Is this beginning of a beautiful era of Florida football?

16
2237
Florida coach Dan Mullen pats Florida defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton on the head after the Orange and Blue game in April. Mullen seems to have energized everybody — players, fans, administrators, even sororities and fraternities — with his winning background and positive attitude and approach. [Lauren Bacho/Staff photographer]

It hasn’t been forever.

Really, it hasn’t.

It just feels like it.

It has been a long time since a Florida football team has taken the field to play a real football game. It has been 280 days since the last game at The Swamp, a game you’d like to forget in a forgettable season.

It has been longer since Florida played a game you thought it could win. Even longer since Florida has played a game in its stadium with an unblemished record.

This team hasn’t lost a game. Of course, THIS team hasn’t won one either.

“This team has never played a game,” coach Dan Mullen said. “Each year has its own shelf life. You have one year to leave your mark and your legacy.”

There are plenty of marks on the returning players, deep wounds of an embarrassment of a 4-7 season.

Today — these players hope — will mark the beginning of a turnaround for an unranked team with what can only be called underachieving players.

It starts right now. Well, actually at 7:30 p.m.

Mullen has talked all week about trying to make sure his team doesn’t peak at breakfast or pre-game meal or on the bus ride over.

But you know these guys are antsy.

No more antsy than their fans.

They have been waiting for the start of this season with renewed anticipation and enthusiasm. It can’t be as bad as last year, right?

They can’t wait to see the new offense. The players can’t either.

“There is a curiosity to see how the game is called,” said receiver Josh Hammond.

More than anything, there is curiosity about how the quarterback will play. It is a new and improved Feleipe Franks, we’ve been told. OK. Let’s see it.

Is the deer still staring at the headlights or is the simpler and more efficient offense a perfect fit for an elite athlete?

Today might not tell the whole story, but it will give us our first clues.

If nothing else, it may tell us whether this quarterback competition is still in play. Mullen said Franks gives the Gators the best chance to win this game. But what about the next one?

There is curiosity to see if Florida has improved in two major areas — offensive line and special teams. There is curiosity to see if Van Jefferson is a difference maker at receiver.

There is a curiosity to see if Jordan Scarlett plays as good as he looks. There is a curiosity to see of the defensive line is as strong as we’ve been told it is supposed to be.

Curious minds want to know, right?

I know I do.

Because it has been a long time.

“Feels like forever,” offensive lineman Jawaan Taylor said Monday.

It’s supposed to feel that way when you won only one time since September of 2017. But the truth is that while it may be difficult to get the taste of last season out of your mouths, the past is past.

Nothing can be done to change the last eight years of dreadful offense or the terrible losses that have plagued this program, 28 of them in the last five years.

To put that in perspective, Steve Spurrier lost one fewer game in 12 seasons as the Gators coach.

But nothing that has happened before has anything to do with what will happen this year.

Has the culture truly changed? We think so. We’re about to find out.

Maybe not today, but over the stretch of a long season. Everything is new. Everything is shiny. Everything is fresh.

And you hope everything is better.

There is nothing like opening day. It can feel like your first game in The Swamp even if you’ve been in the stadium 100 times.

It smells different, tastes different and feels different. Old images flash through your mind like old friends you haven’t kept in touch with for a long time.

They’re back tonight. Football is back. Florida football is back.

Now we start to see if it is really back.

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

16 COMMENTS

  1. I really hope Gator Football is back! Steamrolling Charleston Southern won’t tell us a whole lot, but it will if we don’t steamroll these guys. I’ll be in the stadium tonight closely watching 11 of the 22 guys on the field to gauge the speed, the execution, see the skill in play, watch the O-line, watch the QB – not just Franks PLEASE not just Franks. I want to see Trask, I want to see Jones. I want to know if this team has what it takes to actually be Back. Or was the preseason hype just like all those other wasted years.

  2. Tonight will be the first glimpse of the “New Franks”. When Franks first gets chased a little, will he (1) throw a pass straight to a defender or (2) calmly throw a short out pass or run..IE. a good decision while on the run. These types of simple scenarios will tell us much tonight. IE. again, when he first gets hit in the mouth, will the plan go out the window? To be successful, we have to identify who the best gamer at QB is. The drama begins.

  3. Other than FSU, our non-SEC schedule should not be challenging. However, as always, our SEC schedule will definitely be challenging. I am hoping for at least eight (8) wins this season. I would love to be surprised with even more. The decades old hatred for Georgia should re-emerge, now that the Bulldogs have become the powerhouse they once were. I believe that our defense is back, and our offense will continue to improve to at least an acceptable level (hoping for far more). GO GATORS!!!

  4. Go Gators! Well said Pat. I am jacked up for college football! Starting with Oklahoma vs. FAU at noon (for me). And strangely, I’ll be rooting for Lane Kiffin’s FAU. Man, some things have really changed.
    Others not so much, as I will be loosing my voice by 8:30 P.M. from screaming jubilantly for U.F., pray tell!
    So, ”Just do it, Gators!” Please! It’s time. ”Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.” -Guns N Roses.

    • Well, I’m looking for signs. I read your post. Got fired up. And then my downstairs A/C unit went out. Guy can’t be here until 1500. Gonna be 100 today in Central Texas. Wife squallin’ already and it’s only 0930 out here. Got company who I planned to ignore anyway. I don’t care, it’s not a sign, it just is. The only sign I’m looking for is when the Gators open up a can of whoop ass starting at 1830 CST. GO GATORS!

      • Now is the time for you to rise up and prove your relentless devotion as you strip down to your underwear and stand before the TV in 100 degree heat, the sweat pooling at your feet and scream “Nothing can stop me!!!!! Nothing!!!! And then, just as the teams line up for the opening kick off, the electric grid shorts out as all the air conditioners blow the system!!!!! (Hope not!)

        It’s a dry heat, anyway, right?

        • I may be down to boxer shorts by 1930, but I don’t care. If it’s fixed, good, if not, well, I got a pair of brand new Wilson Combat ear muffs and the squallin’s not going to get to me.

          But dry heat is heat over a hundred anyway, and besides, the humidity is always 50-60% out here anyway. Hell, I don’t care if they have to stick an IV in me….I’m watching the game!

          • A/C back on as of 1330, all is right with the world, 4.5 hours to go. My A/C guy is a Texas Tech grad, but I love him anyway. Ole Miss was beating the hell out of them last time I checked, but he still got me going. This is the sign I’ve been waiting for, but I’m wondering where Leland is. What to do, what to do? 4.5 hours to go.

    • Man, I hope these are the last non-football posts I have to read for months. I know we all cant wait for kick-off, but do we really need to hear about people’s ac issues and underwear schedules?! This isn’t facebook, guys. I hope after tonight we stick to commenting about college football on this college football comment section.

  5. It’s interesting now to read about how bad the program has been the past five years, or the past decade in some other publications, and recall how often Pat referred to the Gator fans as spoiled because they didn’t appreciate winning the SEC east under McElwain. Having his cake and eating it too I suppose.

    • Only spoiled Gator fans expect consistency– from their team or the media! All the other fans at all the other schools love losing and erratic performances. That’s why everywhere you go, you see people wearing shirts that say “We’re NOT #1 and Proud of It!”

  6. If we score on every possession in the first half on offense, give up no points (and not even close) in the first half, and play reserves in the second half and still play great football we might be back. If not we have a ways to go.