Thank goodness, it’s over.
It ended with a whimper on a perfect Saturday, as FSU won the race of snails. The sad Seminoles made fewer awful plays than the gloomy Gators and kept their desperate bowl hopes alive.
Florida, on the other hand, found a way to give up 38 points on a day it allowed 216 yards. I didn’t think that was possible.
But anything is possible with this collection of willing but hamstrung Gators. Once again, their quarterback self-destructed and this one was a doozy. In the final game of the season, Feleipe Franks showed that he has not grown as a decision-maker even a little bit and that the next Florida coach doesn’t have much to work with at the quarterback position.
“It’s a talented team,” UF interim head coach Randy Shannon said several times in the aftermath/carnage of the game.
Maybe. But not at the most important position.
Franks could have dropped his gifts in a bag and thrown tissue paper on top, but instead he bought the expensive paper and sealed each corner with tape and then finished them off with those swirling ribbons you make with the edge of the scissors.
“It’s hard to win games like that,” said receiver Josh Hammond.
It’s almost impossible to give up four turnovers, one for a TD and one that should have been a TD if not for one of the dumbest moves in the history of college football, and win.
Instead, these seniors and departing juniors leave without ever beating FSU. And Saturday, Florida lost a battle of attrition. Both teams were messes. Florida found a way to be more of a mess.
“It doesn’t matter what I say,” Franks said of the turnovers. “You’ll find a way to twist it around.”
I don’t think that performance needed any twisting or spinning.
Instead, the best thing about 3:31 p.m. Saturday was that it was the end of something that needed to be put out of its misery like a diseased cow bellowing in pain.
If you left the stadium feeling like Tim Robbins’ character in “Shawshank Redemption” after he dug out of prison, I get it.
Free at last.
No more play-action passes on third-and-long. No more second-down runs after first-down incompletions every … single … time. No more aversion to trick plays. No more uninspired special teams (one would hope). No more, well, what’s the point of telling you 100 things you already know.
Free at last.
“You can’t go back in time,” Franks said.
If you could, how far back would you go? Seven years? Three years? July 1?
But he’s right. You can’t go back. You can’t erase 4-7. You can’t unsee what you just saw. Franks said that one day he’ll look back and think, “I’m glad that happened to me.”
Anybody out there feel the same way?
Nope. The Gator Nation is embarrassed, frustrated and ready for some good news in a season of bad. What started with a major injury (Marcell Harris) and dissolved into the pit of misery (nine suspended players) and hurt like a double toothache (all of the injuries) ended with the smell of failure.
Saturday’s game was one more example of why Chip Kelly and all of his baggage were so tempting, why UF was willing to go so far outside the box and do something so un-Florida that not everybody in the building was on board.
Kelly was that big piece of brie sitting in the mouse trap that Florida struggled to resist. He chose to take a more comfortable route back into college football where the defenses are less ferocious and 9-3 gets people excited.
Still, it says something that there were as many people sighing in relief at the Kelly news as there were those sighing in despair.
Personally, I think they dodged a bullet and I’m not the only person who feels that way.
That may sound like sour Gator grapes, but Florida’s future will not be defined by who it didn’t get as by who becomes the next head Gator.
This game was supposed to be Florida’s version of a bowl game, but the truth is that Florida is in the middle of a huge bowl game right now. Finding a new coach IS Florida’s bowl game.
There are players here, just not enough.
There are tough, play-to-the-gun athletes here, just not enough.
The next guy is going to have a tall task ahead of him. Three things he is going to have to add to the mix — linebackers, wide receivers and quarterbacks.
Oh, and discipline. On and off the field.
It’s one thing to lose your place among the top football programs in the country. It’s another to be an embarrassment.
And at a place like Florida, the only thing more embarrassing than a four-win season is how this team got there.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.