Dooley: Gators stay course, make needed plays

South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski, bottom, fumbles the ball after being sacked by Florida's Zachary Carter in the second half Saturday in Columbia, S.C. Defensive tackle Kyree Campbell recovered for UF. [Mic Smith/Associated Press]

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As they shuffled into the visiting locker room and out of the raindrops after the game, Florida’s football players grabbed pizza slices and bottled waters and took warm slaps on their shoulder pads.

This wasn’t a wild and crazy celebration, more like the end of a long business trip. And they made the sale.

These were guys who were punched in the mouth early, spit the blood into a bucket and slammed their mouthpieces back in to go to work.

“We’re never going to panic no matter the situation,” quarterback Kyle Trask said. “We’re always going to make the plays we have to make.”

 It was Trask, whose legend seems to have no ceiling, starting slowly as if the sloppy conditions and wet ball were his Kryptonite. Not to mention guys not being on the same page.

Trask got his receivers together and told them, “Come on, now. This isn’t us.”

There had been a comedy of errors early, but nobody was laughing on the East sideline. 

Least of all the head coach.

“Guys were missing signals. Guys were running the wrong way, running one play and Kyle was calling another,” Dan Mullen said. “We were all over the place. That’s kind of annoying.”

Maybe it was the light rain that was off and on through the game (to quote Lieutenant Dan, “You call that a storm?!?!”)

More likely, it was just that these guys were a little bit mentally worn down after the last two weeks. 

Mullen saw it in practice. His guys were trying hard, but the focus was not quite where it needed to be. As the day began, he had admitted to thinking to himself, “Maybe we’re not going to handle the adversity.”

I’m sure there was also this fleeting thought — “OK, this is last year’s Missouri game all over again, huh?” 

But this team would not let one loss become two. The Gators got a little help from the officials (we don’t even need to rewatch the game to give out their grade) and a lot of help from South Carolina’s uneven playcalling. 

(Are you going to go Will Muschamp Conservative or Steve Spurrier take a bunch of chances on deep balls? Make up your mind.)

But in the end, Florida won because the Gators stuck with a plan and continued to ride their quarterback. He had only 200 yards Saturday, but four touchdown passes. 

“He was trying to do too much early,” Mullen said.

By the end of the game, he was shushing what was left of a soggy crowd and a student section that got so fed up with the officiating the youngsters started throwing towels onto the field. 

I can only assume the “readers” came next.

You remember Feleipe Franks shushing the crowd last year against South Carolina, but those were his own fans. This was more of a “came, saw, kicked some butt” kind of a shush.

“I had to do one for Franks right there,” Trask said.

There was a lot that did not go right for Florida on Saturday. South Carolina showed something that I suspected last week — that the loss of Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga hurts Florida as much in the rushing game as the passing game.

“They attacked those spots,” Mullen said. 

There was also this — a bunch of young guys making big plays.

The biggest might have been the 75-yard run by Dameon Pierce. Remember that the Gamecocks had just forced an interception on the second play of the second half and scored on a third-and-11 draw play from the UF 21.

I thought huge at that point,” Mullen said of the Pierce run that probably included a Florida false start. “We come out in the second half, we’re like, all right, we’re getting the ball, tie game, we’re in good position. We’re like, we don’t want it, you take it, and then they score on a third down and long and it’s kind of like, holy mackerel!

“I think that brought some juice and life to this team, just to avoid the negative start to the second half. It kind of changed it around immediately.”

From that point on, Trask started making better, more efficient throws and the Gators started finding the end zone. First, Freddie Swain on an acrobatic catch.

Then Kyle Pitts and Trevon Grimes on a couple of shorties.

And just like that, the boys could relax and start thinking about the future instead of the present. 

“They made the plays at the end,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said, “and we didn’t.”

Funny how the game works out that way.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at



  1. Last year’s Mizzou game did come to mind when the Chump Chickens took the lead again on that 3rd down draw after the Trask interception in the 3rd quarter. Ten LONG years of offensive futility and losing critical games to inferior teams came flooding back… like a recurring nightmare!

    That was the critical moment the 2019 Gators chose to serve notice they will NOT LOSE to inferior opponents like the 2018 team did, even after playing back-to-back top 10 teams, even missing key injured players, even on the road, even in the rain. This come-back W, along with the come-back W at Kentucky back in September, are clear evidence that the Florida Gators under CDM are developing the champion’s mindset. Never give up, never give in, never say die!

    BTW, a big part of that positive Gator team development is FINALLY finding a QB that can throw ALL the passes, even in the rain. He ALSO understands the difference between shushing OPPOSING fans and shushing HIS OWN!!! 😉

    GO GATORS!!!

        • You’ve got that right Sambizle as far as Sly being a good poster, which denotes an eye for recognizing talent when you see it ….. but you seem to have an eye for ignoring talent just as well with your veiled criticism of StL, who happens to be one of the best and most consistent football minds on here for a long time, “brother”. 🐊🐊🐊🐊

          • Thank you 6! Please see my response below to Sly.

            America has a serious cultural problem that needs fixing now, or it will destroy any semblance we have of a meritocracy and lead to nothing but mediocrity everywhere we look. NOT a pretty vision of the future! 😱

      • Normally, I would agree with you wholeheartedly Sly, but we don’t live in “normal times.” We’re currently living through the wise old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

        Please read my other post under Graham Hall’s Notebook article about the USCe game yesterday. It better explains what I believe we’re up against in today’s “woke” culture and how it has potentially negative consequences for Gator football beyond 2019 IF Gator players aren’t CLEARLY convinced about who’s best for the team at the QB position next season and why.

  2. Our O-Line was able to provide enough protection for Trask (most of the time) to enable the Gator offense to move the ball and score. Perhaps in the 2nd half (and probably more like the 4th quarter), our O-line stamina was outlasting South Carolina’s vaunted D-line. While our run game did improve somewhat, half of the 150+ rushing yards came one on play (Pierce). Quite frankly, I thought our wide receiver was holding, but the refs ruled otherwise – great run (it really sparked our offense)! I concur with the statement about the linebackers being out of position on a number of plays, allowing big runs by the Gamecocks. That being said, the Gators performed good enough overall to take the WIN – GO GATORS, BEAT GEORGIA!!!

  3. Man the message boards on SDS are talking about nothing but the refs and how UF was gifted this game. I kind of like. No one is praising this team. They will have to earn every bit of love they get. No rat poison I guess. Big win in the rain against a team that had a pulse. Thought Carter played his best game at UF getting that strip sack. Reese continues to be everywhere on the field. Great to see Copeland getting some balls. Hoping that the injuries were minor and folks can come back in two weeks. We will get UGA’s best shot and their OL concerns me. Should be a great match-up. CDM will have us ready to play.

  4. As far as the refs, I saw several holds on SC that didn’t get called in the first half, one of them on the first touchdown score where our D-lineman was about to sack their quarterback on third down. I saw a couple of pass interference penalties against Sc that didn’t get called as well. It works both ways and SC fans need to get their eyes checked. UF won fair and square. If we got all of our calls, the offense would have scored more points and SC doesn’t get the first touchdown.

    I liked the overall offensive performance, on the road, in the rain. Defensively we were ok but still need improvement. If we are 100% for GA, and we bring it, we will win comfortably. Go Gators!

    • Great post OC. Plenty of missed calls. In my opinion (most money in all the conferences) SEC has the worst refs in all sports(pros included) with SEC Basketball being a REAL close second. %90 of the time in the second half of a Bball game if a team is up regardless of if the refs called the game tight or lose the first half they do an about face and make the game close. I would rather it be like a pickup game with no refs and the players calling their own fouls. Hahahahahahaha

  5. I find it interesting on that the broadcasters during (and after the game on the SEC channel) talked about the “potential hold” on Cleveland on the long run but nobody mentioned that during the replay, where they are running side by side, the defender clearly has a hold of Cleveland by the facemask.

    • Yeah brother I forgot to mention that earlier also. Clear as day offsetting penalties if anything (minus the false start Hahahahahahaha.) But yeah Cleveland was also held in the end zone on the Hammond ilegal block. Worst refs ever but I will say this in previous years it always seemed the Gatas, were charged with more penalties than the opponents. So I am happy to see that.

  6. It’s not a question of which team faced more adversity, it’s about how they responded. Each team mirrored their coaches leadership during the game. The Gators rose above and dominated the 4th quarter, while SC melted like a Birthday cake in the rain. Let’s hope the rest of the SEC East keep hiring DCs as HCs.

      • I completely agree that Saban went from DC to HC very successfully, but my point here is that Muschamp, Smart, and Pruitt are not Saban and that is to our great advantage. While those three are busy throwing tantrums, Coach Mullin is outcoaching them. I believe that the balance of power in the East and eventually, recruits, will favor Florida because we have the best coach.

        • On the theory of who has the better HBC, I agree with you, but CDM still must beat Smart’s better recruits on the field in order to turn our theory into reality. CDM has an excellent opportunity to do it in two weeks. BUT as the old joke goes, there’s a world of difference between “theory” and “reality.”

          • All those 5* recuits with a few 8*s thrown in for good measure……

            If Dabo could do it while waiting on them, so can CDM. But as you say, we’ll see or not. Until then, we’ve got to actually play the game to find out.

          • Back in the dog days of summer, we all discussed what sort of Gator team we’d have this season and reached a general consensus that IF they were 7-1 by the time they faced the ugly dawgs in the Cocktail Party, we’d be satisfied. THAT record would set up a valid test for how much progress CDM and his staff have made in taking the Gators back to the top of the mountain.

            Well, guess what? Here we are! Two more weeks to get ready for show-and-tell and I have faith the Gators have a very good story to tell. Whatever happens, this UGA game will NOT turn out the same way the last one did and that will speak well for CDM’s coaching prowess.

  7. Love the post STL!!! I’m living in Turkey these days, and CBS(aholes even block VPNs,) however it brings me back to high school and college days when I always had Mick Hubert on. Two things helped me this year, 1 week before the season started ESPNPLAYER, showed up, now all ESPN, ABC and SEC Network(love their pregame show, however I miss the Gatas Girl (can’t think of her name right now) the country boy that fills in for her is very nice and happy dude. But I would much rather have her back.

    • Are you saying Turkey blocks VPNs or CBS does? I’m in Scotland and use a VPN to watch CBS games, but you still have to pay for their service (like the ESPN player). They just started the pay for service at the end of last year. The only bad thing about CBS is I don’t think there is a way to watch the games later, and in my old age I’m not willing to stay up all night to watch a game unless it is a championship game (I got up to watch UF’s 2006 destruction of Ohio State at 0200 am in Iraq, and boy was that worth it). ESPN games on late I get up the next morning and watch them first thing while avoiding opening any web site that will show the scores.

      • I sleep (if I can fall asleep, I suck at anything sleep, staying asleep) after watching SEC Nation and Game Day, but then I wake up at 1:45 or 2:45 depending on a 7:30 or 8 pm start. AND I have epilepsy so I am risking my health big time to do so ESPECIALLY in a foreign country. After a seizure, I am out of my mind (run around outside with no clothes, drive from Tampa to St Pete without knowing until the next day I wake in the hospital after the cops throwing me to the ground HAHAHAHAHAH) sometimes others I just sleep for 2 days. Can you tell I love my Gatas?

        • How’s the health care in Turkey? I imagine it’s not encumbered with many of the ills our system faces, and I know a lot of their providers train in Great Britain and even in Russia, I’m just curious how that translates on the ground though to someone with a chronic but controllable condition like that. Private message me if you’d like.

          • The premium was $90 for the whole year (my current US/Blue Cross Blue Shield Florida premium is $6500 hahahahahahahhaha unbelievable). I can get my meds here the cost is not bad without a prescription. I can still get my 3 months for the price of 2 months mailed from the US from my mother, so it’s cheaper. However I haven’t used my Turkish insurance yet on my drugs. (I think it’s %60off MSRP) and it wasn’t that bad without a prescription when I was out a couple months ago. I got a couple weeks of meds in Italy also.

            You hear from Americans that you have to wait in hospital lines forever, lucky for me I haven’t needed to in Turkey, although I went to an eye doctor out of the blue and it only took 15 mins to see the Dr. on a Sunday.

            But I was in the hospital in a small town in Spain and in Rome. Rome was indeed a loooooooooooooooooonnnnnnng and a horrible wait (8 hours I was there.) However in Spain, they walked me right in past the other people that were waiting, my lady at the time said that they let Americans in quicker because they want us to come back for tourism. Not sure if that is true.

  8. Good officiating and bad officiating are part of sports. South Carolina fans need to get that in their heads–and stop saying the refs handed this game to Florida. Gator fans have seen both sides of the officiating coin.