Chips on shoulders lead to big rebound for Gators
Saturday’s Florida vs. Vanderbilt game was brought to you by chips. Not the salted snacks or the highway patrolmen or the ones you use to go all in.
This was about chips that live on shoulders and how Florida’s football players wore them like imaginary medals for the game.
If you talked to a player after the 56-0 spanking of Vanderbilt, they used the cliche like it came with their scholarships.
Florida needed chips to keep one loss from becoming two.
“We had to make sure we got our edge back,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.
Because a loss like last week’s to Georgia takes a bite out of your soul. It can gnaw at you like flesh-eating bacteria if you let it.
And Mullen knew all about it. He’d seen it a year before when the moping Gators were boat-raced by Missouri.
Not this year.
“We knew we had to come out and make a statement,” said receiver Trevon Grimes.
And Grimes made a huge statement with a stiff-arm that turned into a 66-yard touchdown pass play that really got the Gators and a larger-than-expected crowd for this nooner into the bounce-house loud mode.
This came after a frustrating first half that saw the Gators lead with a million yards to hardly any for the opponent and only 14-0 where it counted.
Two Kyle Trask interceptions were part of the frustration. So was a play we saw just last week that again went against the Gators and pushed Mullen to the brink of a frenzy.
His comment on getting a review going against him on what looked like a catch by Jacob Copeland?
“My wife would tell me it’s not really worth the money,” he said, alluding to a fine that would follow his real opinion. “Someone tell me the difference (to last week’s catch by Georgia that was not overturned). They looked pretty similar to me.”
But all of that had to be put in the rearview after halftime.
“I didn’t want (the first half) to lead to frustration,” he said.
And it did not. Instead, the Gators lined up their chips and rolled in the second half.
“We let a lot of people down last week,” said receiver Tyrie Cleveland. “We wanted to show we could still play to the Gator standard.”
This is about the time we insert the obvious caveat into this tale. Vandy isn’t very good. Check that, with their third different quarterback starting, Vanderbilt is awful.
Bad on offense, bad on defense is no way to go through life.
But there are plenty of Gator fans scarred by two things:
1. Vandy always seems to play Florida tough. OK, not always, but often enough to give you some anxious moments. Like last year.
2. Florida after its last three losses to Georgia had lost the next game by at least three touchdowns.
But this was different because it was Vandy and not just because it was Vandy but a bad Vandy.
At the same time, it said a lot about the 2019 Florida team that the Gators stay focused on the next game instead of reliving the last one. Mullen said the Gators had their best Monday practice of the year despite all of the social media noise that was rattling around in their brains.
This looked a lot more like the loose Gator teams we had seen since Kyle Trask took over than the uptight one that showed up in Jacksonville and was buried under an avalanche of mistakes.
That included a strange touchdown pass from Trask to Lamical Perine on an option play that turned into a chest pass over a defender.
“Whatever you gotta do to get it to him,” Trask said.
Yep, whatever it took to go all Taylor Swift and “Shake It Off” (don’t hate me for knowing that song) was the perfect antidote to the Bulldog Blues.
They knew the recipe.
“Just get back into the lab and work,” said tight end Kyle Pitts, “and work 10 times harder than you did last week.”
Sometimes that can be difficult through the tears.
And sometimes Vanderbilt shows up.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.