Dooley: Gators not quite good enough

Florida running back Lamical Perine stretches out for a gain Saturday against Texas A&M at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

As soon as the ball nestled into the arms of Texas A&M defender Tyrel Dodson, a tremendous roar went up from the corner of the end zone where Aggie fans were enjoying their first trip to The Swamp.

It was so loud it was almost startling.

And numbing.

And finishing.

See? It is still a big deal to beat the Florida Gators.

It’s apparently just not that difficult if you are a team from the SEC West.

The division is now 6-2 against Jim McElwain’s Florida teams and — more importantly — 2-0 this season and it’s an ugly 0-2 for these Gators and their throaty fans.

Think Freddy Krueger on a bad hair day.

The way the Gators have lost games they should have won on consecutive Saturdays makes it that much worse for a fan base that has left the ledge behind.

This is what the Gators are — 3-3 and lucky to be that and this close to being 5-1. They managed to lose a game they dominated statistically for a half and had a chance to cement late.

Because that’s what they have become.

Not quite good enough.

There was real drama in The Swamp when Texas A&M took the ball over with a little more than four minutes and the score 17-16 because we had just seen the reverse a week ago.

Except Florida doesn’t have a guy like Christian Kirk and because the Gators punted him the ball instead of angling it away like Johnny Townsend was supposed to (according to McElwain), they eventually lost the game.

Kirk set the Aggies up at the Florida 39 with a 43-yard punt return and it was only a matter of time until another Daniel LaCamera field goal would seal Florida’s fate and send the Gators into the bye week saying bye-bye to a bid to win the East for the third consecutive season.

But to understand how Florida lost another game it could have won, you have to go back to the only other two possessions the Gators had in the fourth quarter (sound familiar?) after Dre Massey came out of the Witness Protection Program to score the lead touchdown.

Up 17-13, three plays and a punt.

Up 17-16, three plays and a punt and that was after Malik Davis got eight yards on first down.

Third and one, run into the line, punt.

You can be angry at the head coach and you can be pulling your hair out over the offensive coordinator or you could be mad at a quarterback who clearly sees the field better when he’s running the ball than throwing it.

Or you can be mad that after the game your coach said this — “Third downs, we gotta stay on the field.”

You said that last week.

This is a team that plays hard, but playing hard isn’t always enough. There are clock management issues and vision issues and play-calling issues and, well, let Franks tell you.

“I could go on and on,” he said when asked about what went wrong.

And then he said this, “People are going to be out there talking and talking and trying to downgrade us. We’re going to be just fine.”

Much of that talking was going on at the game while Franks was looking downfield (or not looking down the field).

Let me do my best impression of those Gator fans at varying points of the third quarter.

Clears throat.


That’s the thing. Even when the coaches are getting receivers open (and it’s not that often), the quarterback isn’t seeing what they’re seeing in the Sunshine Seats.

How many times have we seen this? Or is it just a press box thing?

The frustration of the fan base is sure to spill over like a bubbling cauldron of venom and bile over the next two weeks. This feels like a lost season even though Florida lost by one point to a team that just beat a top-10 team (LSU over Auburn) and by two to a team that gave Alabama all it could handle last week.

But the point isn’t that they were right there.

The point is that they lost.

On consecutive weekends.

At home.

Nobody can possibly be surprised that a pair of SEC teams beat this depleted Florida team. But just like last week, it’s how they lost.

So here is my bye week list of things Florida needs to work on, whether it is in the darkened film room or on the practice field:

• Special teams.

• Creative play-calling 101.

• Did I mention special teams?

This is a team that is talented enough to be in these last two games despite a flawed quarterback and flawed play calls and a flawed roster that is missing so many players they probably didn’t need a third of the fancy-new uniforms Nike shipped to UF.

So close.

Right there.

“We gotta finish, we gotta execute,” said tackle Martez Ivey.

Because it’s pretty clear that the best Florida can hope for in every game is it coming down to the fourth quarter.

Too many issues for anything else.

Too many flaws to be dominant.

There are a lot of warts on this team. None of them are uglier than these losses.

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


  1. It’s beyond time for Mac to keep coaches who are friends but are not developing any remaining talent at QB,
    ST (Nord) and offense in general. Saban changed to a modified spread with Kiffin which is why Nuss had to move on. Why can’t Mac see that the offense he knows is pathetic and not working unless he has a play caller extraordinaire and a developer of QB’s which isn’t possible now. A WR coach/developer wouldn’t hurt either.
    We’re back to WTNY big time again!

  2. The luck has finally run out on McElweenie. You can say we were thisclose to going 5-1 but the reality is we are just as close as going 1-5 with lucky wins against UT and UK. That’s the problem with winning games with luck – it eventually runs out. We chose the wrong guy in the first place and then have doubled down the past two off seasons by rewarding mediocrity (winning a terrible SEC-East) with raises and extensions. In a time when we should be taking advantage of a faultering FSU squad and making some advancement in recruiting, we are instead in a race for the bottom.

    • Runaayjim. Florida currently has a top 10 recruiting class for 2018 and are one of the top classes already for 2019. So, I would say McElwain is making major advancements in recruiting. Hopefully, the guys he is recruiting now will not got out and use stolen credit cards. And, hopefully, not all his playmakers will get hurt just before key games. Clearly, McElwain is a good enough head coach to lead the Florida program. But just as clearly, Nussmeier is not good enough to be the offensive coordinator and QBs coach at UF. And Nord is not good enough as TEs and STs coach either. Time for changes at those two assistant coach positions. Not at the head coach position. Not yet.

  3. I trust Coach Mac. But maybe the next offensive coordinator (sorry coach Nuss, but somebody has to pay the price for this year and coach Mac forgot his wallet at home) will come from a place they have to be creative to win. At Alabama you have so much talent you just look like an offensive genius. Plus I think the defense/special teams gave up plays of 40 yards or more on the three consecutive field goal drives that beat us.

  4. It comes down to recruiting and Florida has not done that great the last couple years. I’ve seen them sign a bunch of project players that they have to mold into the position. We also have a ton of walk on players. The hardest hit is not recruiting on the defensive side of the ball. Talent breeds excellence and Mac needs to steal the blueprint from Alabama and practice against former players and NFL talent. Take all the help you can, more GA’s.
    I do think we can succeed with Mac just have to recruit better, Alabama is known for over recruiting and bringing the players in and cutting them if they don’t pan out. Our whole mentality needs to change to sustain success.
    On another note they play like they practice and you often see the lack of physically with our blockers, see them just get blown up at the point of attack,there iI also tale tale signs whenwe are rrunning or passing by Frank’s by the position of his feet and the way he hands the ball off during anaactual run vs PA. It’s all the small things that add up. Born at Shands and a Gator till the end. Go GATORS

  5. I keep thinking who is to blame for all this, nad it leads back to one person: Urban Meyer. Because Urb had a “heart attack” and wanted to spend more “quality time” with his family, we were left with Will Moosecrap, And because of Noosecrap we were left with Jim Chumplewain. This reminds me of when I attended this great and glorious University in the late 70″s and our Motto was “wait ti next year!” I am an old man. I don’t want to wait. Every time I listen to experts list what should be the top 5 football programs they all say the same: Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida, and Ohio State. So Why can’t we hire at top 5 coach? This is mind boggling to me.

  6. (1) The interception is the prefect example of what’s wrong with Franks…He looked down the field and HAD to see 3 white shirts and one slime shirt (3 is 2 more than 1) and threw the DANG BALL! On the left of his field of vision, was a WIDE OPEN single slime shirt guy!!! Why Why Why, couldn’t he think in an instant “hay 3 on 1, there has to be a wide open guy somewhere”…in this case, just slightly to the left, he had plenty of time…AAAAAaaaaaa, come on!
    (2) This is not a F team. IE. We are not getting stomped by TDs. With a little more inspirational coaching and LEADERSHIP, we should have beaten LSU and A&M. The second half play calling was not inspiring. PS: LSU is not as good as A&M.

    • I’ve figured out Dooley’s grading. You know how the overall grade usually isn’t really the average of all the above grades, well, without specifying the grade he’d give the coaching, I think it is reflected in the overall grade. In this week’s case, the coaching/play calling was so bad that it brought the average down to a solid F.

  7. Not quite good enough? That implies beating a mediocre team by one point would have been “good enough.” No, it would not. We have the resources to a dominant team. Mediocrity is not, and will never be, good enough.

    For most of the last decade our strategy seems to have been to have a terrific defense, and an offense just good enough to score one more point than the defense allows. Now neither side of the ball measures up. I get the logic that a win is a win, but this is also entertainment and a high-school caliber offense is not entertaining to watch. It’s painful. I deliberately made other plans for last night so I didn’t have to watch this disaster. Coach McCool is getting paid $4 million a year. We are not getting what we are paying for.

  8. Where is Chip Kelly.. Stricklin needs to make a call.. 3 consecutive runs , not going for it on fourth and short knowing the offense needs to stay on the field, punting directly to a great returner at end of the game, no leadership on the sidelines…

  9. I think it is important to not just put the spotlight on the coaching inefficiencies but also the athletic director. Why after UF had to pay a buyout to get him in the first place, did we just give Mac an extension and increase his buyout in the offseason? This is the state of Florida, do we really need to tie the hands of the program for a couple of recruits? Besides the SEC East title (see Muschamp), what about this coach and this program made him say we have to make sure we lock this guy up? Stricklin appears to want to raise and spend a whole lot of money. Keep rewarding mediocrity with the football program and see how that works.

  10. Webster’s Dictionary has recently inserted a new definition for the word “insanity”, “The act of watching an inept University of Florida offense and expecting it to improve each week.” With the recent recruiting success of the past class and the increasing potential for top 10 classes in 2018 and 2019, Mac has the opportunity to bring the Gators back into national championship picture. However, his exhibition of classic coaching stubbornness may derail his plans and push the Gators back into the mediocrity they have endured for almost 10 years. While the loss of Luke Del Rio may have cost the Gators the opportunity to win the LSU and Texas A&M games, his refusal to give Malik Zaire a series or two in each game is a prime example of his stubbornness. It is apparent to everyone else in the country that while Franks has a cannon for an arm, he does not have mental prowess to succeed in the SEC, at least not yet. I know Zaire probably cost himself a chance to play this week with his inappropriate and untimely tweet, but Coach Mac needs to swallow his pride and give him and the team a chance to win. Otherwise, I think he risks losing the team. Cece hinted at this potential locker room division in his post-game comments about how the defense has done enough to win. The Gators are on the precipice of greatness in 2019 and future years or staying in the swamp of mediocrity. If Matt Coral honors his commitment then he is likely the future or at the very least, competition for Franks. Zaire came here for one year. Give him a chance.

  11. There are so many issues. The coaches can’t seem to recruit the type of players they need but if they do, development doesn’t take place. They play calling looks desperate and certainly is ill advised. Good coaching can fix much of this but I think the coaching IS the problem. You can’t expect player psyche to remain up and strong if they are doing what the coaches tell them and the results are poor. We don’t know what is happening in practice, but as another poster suggested, they seem to play like they practice…no aggressiveness, no ferocity, loss of focus, and giving up several critical big plays. The fans no doubt will continue to lose their voice cheering for their team but eventually they will lose their voices calling for a change. Coaches need to take their charge to field a quality program seriously.

  12. Just a sad way, again, to lose a game at home in The Swamp. Electric fans and environment. Shockingly bad offensive coordinator, play calling, and QB play in it. When is this ever going to end? Never, I guess.

  13. Let’s face it we stink. McElwain who was supposed to be an offensive minded coach who utilizes his tight ends, appears to be neither. Nussmeir? That guy is such a bad offensive coordinator that he couldn’t coordinate a pee wee league offense to a win. And while I respect Randy Shannon, it appears that he is not a complete defensive coordinator as the other teams seem to make adjustments in the second half and he just can’t seem to adjust accordingly. I am truly embarrassed as to what this team has become, and before you tell me that we won the East the last two years, it was only because we were the best of the LEast and earned the right to be destroyed by Alabama.

  14. Mc Elwain was the best available the year. He was hired. A few,but a growing number of comments, about Mac are true. Nus’ plays are too complicated to work -everything must go right. I was 95% sure that we did not have enough play makers left to get into field goal position with 56 seconds left anyway.

    This team is so limited that we must go for 4th and one anywhere we are in any kind of field position. That forces us into a fourth and dumb if we don’t make it. A&M was good at stopping third and short.

    Those who said LSU was a bad team were proven wrong this week. Texas A&M was a good but not great team.

    Franks should be relieved like a pitcher who has bad outing. That would justify playing Zaire or the next man up. Zaire holds the ball too long. I,m not sure where I would make that substitution last night in HINDSIGHT!

    It looks like Franks could run and run well if plays were designed for that. WE HAVE enough QB depth to risk that at this point in the season. Zaire then Trask then any wildcat QB would follow. Since it is not baseball Franks could come back in.

    I agree with the run on 3rd and one, but maybe not up the middle. Texas A&M was good a stopping any kind of short situation, so perhaps a little judgment by hindsight. For what ever reason the last two games we can not make enough plays when it mattered. Murphy’s law is now happening to the Gators.

  15. I thought we’d need 30 to win, & it was just 20, WOW. Good job Gator D for playing hard all game, no let down there. The problem is Coach Mac’s O & lack of. The predictable playcalling by the OC & lack of playmakers is more evident each week. We may have to run the QB more just to get points. Can we please give Brandon Powell a break & put someone returning punts that wants to break one. Brandon is one of my favorites but he’s not comfortable returning punts(I CAN SEE THAT). Haven’t seen return teams this bad in many seasons. Poor coaching. Go Gators!

  16. JJg8tor

    “We may run the QB more just to get points.” Amen! the films say that. Three to Five designed plays for Franks running minimum. HE IS A GREAT athelete and fast. Zaire holds the ball to long but can also run. If this decision is made can’t second guess coaches if QB’s get hurt.

    Must not be predictable with QB runs. Treat QB run only as one thing that might work. Might. For awhile, that was A&M’s only play.

    Davis was our only hope and he got stopped.
    Here is the sad thing. Georgia will probably anticipate this and will diligently prepare for the designed QB run, even if our coaches don’t see its possibilities.

    I think Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant, and any coach with integrity would have handled Greer just like Mac.
    Mac tho, is making other mistakes. I don’t agree with all of the criticism about him, but this happens when the bottom falls out.

    Fair criticism that all our coaches cannot adjust to game situations.

  17. I do think Mac is a good coach to lead the Gators but he must prove that by firing Nuss and anyone else associated with the offense. I really am baffled that he hasnt yet as the statistics his last three years have shown incompetence. What could he be waiting on or what might he see that we dont? It shouldnt matter how he does behind closed doors, its not translating to the field, cant use any excuses.. you coach what you have