Dooley: Come on, Gators have an identity

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks sets to throw a pass in the first half against Michigan on Saturday in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Every sports column should come with a caveat, a disclaimer that says that what we are writing about really, really matters, but only in the small speck of life that is sports entertainment.

As we await a killer hurricane in lines for gas and wonder if we have enough water, we are fortunate that we have the common sense to understand that a win or a loss, a pick-six or a sack-six, a nasty tweet or an angry talk radio call, they are all just peripheral parts of life.

They are going to play a college football game in The Swamp on Saturday. There’s no telling how many people will be in the stands and, to be honest, it doesn’t matter. Attendance will be less of a referendum on Florida’s offense than it will be on Florida’s geography.

But this is a sport column and rather than continue to be sanctimonious, this is as good a time as any to shift gears and talk about the favorite topic of the last few days, the one that has so many members of the Gator Nation chewing nails and spitting out darts.

The mighty Gators have played all of one football game and already there are fans looking for the escape hatches. Ask the guy in line in front of you what the answer is and he might reach into his shirt pocket and pull out a bunch of pink slips.

Saturday in Arlington, Texas, was ugly, except for the lovely press box dessert spread. If Florida’s offense against Michigan were a scented candle, it would have been a sulphur, litter box and skunk juice milkshake.

Last week, Jim McElwain said he didn’t have the tape from the Citrus Bowl loss two years prior against Michigan because he “probably threw up all over it.”

And then a less-experienced Wolverines team made what was supposed to be his best Florida team queasy all over again.

But let’s put that loss to bed and think about where this Florida football team was going in the future. And let’s just pray we all have a future.

It is only one game, but it is a track record. I’m not going to bore you with stats about how bad Florida’s offense has been since Tim Tebow left or how few offensive touchdowns the Gators have scored since the first half of last year’s Tennessee game (it’s 13 in 21 halves of football).

You don’t need a roadmap to know how to get across the street and you don’t need any more stats to show you what you have been seeing for 29 games.

But I am also here to say that it’s a little early to be driving to the games with a white towel flapping from your car window.

There is a lot of football to be played. Before we judge a season, let it unfold. The Gators lost to a team that is way better than I thought it was on a neutral site with the stink of selfish suspensions still on their clothes.

What is most disturbing, however, is that Florida needs to call LifeLock.

Because this program’s identity has been stolen.

Seriously, if I ask you how you would describe the Florida offensive philosophy under McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, what would you say?

And no cursing.

There is no identity unless you count punting.

McElwain has never been afraid to go for fourth downs, but you would hardly call him a riverboat gambler because of the way this offense operates on the other three downs.

I’m still waiting on that identity question.

I said no cursing.

The head coach at Florida doesn’t want or need my advice and none of his predecessors have ever asked for it either. But he’s going to get it anyway.

Be aggressive.

Be unpredictable.

Quit being easy to defend.

Let your hair down and let her fly.

Pick a quarterback and stick with him.

And pick an identity.

If you can’t have your way with Northern Colorado, I’m not sure you get it. I don’t want to hear the excuse about getting up early for a noon game. The other team is playing at 10 a.m. their time and probably will ask for a running clock so they can make sure they get ahead of Irma.

Have some fun Saturday, boys. Remember, you’re just entertainment,

Try to be entertaining.

It’s an identity that has worked before.

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

23 COMMENTS

  1. Have we all been spoiled by SOS and Meyer, and don’t seem to have any expectations that good can still happen with this team. Maybe, but running an Alabama like offense and the great lines they had and have is what it takes to run the same plays. We are much different and must open it up to have a chance to keep opposing defenses guessing. If our opponents dig in knowing what’s coming, forget it!

  2. Totally agree with those things have to do Pat, but the main problem isn’t so much needing an identity, we need an OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR that knows what he’s doing.

    I said this way back when Coach Mac was hired and then brought in Nussmeier as OC… it was a bad hire and it would end up biting us in the rear end. Enter ANOTHER blow-out loss for UF, 7 out of 8 of our losses have been by blow-out, primarily because the offense could not even generate a score or a first down. (Yes, UT last year was a blow out. We got beat 31-7 in the second half).

    Even the most obvious novice to football sees the problem and I believe you have eluded to it too…. offensive coordinator. Nussmeier in Coach Mac’s kryptonite, period. He neededto go after the Michigan loss, but now Mac won’t let him go. Nuss cannot adjust, he cannt read defenses, he cannot be unpredictable. He’s too scripted.

    I for one expect more blow out losses this season unless something changes, but with Nuss, it won’t, because a leopard cannot change it’s spots.

    Gator Nation is tired of this mediocrity, and AD Scott Stricklin needs to step in and put an end to it if Mac won’t.

    • You are soooo right on. Its so obvious what the problem is & has been !!!! No offense for going on year 3 with this staff !!!! If Mac is gonna pull a “Les Miles” be stubborn & not make the need change guess he is willing to loose his job… So very stupid !!!!! Time for the “powers at be” to fix this mess…..

  3. Yes, thank heavens, try to stop spraying the sanctimony!!

    We can all go to multiple sources for hurricane & misery news, and don’t need sportswriter insights. Please stick to your schtick, and drop the “it’s only a game” handwringing.

    Let’s face it, at least we have Hurricane Irma to distract us from Permanent Depression Nussmeier.

  4. Throw it 40 times. Screens, slants, down the field, crossing patterns at two levels. Run some delay draws to keep Ds guessing. Reverses, double reverses, reverses with a pass, jet sweeps…..HAVE SOME FUN!!! Please can we attack on offense again.

  5. Just curious…….,besides the fact that Gators QB and D-line aren’t out for the game, what’s the difference between this years hurricane scenario and last year’s? I guess it could be that opponent isn’t quite the same???

    • Because Irma is approximately 2 days behind the pace that Matthew was on last year (in terms of which day of week it’s expected to make landfall in Florida). By Thursday evening last year Matthew was already north of Miami. Thursday evening this year and Irma is still south of the Turks & Caicos, almost 700 miles away from Miami. Moving at 16 mph Irma is still 44 hours behind Matthew’s pace.

      Nice try, Troll.

  6. I understand what you are trying to say, are we a fun and gun offense? A spread, run first, what? There is not leadership to get in the o-lines face and say block for me damit…. I did not see anyone really helping the rb up or qb up after a play. I don’t believe the players believe in what the are doing to be honest. They need leadership on the field. Now let’s go be a sling it around or run it up your throat team. One note is when a running play is called the rb sets deep behind the qb in the pistol.

  7. I can’t believe anyone thought things would be different this year. How could it change…you can’t expect to keep doing the same thing day in and day out and then expect a different result. There is a real possibility of not winning a single SEC game.

  8. If McElwain is going to keep Nussmeier as his OC, and it appears he is, then I have one suggestion for McElwain; get Nussmeier off the sidelines and up in the booth so he can better see, and hopefully react appropriately (not sure he can do that from anywhere yet) to what opposing defenses are doing. He certainly is not seeing or doing any of that from his sideline position. I realize he is also the QB coach, but kick his butt upstairs starting Saturday and keep him there. Better yet, kick Nussmeier out the OC door and just let him coach the QBs. And then ask Spurrier to take over the play calling for this team if you will not, coach McElwain. It is my wish that Nussmeier suddenly becomes an aggressive play call with imagination that adjusts to what opponents are doing defensively. But, then again, it is my wish that hurricane Irma just suddenly disappears from the Atlantic Ocean. One and the other likely has the same chance of happening.

  9. Fact is these guys have no idea how to run a program. It’s NOT going to change under this staff, period! The only hope we have is for Mac to fire Nuss and bring in a true offensive guru, if not i would fire them both and start over once again. Anyone who thinks they can turn this train wreck around is fooling yourself.

  10. I watched lots of college games and highlights this past weekend. No other team I saw play a full game or just highlights looked like the gators looked on offense. If everyone else can field a decent offense with freshmen, redshirt freshmen etc, then why can’t Florida. There isn’t that much difference in the talent and skills of Florida players as players at other schools. It is the system they are in and the coaching. I heard the commentator say during the VT/UWV game that Justin Fuentes says he now has the players to run the offense that he ran with Andy Dalton at TCU. He said Fuentes says he tried that offense at Memphis with Paxton Lynch but it didn’t work with the personnel he had, so he devised an offensive scheme that did. Florida’s players are not suited for the offense that is being run. The quarterback needs to be in the shotgun and get the plays off quickly with some up tempo stuff. It reminds me of years ago when SOS didn’t like the shotgun but he was eventually forced to start using it and it took his offense to another level although he did have an offense to start with. Right now, Florida does not.

  11. The distressing thing about Florida football is this is the third year of the current staff and their appears to be no adjustment in offensive philosophy. The Alabama philosophy doesn’t work because of a lack of personnel to run it. Winning coaches adapt to their personnel. Florida coaches keep trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Same old stale plays with no innovative imagination. No draw plays. No screens to slow the rush. Limited use of the tight end. I could go on and on but why ?

  12. I read that Michigan showed 5 different defensive sets over the first 5 plays. You can counter that if you run a “fast break” or “up tempo” offense, which keeps the defense from having time to change out their personnel over the course of a drive. The downside to that type of offense is that it risks our defense being out on the field for too many plays over the course of the game, but with our current offense most likely to lead the nation in 3 and outs, there is no downside to trying it. It does take imagination and discipline to run it effectively, so that may not be an option for this coaching staff. Just a suggestion from an old Gator.