the teams put in front of you and for this to have a chance at being a successful season, Florida needed to go 4-0 in these games. The big boys are coming down the road.

11. If Florida can get by Towson (the Tigers are 3-1 after an OT loss to Villanova) and Auburn wins at home against Mississippi State this week, we might see the ESPN GameDay folks roll into town for the first time since 2012. GameDay has only been in Gainesville that one time since the 2009 season. Certainly, the college football pre-game show has done a lot of UF games (most notably this year’s opener/Disney infomercial), but it has been a while since we’ve seen Rece Davis and the crew in Hogtown. With all of the tents on the North Lawn, I wonder where the show would set up. But that’s a Florida problem. I’ve looked at the schedule and it’s not compelling that week unless GameDay decides to do one of those smaller college games just for the quaintness of it. Think of the storylines with Florida-Auburn. I know I have.

12. One player the Gators will have to deal with Saturday is Tom Flacco, the brother of NFL quarterback Joe Flacco. This Flacco is on his third school, having played at Rutgers and Western Michigan. Last week in the loss to Villanova, Flacco threw for 304 yards and ran for 110. He also threw his first interception of the season. Florida hopes it will have its secondary at close to full strength for this one. This team is not the typical cupcake. The NFL brains have been watching Flacco all season and think he could play at the next level.

13. I heard this from Tom Lugenbill of ESPN on Sunday morning and wish I had thought of it to add to “Dool’s Rules.” He has a rule that you can’t put Michigan in the top 10 under Jim Harbaugh until the Wolverines beat a top-10 team. It may be awhile. Michigan is what LSU was, the team that keeps swearing that it will change the offense and evolve into the present but then never does. LSU finally got it, but Michigan is still stuck in the mud. Meanwhile, Wisconsin worked its way into the top 10 on my ballot and might actually be a challenge to the winner of the East this season.

14. There was an unbelievable game late into the night and even though UCLA rallied from 32 down, that wasn’t the most unbelievable thing about the win over Washington State. The most unbelievable thing was that a guy could throw for nine touchdowns — as Anthony Gordon did — and be the losing quarterback (on a side note, don’t always buy into those quarterback’s record-as-a-starter stats). Or maybe more incredible was this — when was the last time an LSU quarterback (Joe Burrow) threw for six touchdowns in a game and it wasn’t close to the most that night? Inquiring minds want to know.

15. For all of the people in an uproar over the actions of Kash Daniel last week against Florida, Mark Stoops hopes you feel better. Daniel did sit out the first quarter of Saturday’s game against Miss. St. and did not represent the Wildcats as a captain. “Myself and Kash, we have great respect for this game,” Stoops said. “We’re going to honor the game and do things as good as we possibly can. That was 100 percent my call, to not have him be a captain and not have him play to start the game.” I give Stoops credit and think it was the proper punishment. If nothing else, maybe it serves as a deterrent for other players trying to twist an ankle or doing something else in a pile. It’s football, not MMA.

16. NFL coaches have to get out of the challenge mode when it comes to pass interference. The rule to make it reviewable was put in to stop anything egregious from happening, mainly because it did to New Orleans last year. It’s not going to be reviewed the same as a fumble or feet in bounds (which are usually black-and-white calls). Something will have to be blatant for it to be overturned. Now, I don’t want you to think I spent my whole day watching the NFL while my wife went to see a movie (“Downton Abbey”). I went to the gym, watched my own movie (“Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” which has great closing credits) and caught a bit of the NFL games. The Giants-Bucs game was pretty cool at the end. It still amazes me that there can be so many bad teams when they have this incredible wealth and pool of talent to choose from. Mind boggled.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to the always excellent Cole Cubelic from ESPN and the SEC Network — “What did @AuburnFootball do extremely well vs Texas A&M? Tackled. Aggies ran 70 plays. I counted 4 missed tackles for the game. None led to explosive plays.” That’s what Florida will be facing next Saturday — a truly elite defense.

18. I know everybody hates those noon starts. But for us old man sportswriters, they allow you to stay ahead of the chains. For example, I worked on this playlist before the game:

“Tenderness” by Jay Som.

• “10/10” by Rex Orange County.

• “Milk and Honey” by J.S. Ondara.

• “Alison” by Jamie Drake.

• And for an old one that’s not really that old but it will make you feel old when you realize it has been 31 years, “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by the Traveling Wilburys.

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

11 COMMENTS

  1. OK I’ve enjoyed the great win over our (former?) rival the past few days and should return to being objective. Pat is correct. I resisted raining on the parade, but since he opened the door, fans should temper their enthusiasm for being 4-0, a top 10 ranking, and gushing about Trask with the fact that we struggled against Miami and UK, which are not as good as we had thought. We already knew the other two teams we clobbered were not very good. So in sum, at best, we don’t know how good a team we have until Auburn, and at worst, we barely beat a couple of bad teams. I know some are thinking that’s because it was Frank’s team before and we have Trask now. Well, it was also Mullen’s team, along with Perine, the receiver corps, the defense, and everyone else on the team. It’s quite a stretch to pin it all on one guy.

    BTW Pat, great choice for the lock of the week. I’m not a better but would have followed your advice if I were.

    • Sly, you are spot on. I told anybody who would listen that Miami wasn’t anywhere near as good as all the hype, but it persisted nevertheless — even after the game. So much as pertains to UT, it speaks for itself and all I ever said was, “Don’t treat them as if they’re not dangerous in this game”. Now when it comes to Auburn and actually everything that follows — as STL said back in July and August, we need to have the OL up to speed by then. And at that time, we’ll actually see Trask under the sort of pressure he’s either built for or is not. We can lose that game and still increase our confidence…….or, we can see the proverbial handwriting on the wall. We’ll see if Trask really does have the “it factor” we can’t quite put into words. To tell you the truth, bud — we’ve waited a long time for a Gator quarterback with that factor. I hope like hell Trask is the guy. In fact, I’d bet Gator65’s next paycheck on it!

      I told some guys today that if we’re 10-3 again, the losses will be to Auburn, LSU, and Georgia. Which of course means that we have to beat everyone else, too — but if we can up our intensity, there is no reason why we shouldn’t beat those 3 teams……none!

      • 6, I’m afraid that for the Auburn game, the Gator OL is what we’ve seen for 4 games now, adequate pass blockers, inadequate run blockers. That means Kyle Trask may have a great passing day between the 20’s, yet the Gators may end up with relatively few points to show for it due to the OL’s inability to punch it in from goal-to-go field position. Thank goodness the Gators have a great FG kicker!

        The story of THAT game, just as in all 4 games played this season, will be told on the other side of the ball. Poor tackling aside, this may be the best Gator D since 2012 and that team rode that D to an 11 win regular season. The only question on my mind now is whether this Gator D will hold up for 4 quarters against that Auburn OL if the O can’t open up a big enough lead to force Auburn’s freshman QB to play catchup against the #1 pass rush in CFB.

        However, all that is for next week. For now, let’s just focus on Towson THIS weekend.

        • You are right on every point, buddy — I still say we don’t have to lose this game, that overall Auburn isn’t better than us, and if we can find our hustle, intensity, moxy, urgency, whatever you call it, to at least match theirs……..well, you know what I think.

          Now watch Towson come in here and sandbag us. 🤐

          • 6, you must pour yourself a nice glass of whiskey light up a good cigar and enjoy them as they kills off the negative brain cells that came up with THAT horrible thought about Towson! 😱🤪😉😂🤣😂

  2. So the price for attempting to break someone’s ankle is the bench for one quarter of play and a (presumably temporary) de-captaincy for (presumably) one game. De-captainization. De-captainitation. Whatever. Stoops and Dooley know this game a lot better than me. If that’s just compensation, I wonder what the price would’ve been for an attendant injury. All of the above plus no dessert at the training table for one meal? No wonder the sports pages are rife with stories about how gifted athletes, including some we have called our own, think they can get away with anything. If I ever saw my son Stoop (weak pun intended) to that level in a game, he’d have been grounded for life, AFTER he apologized to the other player. Hopefully Daniel did man up and reach out to Trask afterward.

    • Well, PVB, I think it’s difficult to determine if Daniel’s intent was to break Trask’s ankle, but it did look like there was intent to harm. Likewise, I think it’s difficult to determine the proper punishment, so I give Stoops credit for handing down some sort of sentence. We can debate as to what the proper punishment should’ve been, but it probably falls somewhere between de-captainization and decapitation.

      Btw, I’m thinking CDM is gonna need to take your advice and dial up a few more jet sweeps for Auburn. Don’t think we can run straight at ’em.

      • LOL, decapitation is probably a bit extreme.
        Yeah, it will be interesting to see how we try to counter Auburn’s D-line, particularly 6’5″ 320-lb number 5. Dude is the real deal. CDM certainly didn’t show much of what our skill guys can do in space vs TN (wisely); I suspect he’s got a few ideas up his sleeve on how to get those Tiger linemen running to hopefully empty their gas tanks. Can’t wait!

  3. I remember Darnell Docket did that to Ernest Graham and received no punishment whatsoever.Graham was out for the next game and it was a huge game and we lost. His absense was part of why we lost. Spurrier complained to the league office and the FSU AD called him a whiner. Did Foley back his coach, hell no. I think that is why Steve left, and along with the fact that the fans were upset about a 10 winn season.