It seems like a long time ago. What was it, July? Kevin Sumlin’s team lost a game by one point at UCLA and everyone from a trustee to the team’s doggie mascot wanted him gone.
Tonight, he brings his somewhat-revitalized Texas A&M team into The Swamp against a coach who just lost a game by one point that he should have won, and Jim McElwain is facing the similar kind of blowback that a loss brings.
Sumlin has been able to turn a freshman quarterback in Kellen Mond into a weapon. Put it this way, there are only two SEC quarterbacks ranked in the top 10 in passing and top 21 in rushing in the league stats.
Mond is one. Jalen Hurts of Alabama is the other.
Meanwhile, here in a place where the only thing louder than last week’s tribute to Tom Petty is sports talk radio, Florida has struggled to make its redshirt freshman quarterback anything special.
Hence, the angst.
And the blame.
Because the Blame Game is in full force.
I’ll take “Teams Ranked in the 100s in Offense” for 400, Alex.
Forget buying a vowel, I want to buy a first down.
Name something that makes you want to throw a cat against a wall. She said, “Doug Nussmeier.” Survey says …
Let’s see what prizes we have for everyone who is playing the Blame Game. Oh, it’s Texas A&M at night in The Swamp.
Florida’s offense (or lack of it) is the common theme of the frustrated. This has been a problem, as everyone knows, since the Tim Tebow years. Three coaches, five offensive coordinators and a whole lot of nothing.
It was ugly when they have won, impossible to stomach when they have lost.
The Knucklehead Nine, the injuries, the quarterback who locks onto receivers, the inability of receivers to get open, the lack of creativity, the tight ends joining the Witness Protection Program … I could go on.
But it hasn’t been just an offensive offense.
Florida has not produced a turnover in three games. In the first two, the Gators had three pick-sixes, which accounted for three of their five touchdowns. Since then, we have seen dropped interceptions and an eerie failure to get one fumble recovery. Only three other teams in FBS have zero fumble recoveries this season.
So while holding a team to 17 points should have been enough to win last week, the defense hasn’t been helping the offense get short fields or easy scores. And third down conversions are limiting the number of plays the offense gets a chance to run.
Then there are special teams. Remember when Florida made things happen on special teams? Maybe what Florida needs is another Urban Meyer. Not the head coach, but the guy who took special teams as seriously as the other two phases of the game and made starters want to be on the field to block punts and block for kickoff returns.
There is a common theme to the failures at all three phases and that is a lack of aggressiveness.
Deep passes, blitzes, rushing the punter, they are all missing right now.
And, look, I get some of it. When you are down in numbers because of suspensions and injuries, you are going to be less likely to take chances.
There is no question McElwain and his staff have been hamstrung personnel-wise and it’s not going to be any better tonight. It has forced them to tighten up and try to win games in the fourth quarter.
That has worked three times, didn’t work twice.
But here’s the thing — Florida can’t play LSU again this season. That game is over, a bitter memory that feels like it is still hanging over the Gator Nation.
It needs to be flushed by the fans and coaches and especially the players.
Florida needs to have fun again and the best way to do that isn’t wearing new uniforms.
It’s by being aggressive in all three phases.
Go block a punt. I checked with the NCAA and it is legal. Run a reverse on a kickoff return. The traditional way isn’t working. Send a corner blitz. Throw deep on the first play of the game even if all it does is loosen things up.
Florida’s passivity is one of the reasons Gator fans are grumbling like they were all Nick Saban in a news conference.
Being stubborn has gotten Florida to this point. Cut it loose. I know that it’s more difficult when you are missing so many players, but you know that teams with personnel disadvantages search for ways to make things uncomfortable for their opponents all around college football.
It feels like the season is on the line tonight.
If you’re going to go down, at least go down swinging.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.