The Back Nine: Gators to face new starter at quarterback for Kentucky

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Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith takes over as starter in Lexington. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

The Back Nine comes at you after a home opener, NFL openers and by the time we got to Sunday evening, the use of a bottle opener.

10. There were a lot of us looking forward to seeing how this Gator defense would deal with Terry Wilson after the Kentucky quarterback torched the Gators a year ago by scoring all three offensive touchdowns as the Wildcats ended Florida’s 31-game winning streak against UK. Alas, Wilson was lost for the season when a horse-collar tackle resulted in a torn patella tendon Saturday. So now it’s Florida against Sawyer Smith, the transfer from Troy who is not as mobile but does have the experience of starting 13 games last year for Troy. Smith completed 62.9 percent of his passes last year and was 5 of 9 with two touchdowns in relief of Wilson last week. But he only averaged 2.6 yards a carry on 74 rushing attempts a year ago. “He’s still a quarterback in college so he must be good, must be talented,” said Florida safety Donovan Stiner. Florida coach Dan Mullen said he will look at some Troy film from last year just to get a feel for Smith. “They’re not going to just scrap everything,” he said of Kentucky’s offense. “They’re not going to make wholesale changes. We want to watch Troy tape, but that’s for the coaches, not the players. You don’t want them thinking that’s the offense they’re playing. It starts messing with your head.”

11. The loss of Wilson for the season was just another blow for a division that fought its way back to respectability last year. For some reason, everyone shrugged off the SEC East beating the West straight up last season as if it was some kind of fluke. And this season so far has been the critics’ vindication. Tennessee, we’ll deal with you later. The East had a terrible Week One and then piled up on some weak foes to make themselves feel better in Week Two. But the only two teams that played anyone respectable (Tennessee and Vanderbilt) lost their games. And not only did Wilson suffer a knee injury that will sideline him for the season, but Will Muschamp announced Sunday night that Jake Bentley’s foot required surgery and he’s done, too. (My guess is that Bentley will be a hot commodity as a grad transfer next season). Remember when we were wondering how to rank the top quarterbacks in a quarterback-heavy league this summer? Seems like a long time ago.

12. Holy moly, the seat is getting hot in Knoxville. John Adams, the columnist at the local newspaper, has even speculated that Phil Fulmer may end up naming himself interim coach when he cans Jeremy Pruitt. (Why not? He’s used to starting coups.) The thing is, part of Tennessee’s problem is the instability in the coaching position. And that was part of Florida’s problem for the last decade as well. Everyone wants to fire the coach rather than let him work through it because nobody wants to wait for him to work through it and there are no guarantees he will. Pruitt lost two games as the favorite to start the season and will be favored again this week (I think) against Chattanooga. The next four games (Florida, Georgia, Miss. State and Alabama) he’ll be a serious underdog. That’s not good. Neither is making Titanic references. “When the boat starts going down, remember all the mice running to the top, right?” Pruitt said Monday. “We have had a few that left our program, but you will figure out who wants to be a Tennessee Vol and who don’t. I can tell you this — I want to.”

13. OK, now I am convinced. For years we’ve been hearing about how LSU was going to change the offense and it just never happened. It got to the point where Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Matt Canada had a falling out so bad that Canada is living on an island in North Carolina (go find the great story by Ross Dellenger of SI.com). What we saw Saturday night was a team taking advantage of its playmakers and not sitting on a lead. It was almost unrecognizable. And now quarterback Joe Burrow is being mentioned as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate (a caveat — I don’t do Heisman talk until late October). The Tigers don’t have a meaningful game (I don’t count Vandy on the road because we know which team will have the most fans) until they play host to the mighty Gators on Oct. 12. Could be epic in what has become a serious rivalry game. I did not bump LSU up to fourth in my AP vote unlike my colleagues because it’s not like the five teams I have ahead of them have done anything wrong. Early voting in the AP poll is so individual anyway. I ranked North Carolina and Mississippi State and neither got in. I ranked Virginia this week and the Cavs did.

14. We all know that the college football administrations are amping up future scheduling because of the decline in overall attendance for the sport. Maybe they can go ahead and start this week. There are no ranked vs. ranked games Saturday, which is why GameDay is going to Ames, Iowa. It’s the first time in almost two years that there is no marquee game. We heard Nick Saban go all Angry Nick at a legitimate question over the weekend and say he wants Alabama to play 12 games against Power Five schools but it’s difficult to find schools to play them. That’s one of the saddest parts of college football, that scheduling isn’t done by a central office and so we get dull weeks like this one three weeks into the season. I know, I know, there is that argument that FCS schools need the money to help fund their programs and the same with most Group of Five teams. It just seems like there should be a solution, maybe the NCAA take some of the money they spend fighting lawsuits over nothing and funnel it to smaller schools. In a perfect world, the SEC would play nine conference games, two non-cons against Power Five schools and one game against anybody you want so everybody could bring their kids and just have fun. But what do I know?

15. Can anybody here play defense? The three NFL teams in the state gave up a combined 130 points in three losses Sunday. And it doesn’t look good for the future for any of them, especially with Jacksonville’s Nick Foles breaking his collarbone. Yes, Gardner Minshew put up good numbers but let’s see what he does as a starter. And seriously, the Dolphins should just take a knee on every play the rest of the season to make sure they get Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. Didn’t we use to have the NFL in Florida? Then the report that Miami players have contacted their agents to get out. Hey, stick around for the Tank for Tua.

16. But just like college football, we have to be careful not to overreact to the first week of the NFL, especially because the league is now treating the exhibition season like a college camp where nobody actually plays in games and just practices. Cleveland had the kind of bad day you used to take for granted with the Browns. But everybody expected so much more. Be patient Browns fans. You can panic next week.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to my buddy Heath Cline, who used to be a radio star here and is now a radio star in South Carolina. Well, in my eyes he’s a star — “Until Jameis (Winston) is gone, there’s just not much point to Tampa Bay playing football. What’s next might turn out to be worse, but this isn’t working and isn’t going to.” What he said.

18. Like a dummy, I played 18 holes Sunday in the crazy heat on a course with no trees or shade of any kind. The AC in my car never felt so good. I did hydrate though so I finished strong and went to work on this playlist for you:

• “To The Ground” by Death Cab for Cutie.

• “Fluctuate” by Catfish and the Bottleman.

• “Anna” by The Menzingers.

• “Bang Bang” by The Avett Brothers.

• And for an oldie but goodie, because my wife and I were doing the “Somebody To Love” Challenge Friday night (Freddie vs. George Michael and it wasn’t as close as we thought it would be). “Somebody To Love” by Queen.

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

10 COMMENTS

  1. Freddie won? Right, Pat? Because George Michael’s best music didn’t come until after his ”Wham!” days, in my opinion. As ”Freedom ’90” is TIMELESS!

    But… “Until Jameis (Winston) is gone, there’s just not much point to Tampa Bay playing football.” -Heath Cline.Well, Heath’s spot on and dead right! I love Bucs football, but being a Gainesvillian born Gator I reluctantly rooted for Jameis Winston. Who am I kidding? I couldn’t even root for Winston as a Tampa Bay Buc player. And when I heard the J’ville Jags were getting ”Saint Nick,” well I’ve been excited for the Jags’ this football season. And I was watching the game on T.V. when Nick Foles’ throwing touchdown suddenly turned into I.R. for him.

    And man, I feel bad for the guy because Nick Foles is a special player. But he ”needs a break” (pardon the pun) from all the ”drama” (being a back-up QB at Philly, then traded, now a starter in J’ville, now injured, etc…).

    Anyway, the real reason why I’m here… ”Go Gators! Beat Kentucky like a drum, please! BIG BLUE can’t get cocky in football, too!”

  2. Well, 206 views and only one post at this time, that being from one of the few old timers left….none other than GI.

    Seems senseless to even comment anymore, but I won’t let that deter me even if it is only between GI and myself. #12 — so much as pertains to Fulmer, Pruitt, and Tennessee: The sharks are circling to be sure, both from an illogical fan base and from an irresonsible sports media, having noticed blood in the water and by nature leading the charge. The only question I have is, what did they expect? Suddenly a national championship one year after hiring a promising head coach and getting a legend back in as AD? It tells me that nobody either in or associated with Knoxville understood in the least how absolutely dysfunctional that athletic department and football program really were. Don’t get me wrong — I expect to give no quarter when we play them, but I for one am willing to say Tennessee’s restoration certainly isn’t going to be over night. And I hope they do get back on their feet, for our sake and for the sake of the East. We’re better when they’re better, and quality wins in your own back yard have a certain, indescribable, sweet taste. Tell me where I’m wrong.

    Well, GI can tell me anyway.

    • Fulmer taking over at UT is fine with me. If they want to bring Bobby back at FSU, that would be ok, too.

      Regarding views and posts, my posting is limited, since I can no longer log on and post from my phone. StL has mentioned a similar problem. At any rate, I’m hoping for a solution that will bring back the old crowd and attract new members. Reading these comments is great fun, because it provides me with an opportunity to see what other Gator fans think, and I always learn something. I’ve already paid, so I’m sure I won’t be getting a refund, but if GS.com were to relent and remove the pay wall, it’d be fine with me. I really like the way this comment section is set up as compared to some others I’ve been on. All we need now are actual comments.

      • Joe, as you and I have discussed before, this format is hands down the best to enable discussions, and is easy to use as well. Not so on other sites that I’ve posted on recently, none of which have ease of use and a truly conversational formats. A pox on them! Bifurcating polarities all, I tell you. But you’ve got to have astute posters for the kind of give and take we grew accustomed to, which we do have, but even more so you’ve got to have lots of voices to delve into the various opinions — which we don’t have. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, unless this picks up, that this site goes tango uniform in short order, aka, belly up.

        I think our pal Daz Wazzel summed it up best when he exited stage right: “All good things come to an end”.

        By the way, most of the old crowd that I’ve been in touch with say that it wasn’t the journalism that kept them here, that being obtainable at various other sites — It was the wide variety of excellent comments and opinions by the readers/posters.

  3. “The thing is, part of Tennessee’s problem is the instability in the coaching position. And that was part of Florida’s problem for the last decade as well. Everyone wants to fire the coach rather than let him work through it because nobody wants to wait for him to work through it and there are no guarantees he will. ”

    Bingo. They shouldn’t have fired Fulmer. Clemson gave Dabo a long leash and look at where they are at now. BTW, we should have nabbed Dabo when we had the chance back in 2014. He was cherry picking Florida talent on the recruiting trail back then just as he is doing now.

    • Sure ’nuff correct on both counts, Sly. Man alive, 2014. Oh well.

      What bothers me the most tho, now that we’ve finally got our man, is how the fan base may turn on him just as quickly when he has an inevitable slip. You know it’s going to happen sooner or later, it always does in the SEC, and then we either appreciate it for what it is — a temporary situation and do as Clemson did — or we go back to histrionics and start with the demands. Nothing surprises me anymore, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised when that day comes, nonetheless.

  4. Well 6, its the lack of paying customers. One might suggest that the marketplace is casting its verdict on the product we are now being asked to pay for. And, it seems, that verdict is damning. (FYI, I have found a work-round that gets me access every few days. I have not, and will not, pay for what’s on offer. If I were to pony up, it would be for Graham, then Robbie, then Pat.)

  5. Still here 6, but still refusing to pay. Hence a lack of posts as the robot sometimes takes over. Anyway, the problem goes deep at UT and thankfully it’s their problem to fix. I can see Fulmer firing Pruitt and taking back over as a jab at those that fired him, and their problems will lasts years more. Oh well…Go Gators