The Back Nine: Bad ref calls part of game

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Florida running back Lamichal Perine has his face mask grabbed by South Carolina's R.J. Roderick in the second half Saturday in Columbia, S.C. [Mic Smith/Associated Press]

The Back Nine comes at you after an interesting trip to Columbia in that it carried no drama. Except on the field, of course.

10. It would be easy to say to South Carolina fans and the head coach of the Gamecocks to get over it. Except that would be hypocritical, not only of Gator fans but of all fans. Pro, college, high school, Pop Warner. We all complain about officials and we have been since they outlawed the flying wedge (now THAT was a great column). Officials make mistakes, they are graded on their performances and the ones who grade out lowest are not given plum assignments and bowl games. We would all like a little more transparency, but we have seen what over-the-top fans can do in reaction to what they perceive as missed calls (see: Kentucky fans, John Higgins 2017). It’s not just an SEC problem, it’s everywhere. But it’s also part of the game. Would I have called Tyrie Cleveland for holding? Maybe. I also might have called the South Carolina player for grabbing his facemask on the play. The truth is that when Dameon Pierce broke his 75-yard run, I said to myself, “Well, this is coming back” because it seemed obvious right tackle Jean Delance moved early. What about the missed pass interference on the Gamecocks earlier in the game? You can go on forever. But it’s best to let it go (said the guy still upset over Kent Hrbek illegally lifting Ron Gant’s leg off the base in the 1991 World Series).

11. So I feel like the mood has changed around this place now that the weekend is over. I’m talking about the fanbase as a whole, not the ones who would see a glass of algae-filled water as half full. (Man, I went a long way for that bad metaphor). Most Gator fans seem to be saying to themselves (and out loud on occasion), “Why not us?” Why not Florida? Three SEC East games to go and nobody really scares you. It doesn’t mean you can’t lose to Georgia and Missouri, but those tasks seem less daunting now. Georgia is having all kinds of offensive problems (don’t laugh, that was you just a couple of years ago) and Missouri just lost to Vandy. Yes, THAT Vandy. The one that was smoked the week before by a bad UNLV team. (I know, every game is it’s own game). The three-game stretch that looked so tough was navigable. Most UF fans would have taken 2-1 heading into the Auburn, LSU and South Carolina troika. Now, a week of rest before Happy Hour in Jacksonville. It seems more possible than ever that Florida can make it to Atlanta. To quote the former HBC from the old days, “Not saying they will. Saying there’s a chance.”

12. And it seems more likely that if Florida does play for the SEC title, the Gators will get a rematch with LSU. Alabama lost quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to an ankle injury and they performed another “tight-rope” surgery on his right ankle. The quarterback had the same procedure last year but had 29 days before the College Football Playoff game. The surgery — in theory — decreases the time a player will be out and there is obviously that little matter of the showdown with LSU on Nov. 9. But it’s just a theory. Anyway, I don’t have to make that pick for awhile. Nor do I have to vote for the Heisman Trophy so let’s pump the brakes on Joe Burrow. Lot of ball left.

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13. Sometimes you get home from a game and you decide to look something up the next day because you are curious where Florida ranks. OK, so I am the only person that feels that tugging at my pants. But it seems like Florida has pretty much given up on returning kicks this season. Instead, UF’s returners fair catch most kickoffs and punts. So I looked it up (and it took much longer than I anticipated). In eight games, Florida has returned a total of 13 kicks (five kickoffs and eight punts). That’s 19 percent of the punts and kickoffs that have been launched Florida’s way. I know that some are not returnable, but Florida ranks 126th nationally in kickoff return yardage and 101st in punt return yardage. That’s not to say Florida is failing at special teams. Both kickers are giving UF what it wants and coverage has been good when necessary (Florida is tied for first in allowing no 20-yard plus punt returns this season). It’s just to say that Florida is content just to get the ball rather than trying to make something happen on special teams.

14. Meanwhile, in other parts of the state, we catch up on Florida State and Miami, with a combined 6-8 record. FSU is 0-3 on the road and Miami’s loss to Georgia Tech has to be considered one of the worst losses of the season (the Wreck scored two points against Temple and lost to The Citadel). Oh, and FSU scored 20 points against a team that gave up 62 points to Louisville the week before. And the Semis missed a possible game-winning field goal when Willie Taggart called a timeout that iced his kicker, who hadn’t tried a field goal in almost a month. And it was raining. OK, that’s enough.

15. And Louisville scored 10 points against Clemson on Saturday. But the big story wasn’t the Clemson defense or another uneven performance by Trevor Lawrence. It was the punishment handed out by Dabo Swinney after his player, Andrew Booth Jr., took a swing at a Louisville player. Swinney pulled him from the game and sent him to the locker room, then made him ride with the managers instead of getting on a plane. Not only is it a seven-hour drive, but managers have notoriously-tiny bladders that require stopping every 45 minutes. OK, I just made that up. The point is that I am not a big fan of Swinney and I think he has some phoniness in him (like all coaches), but it was nice to have a coach hold a player accountable. The worst part for Booth was that the managers took the car from the Seinfeld episode with the mutant body odor. OK, I made that part up, too.

16. Baseball was dead to me after the Braves were eliminated, but I have paid peripheral attention. I understand the World Series starts tonight. I have no choice to root for the Astros because they eliminated the Yankees (do I buy a Houston T-shirt?) and the Nationals are in our division and the reality is I don’t care enough to watch. I can’t think it’s going to be a ratings grabber for whatever network is carrying the games (seriously, once you have the “C” button with Cox Cable you never know what channel anything is on). You know how much the network dudes wanted Los Angeles vs. the Yankees.

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Jake Olson, the blind former long snapper at Southern Cal. He tweeted this after FAU coach Lane Kiffin tweeted out a picture of officials walking on a football field with sunglasses and seeing-eye dogs and a hashtag of the Sun Belt Conference. (This seems like way too long of an explanation to get to the tweet). Anyway — “My man ⁦⁦@Lane_Kiffin I’m for hire!! Although to be completely transparent I have aN interview with Larry Scott’s office on Monday… so hmu quick if you’re interested!” The punch line to the story is that Kiffin was fined $5,000 by the league for the tweet on Sunday.

18. We had a real strange deal trying to listen to playlists on my phone during this trip (we could only play the 2,000-plus songs alphabetically and because a lot of them are Kelsey’s the boys made fun of my vast Justin Bieber collection) and the Sirius didn’t work out, but I did take the time in the press box Saturday to work on your playlist:

• “I’ll Fly Away” by The Lower Lights.

• “Van Horn” by Saint Motel.

• “Blame” by Victoria Bigelow.

• “Homesick” by Declan J Donovan.

• And for a really old one (almost as old as I am), “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans.

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

24 COMMENTS

  1. Bad calls are part of sports. gator fans have seen them both ways. You can’t dwell on them for more than a day. Remember Nembs in the SEC tournament trying to get off a game-tying 3 point shot at the end of regulation. It was assault and battery, but never called, so he never got the chance to hit 3 free throws. Part of the game. End of story. Expect good–and bad–calls at the cocktail party. The calls depend upon your point of view. PS: Every college team runs the pick play. Sometimes it’s called offensive interference and sometimes there is no call.

  2. Well, I guess I’m one of those hypocritical “fans” (sounds like something stirring in the bottom of the toilet bowl that ought not be moving) for having the temerity to actually think that not only was Muschamp’s behavior during and after the game atrocious, but him “taking it to the highest levels of the SEC” the next day a little silly as well.

    Naw…..he’s still a whiner until “he gets over it”.

  3. Have you ever tried to get your work done in, let’s say, an airport terminal when there’s a baby crying and you think to yourself, “Why don’t they change that baby’s diaper so it will stop crying and I can finish my work?”
    That is the effect that Muschamp is having on his players, who should be focused on UT(A team that they could easily lose to.) He is doing a very good job of showing his players how to turn one loss into two losses.

  4. Regarding punt returns, under Mac and Muschamp, our returners usually let the ball hit the ground, and too often they would bounce and roll 10-15 yards closer to the Gators’ own goal line. I don’t care if Freddie Swain returns it or not, I’m happy no to lose those extra yards. Btw, have you guys noticed how sure-handed Swain is? He has perfect form, and I don’t recall ever seeing him have so much as a bobble on any catch. In that regard, he’s an overlooked weapon.

  5. If it’s a Back Nine day, that must mean it’s time for the never-anticipated, always-elucidated PVBGator Threesome! (Named in honor of the three-hole muni courses your humble correspondent played as a kid, of course — minds out of the gutter, people!) Here we go!

    1. What do Tennessee fans do after they win a game? They turn off the Playstation!

    2. With Tua down, is anyone in Tuscaloosa daring to question why smooth-talking Nick Saban was NOT able to hang onto the guy who will be wearing a OK Sooners cap at the Heisman ceremony in December? I’m guessing the Alabama boosters who paid for Hurts to go there in the first place are not too happy. JK, JK, we all know that no pay-for-play exists in college football!

    3. I may be in the minority but I’m still really leery of Missouri and Georgia, two teams that beat us by combined margins of 50 and 54 points, respectively, the past two years. Missouri gifted the game to Vandy — missed field goals, INT in the end zone, a dozen or so penalties. The Tigers still have only one loss in the SEC, they do control their own destiny and they have us at home, where they’ve played at a high level. That said, the probability that they beat both us and Georgia and go on to win the East is lower than a snail’s bladder (hey, it was Pat who introduced this week’s urea-based anatomy theme). And speaking of repositories of human waste, Georgia is pretty simple — pressure Fromm and we’ll handle them. Here’s hoping Greenard and Zuniga are back for that. If not, let’s hope Fromm flunks out of UGA’s mandatory tobacco-spitting and banjo-playing courses and gets booted off the team before the big game rolls around.

    Bonus: Pat, please, Ron Gant’s momentum CLEARLY drove him into Hrbek and took them both off the bag. If Gant had slid into first base, this wouldn’t be festering in your memory nearly three decades later.

    And yes, Go Gators!

    • It would be foolish to minimize the challenge UGA and Mizzou present the Gators. Getting through the next THREE games unscathed will be a challenge. And don’t laugh at Vandy. I know Mizzou fans aren’t… any more!

      That said, the difference between the Gators of the past two seasons and this Gator edition is their passing game. The past two seasons, UGA and Mizzou could comfortably put 8 or 9 really good defenders in the box, shut down the Gator running game and dare Franks to beat them with his vaunted “arm and athleticism.” Franks FAILED spectacularly and the UGA and Mizzou offenses wore down the Gator D and turned those games into laughers.

      If UGA and Mizzou put 8 or 9 in the box this season, Trask and his stable of receivers will carve them up like Thanksgiving turkeys. That difference will give the Gator D and running game a fighting chance.

      So, regardless of how they ultimately turn out, these will be very different UGA and Mizzou games.

        • Don’t underestimate the psychological effect on defensive players in 2017 and 2018 of falling behind a couple of TD’s in one of those late season games. By that point in those seasons, every player on the D understood that once they were down 2 TD’s, the O was INCAPABLE of bailing them out. So, what was the point of continuing to give max effort?

          Good coaches are master psychologists. It’s part of their DNA to keep their players believing they have a chance to win, no matter how late in the game. BUT, for the coach’s appeal to be believable, there have to be relevant examples they can point to.

          This season, CDM can point to the 4th quarter offensive performances at UK and USCe to exhort his defensive players to “not let go of the rope!”

  6. PHONY? Coach Swinney has very strong values and demonstrates them with his actions. To wit:
    -Gave up a huge chunk of his pay in order to hire and keep top assistant coaches, back when the pie was a lot smaller. How many other HC’s have done that?
    -Is not the least bit intimidated by Alabama or Nick Saban, and his players have obviously followed his lead.
    -Has absolutely curb stomped FSU and Miami for the last few years.
    -Is a crazy good recruiter.
    WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?

    • Dabo is one of the few major college coaches who is not ashamed of being a Christian, and lives out those values daily. So was Mark Richt for that matter.

      Which before anybody gets upset and starts to value signal, of course Muslims, Hindus, Jews and a host of other men and women and in-between have fine day to day values and live them out as well. But to see a Christian man like him not be in hull protective defilade in the current operating and cultural environment is truly astonishing. Curb stompin’ FSU and Miami don’t hurt none either.

      • Having to look up “hull protective defilade”, I now feel much more knowledgeable. Often I defend Pat, but in this instance, I think he’s off base.

        I think it stems from the fact that most in modern society have a basic lack of understanding regarding true Christianity. They seem to think that if a person commits a “sin”, i.e., a behavior deemed wrong by popular culture, it means that person isn’t a true Christian. Such folks don’t understand there are only two kinds of people in the world: sinners and sinners saved by grace, aka Christians. If Dabo commits a sin every now and then, it doesn’t mean he’s not a Christian; it just means he’s not perfect.

  7. Hey, I just saw on my ESPN app that Scott Stricklin is trying to gin up some home-and-home with other Power 5 conferences including the PAC-12. Great! How about a home-at-home with either Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, or Washington State (Maybe not, Martin Stadium only holds about 33,000 plus Pullman may not be at the end of the Earth, but you can see it from there.) for us lonely Gators up here in the great Northwest. Moreover, Seattle has a pretty good Gator Club.

  8. On rare occasions I actually know one of the songs on Pat’s playlist, and it’s almost always the “oldie”. Never heard of Jay and the Americans, but I gave it a listen. For my money, I much prefer the 1977 “country-ized” cover by Johnny Duncan and Janie Fricke.

    • You never heard of Jay and the Americans, Joe. Have you been in hull defilade all your life or sumpin? YouTube “Cara Mia Why” from 1965, turn the volume up, and if you’re not blowin’ snot bubbles before your eardrums burst, you ain’t no Amurican at all. Right up there with that great Beach music classic, “Here Come De Judge” by Little Shorty Long in 1968, or “Skinny Legs and All” by that great Soul crooner, Joe Tex. Jeesh!

      • Well, 6, I’m more of a country and bluegrass music kinda guy, but I do like most types of music. I was three years old in ’65 and five in ’68, so I don’t remember much from those years. If I didn’t see it in a Time-Life or K-Tel music commercial, I’m probably not familiar with it.

        • I can’t name a country song in the last 15 or more years, Joe — just don’t hear it anymore. But axe me about the 50s to the 90s or thereabouts, or Bob Wills, and I’m your huckleberry! Not surprising considered that my favs are anything Sinatra and anything ZZ Top. How’s that for hip & happenin’?

          • That’s the cat’s meow, my friend. I suppose as every generation ages, they begin to criticize the latest stars in their favorite genre for straying too far from tradition. That happened for me with country music in the last 5 – 10 years. It’s not necessarily bad music, but in my mind, it just ain’t country!