It wasn’t perfect. There was a running game that went nowhere and a fake punt that was a really bad idea and a defense that seemed to have mistakenly taken melatonin at the start of the game.
But other than that, it was darn close
The end of the third quarter. (I especially liked the crowd continuing to sing “I Won’t Back Down” a cappella while Evan McPherson drilled a field goal to make it 40-17).
The moments that you will take home with mental snapshots.
The ghost of Willie Taggart showing up for 13 penalties against the visitors, many at crucial times.
The win to close out a perfect season at home.
Beating FSU and clearly being the much better team.
The way they sent out these seniors.
“You love to beat the Semis like that and then Miami to start the year,” UF coach Dan Mullen said, using a Steve Spurrier-ism for the FSU nickname.
Pretty darn close to a perfect night.
There was nobody at the end of this Florida-FSU game running around the field with an alligator head as there had been the last four times the Seminoles had come to Gainesville.
That, in itself, should be enough.
Instead, this team once again took care of business with a steely-eyed quarterback and a running game that really isn’t a running game but ends up being effective. The short throws to the perimeter were turned into long plays and even touchdowns.
This night, this near perfect night, was about the four seniors receivers more than anything.
Certainly, all of the seniors who helped get Florida back to this point where consecutive 10-win seasons feel like a beginning more than like the finish of something deserved for their final game in The Swamp to be like this.
“It’s special,” Mullen said. “They played hard for the Gators. They came here to be Gators.”
Especially those receivers.
A transfer, two guys who feel like they have been here forever and the guy who kind of epitomizes the buy-in for Mullen. Tyrie Cleveland got one of the biggest cheers when the seniors were introduced Saturday night. Maybe it was because they’ll never forget the Heave To Cleve against Tennessee.
Or maybe it was because a guy who hasn’t really been a big part of the offense this season still became a demon on special teams. That’s buying in to the max.
And he was rewarded on this night along with those other senior receivers. Their linescore told everything you needed to know about this game, but it barely touched the surface of what they have meant to this program.
Let’s get those stats out of the way.
Cleveland, Freddie Swain, Van Jefferson and Josh Hammond combined against FSU for this:
18 catches, 219 yards and four touchdowns.
Some of it was because of what FSU was giving Florida. The bubble screens were there all night and worked in lieu of a running game. Some of it was to feed the seniors who have done so much.
But most of it was that these guys are and have been really good this year.
So has the rest of this team.
Not good enough to be in the College Football Playoff. But there aren’t many of them (four to be exact; I looked it up).
The guys that will be back have this to build on. The guys who won’t will always have this night to remember.
The night they dominated with older guys, but still showed what the younger guys are capable of.
Naw, it wasn’t perfect.
There was that one 50-yard run, the one Cam Akers seems to have once a game. There were eight third downs that Florida didn’t convert (OK, now I’m getting greedy because UF was 8-of-16).
There was that one time they couldn’t punch it in from the shadow of the goal line.
And did I mention the fake punt?
But it was a first-rate butt-kicking by a team that owns the state and the state championship (Power Five teams only; sorry, it’s the world we live in.)
Florida is 10-2 and will find out its bowl destination in a week.
“Hopefully a New Year’s Six bowl, maybe more,” Mullen said. “Baylor beat a team with six wins and jumped five spots. That’s what we just did.”
And there is this — the other two teams that used to be big shots in the state are now 12-12 heading to the Weedeater Bowl or wherever else they send .500 teams.
“You always want to beat your neighbor,” Mullen said.
And I’m guessing for Gator fans on this night, it felt pretty perfect.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.