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.
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.
THROW IT! HE’S WIDE OPEN!”
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.
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.