These college football rules have always applied

UF players run a punt block drill at practice earlier this month. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

As the anticipation builds toward the zero hour for the debut of this Florida football team, it’s important that orange and blue fans understand some rule changes in college football.

Actually, they aren’t rule changes. But after watching Florida football over the last few years, you may not remember that there are things that a team is allowed do on the field.

You may have thought they were prohibited or banned. Turns out they were in play all the time. And you’re hoping you have coaches who will implement these strategies.

In a way, these are new rules.

New rule …

You can have multiple fumble recoveries in a game. Or a season.

Fans may not be aware of this because Florida did not have a fumble recovery until November of last year. And it had only three all season. So they had three more fumble recoveries in 11 games than you had at your fantasy football draft.

New rule …

You are allowed to block kicks. Field goals, extra points, punts. Gator fans may have wondered if blocked kicks had been outlawed five years ago except they watched Alabama smack a couple in the SEC title games in consecutive years.

You remember when Florida used to block kicks all the time. The 2008 team blocked eight. Will Muschamp’s first two teams blocked 12 kicks.

But then something happened. Florida has blocked four kicks TOTAL in the last five years.

For all of the complaints about the offense, it would have been nice to give that side of the ball a short field every once in awhile.

New rule …

A team does not necessarily have to give up more sacks than it gets. In fact, it is encouraged that — only if you want to be successful — you sack the other team more often than you let your quarterback get dirty.

Of course, that was not the case in 2017. Florida was next to last in the SEC in sack differential (thank goodness for Arkansas). I don’t know if that’s a real stat, but it is now that I made it up.

Florida was at minus-14, meaning it allowed 14 more sacks than it recorded.

You know who was really good? Mississippi State. Dan Mullen’s team led the SEC in sack differential last season at +23.

New rule …

It is legal to blitz on defense. We forgot that after watching Randy Shannon rush four like there was a sting on and if he blitzed a linebacker the FBI was going to storm into the stadium with weapons locked and loaded.

Armed with this new information, Todd Grantham is going to blitz until you beg him to stop.

New rule …

It’s OK to get your picture taken with a shark. I’ll just leave that here.

New rule …

It’s OK to run a kickoff return past the 20-yard line. We checked.

New rule …

It’s perfectly fine to keep a defense off balance. You are not required to run on second down if you threw the ball on first down. Also, you are allowed to throw the ball to the tight ends on multiple occasions. There are no restrictions.

New rule …

You don’t have to wait until the final seconds to beat Tennessee. You don’t have to count on a miracle to beat Kentucky. You are allowed to beat Florida State the way you used to own the Seminoles. Got it, Gators?

And finally, new rule for Gator fans …

It’s OK to have fun. It’s OK to be optimistic. I know you are dealing with a lot of scar tissue over the last eight seasons. I know that you haven’t even been able to enjoy a lot of the victories. And I know you have a flawed team with a fragile confidence level.

But it’s just fine if you want to dream big. That’s what opening week is for. And it’s OK to be positive at your tailgate. And nobody can see you if you throw Cheetos at the TV if things don’t get well.

There are no rules. Not anymore.

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


  1. It’s ok to score points! Early and often. It’s ok to decimate your opponent. It’s ok to have a killer instinct, take some calculated chances by throwing the ball down the field, and it’s ok to make aggressive (not stupid) mistakes. It’s ok to score 21 points in the first quarter this Saturday. It’s also ok to score 14 in the second quarter and give the two backup quarterbacks the 3rd and the 4th quarter to play. Trust me, Feleipe, you won’t lose your starting job if the others come in to play when it’s 35-10. It’s ok to throw slants, seam routes, and deep posts. It’s ok to run a tight end drag. Most important of all, it’s ok to dominate the line of scrimmage on BOTH sides of the ball. Offensive lines and defensive lines are allowed to be DOMINANT! All of that is allowed. And, IT’S TIME! It’s time to come out and show the Country that this is not a work in progress; instead, it is a football program that was in dire need of leadership and direction! It’s time! Come out and be dominant! GO GATORS!

    • Grump, Right you are. McElfail teams especially had no killer instinct. Muschump had “close game” in his DNA – but that one time his team was good, they closed out games. There is no virtue in disrespecting or overlooking or not preparing for an opponent. Likewise, there is no virtue in gearing your “game plan” to keep the other team in it. Put your foot on their throat and choke ’em out.

    • Last year, I forget which game, we actually managed to score some point, and after the game all Yellow Teeth could do was complain that Malik Davis should have taken a knee instead of scoring a touchdown. I remember thinking– the last thing on Earth this team needs to hear is don’t score, but that’s where the Ladyshark Lover was and always will be.

  2. Pat: GREAT article!!! Are you double sure about running kicks past the 20 or is it the 25? LOL, LOL…this is suppose to be an aggressive game. Its suppose to look like Shavers vs Norton or Quarry vs Shavers (YouTube those). Thanks for publishing this. Now lets all pray for an game day early fall cool snap!

  3. I’d like to add my congratulations, Pat, for a great article — along with what DeWayne said and what Grump would have said were he not so grumpy. While you may take a few HEAT rounds for lip smacking now and then, never let it be said that sarcasm is not your spiritual gift. Go Gators.

    65, your cue for the count.

    • 6 I was typing from the phone earlier. What Pat said was a summation of everything we used to be great at that somehow was lost on the last two regimes particularly Mac. Now that even Pat has brought up the 🦈 incident. I hope in the defense category as I said before we return to the days where our defense thinks they have as much right to the ball as the opposing offense. It killed me to see guys have passes go by them or hit them in the back because they were not being coached at where the ball should be and how to cover. Mullen’s crew will fix that and we will again be in the positive side of turnovers. Remember OBC saying putting up half a hundred (something the B12 does) except he had a defense to back it up. To linebackers and Ends remember or maybe they are too young look up the FREAK. Special Teams lets be special. For a few years we were returning punts and kick offs for huge yardage yet with Mac we looked like it was against the rules to give yourself a good starting point. Demps, Rainey (I klnow there was issues there after they left but they were electric). QBs in the audio Del Rio said the offense was very complicated before and I think you guys weren’t instructed on how to run that type of O. Del Rio had a head start as his dad was a player and coach. Mullen has simplified things and I think the production will go way up for QB’s that haven’t worked in the system shark man had. (adapt the training and plays to the players instead of forcing something they may not be ready for. I would expect our plays to get more complex as the team starts to gel.

  4. It’s okay for the coach to be honest and call it as he sees it. If your guys are playing well, it’s okay to feel good about it and say it. If your guys are stinking it up, it’s okay to say that too. It’s okay to abandon Coachspeak. Cool huh?

    • That would be the most welcome and refreshing change of all. Coach Spurrier certainly didn’t hesitate to call out or bench players that weren’t performing to the best of their abilities. But, then again, Spurrier didn’t waste scholarships on project players.

    • To expound on the new rule: Let’s keep this forum dignified. Sarcasm and negative opinions are acceptable. However, no offensive name calling like immature adolescents. We don’t want a society in which we teach kids that such behavior is acceptable.

      • Hey Sly I was going to reply that it’s NOT OK to get your picture taken with a shark if you are naked, humping the shark or getting humped by it but I want to run it by you first to see if it’s cool

  5. New Rule – It’s o.k. to obey the rules. You win by scoring more points than the other team, not by racking up more penalty yards than the other team. Sometimes you can’t control getting dominated at the line of scrimmage. You can control mental mistakes. Avoiding stupid penalties is a direct reflection on the coaches. Discipline doesn’t guarantee wins. But it is symptom of winning. It’s been a LOT of years since the Gators were good enough to just ignore/play thru penalties.

  6. It seems to me the common theme pertaining to UF’s deficiency in these particular statistical categories is this- a lack of attention to detail. The great coaches leave no stone unturned in practice and preparation. Not causing/recovering fumbles, not blocking kicks, not having a well balanced offense that keeps defenses off balance, protecting the qb, etc. are all indicative of incompetent coaches who don’t prepare their teams with precision and detail. And, secondarily, deficient talent.

  7. ”You don’t have to wait until the final seconds to beat Tennessee. You don’t have to count on a miracle to beat Kentucky. You are allowed to beat Florida State the way you used to own the Seminoles. Got it, Gators?” -Pat Dooley.
    Well, Pat, as my generation once said, “WORD!” I can dig it! Like beating FSU 52-20. That’ll work! And wear the damn Dawgs down and out too, while you Gators are bringing back the Gator swag. And please don’t SHOW BOAT, until you all have beaten a ranked team, please. Otherwise, you look like posers!

  8. Rock on, Pat Dooley! That was great. I do have to say I am amazed at the words the Sun writers churn out, especially during the offseason, and still manage to hack out cool and interesting stuff. I have occasionally jibed, but in fact I am impressed with the production. Writing ain’t as easy as these guys make it look.

  9. and if they continue to make us play teams there is no upside in beating instead of our historic rivals like Miami and Georgia Tech, its okay to run up the score, particularly on teams like Georgia, Arkansas, missouri and South Carolina. even better to do it with the third team. I suppose that’s poor sportsmanship, sorry, lets inflict some pain.

  10. Don’t you think we’ve been thru the last 8 years and hearing about. What’s the matter, can’t you write about anything positive about the Gators. Enough is enough. The last 8 years is over. New coaching staff and some new players. I feel good about this team and the new HFC. Quit reminding us of the past and focus on the now and the future. New Rule, let the games begin and just enjoy the season.

    • In 48 hours, we shall see the initial product of the new era. If it’s anything close to what we’re expecting, I’d think we will have probably heard the last discussions of the past 9 years. Onward and upward! Go Gators!

  11. Does anyone know if Cody Alan has posted his explanation of how the Gators get to 12 wins yet? Haven’t seen it on any of the other articles’ comment threads. I’m really anxious to see what he says. I’m skeptical, but open to being convinced. The Gators will definitely need to take advantage of all of Pat’s new rules to make it happen.

  12. It’s okay for your head coach to NOT try to sell half-ass BBQ sauce in the stadium. And it’s okay for the head sportswriter to NOT write a free advertisement for said sauce, and pass it off as a sports column.