The Back Nine comes at you after another Florida-Georgia game that left Gator fans feeling empty. My theory on why people party so much at tailgates at the WLOCP is that they know half of the fans are going to leave disappointed.
10. It was pretty clear at Dan Mullen’s Monday news conference that any noise in the system from fans who want to see the Gators go to a different quarterback is falling on deaf ears (if he hears it at all). Feleipe Franks has committed four turnovers in the last two starts. Florida overcame the first two and couldn’t on Saturday. I asked Mullen if the leash was any shorter on his starter. He said it isn’t. “We’ve just gotta secure the ball better,” he said. “Obviously, the fumble (against Georgia) was a bad play. But that’s everybody. I’m not going to bench our running back because he fumbled. We just gotta coach them better.” It seems like a long time ago that Florida was leading the nation in turnover margin. The Gators were plus-11 before the Vandy game, but they are now only at plus-6. Not only have the Gators lost six turnovers, but they have only picked up one in these last two games — an innocuous pick by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with five seconds remaining at Vandy. Mullen also said Kyle Trask is still getting the second-team snaps and there is a package for Emory Jones similar to what he ran against the Bulldogs. Jones, he said, will play in “at least two more games this year” because of the new redshirt rule.
11. I have to admit I was surprised to see Florida ranked 13th in the latest AP poll, but I also get it. When I went to do my poll, I put Florida in at 17. And then as I went through it, I realized I couldn’t find 16 teams with better resumes because so many teams lost Saturday (I ended up putting UF 15th). While we didn’t have the monumental, ground-shaking upsets in college football, it wasn’t a good day for the teams outside the top five where 11 of the next 20 lost. If you look at the resumes, you get why Florida is ranked where it is. The Gators have two wins over teams ranked in the top 25, one of them who has a shot at the College Football Playoff. Very few teams can claim that. And both losses were to top 11 teams. That’s why Texas A&M is still ranked with three losses, all to teams currently ranked and two of them at No. 1 and No. 2.
12. This was a bit of a weird experience for me in Jacksonville — I missed “I Won’t Back Down.” I know that it’s been that way for half of Florida’s games this season with three on the road before Georgia, but that was the first time I was a little melancholy that it wasn’t blasting over the PA with fans singing it at the third quarter break and flashing their phones. It was last October that Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin called me to ask what I thought of the idea as a Tom Petty fan and I told him it was perfect. It’s become quite the special tradition, even if Florida has only one Power 5 win in home games since it started. There are even (unlicensed) T-shirts commemorating the song and it was also great to hear last weekend how his family was touched by the new tradition. “I haven’t had a chance to thank the University of Florida, but when you guys are singing at the end of the third quarter — we watched you from California the first time you did it and we just all cried,” Bruce Petty said last week. It gives me goosebumps every time. And we all get three more chances in the next three weeks with the Gators playing three straight home games. (Mullen on Monday talked about the “great challenge for the Gator Nation” this week, which is code for “we need you to be like you were for LSU”). It is funny how so many of Florida’s game day traditions have come over the last 13 years, first with Urban Meyer and then with Stricklin. Now if I can just get them to play Petty’s “Gainesville” and Drew Copeland’s “A Little Like Heaven” in the stadium before the games.
13. Kentucky’s magical win Saturday came because of a shaky-at-best pass interference call in the end and that allowed the Wildcats an untimed down. Not only that, but the game-winning touchdown looked like offensive pass interference. I guess the Wildcats were due a couple of breaks considering their history. I’ve always been a believer that you have to play around poor officiating (as Florida did on its six-play goal-line stand). But it’s hard to play around a bad call on the last two plays of the game. Even with their lofty ranking and stunning record, the Wildcats open up as 10-point underdogs to Georgia. If Kentucky avoids turnovers and plays within itself, I think they can win the game. By the way, Alabama is a 14-point favorite at LSU, the largest home underdog the Tigers have been since Rex Grossman and the Gators went to Tiger Stadium in 2001 (Florida won 44-15).
14. I have to admit I didn’t stay up for all of the epic 18-inning Boston-Los Angeles game Friday night/Saturday morning, but I saw every one of the Red Sox’s four wins in capturing the World Series. The best part was watching Alex Cora take the philosophy of trying to win the game he was playing at the time and not worrying about the next one. I saw a graphic on Twitter that someone who is a fan of Boston sports who is 16 years old has seen the teams in Beantown win 11 world championships in the four major sports. That’s impressive. The only negative is that we don’t have World Series games this week. And as great as Steve Pearce was in winning the MVP, I’d have been tempted to give the award to David Price, who gave up six hits and three runs in 13 innings of two starts. Am I the only person who thinks there should be a separate postseason MVP award for the player who is the best overall of all the playoff series combined? Maybe I am.
15. The game between the Rams and Packers on Sunday was a beauty and lived up to the hype (although it would have been better to see if Aaron Rodgers had a chance at the end instead of Ty Montgomery fumbling it away). What was most impressive was Todd Gurley going down on purpose when he could have scored a touchdown because he knew if he didn’t score the game would be over. That may have messed up some people in Vegas and fantasy owners, but that’s not what the game is about. Meanwhile the pro teams in our state are a combined 10-13 and all three of the Power Five college teams lost by a combined 122-41. Maybe it’s something in the water.
16. It has been a rough season for Becky Burleigh and her UF soccer team, but I watched every second of its SEC Tournament win over Auburn. I’m not sure I have ever seen a goalkeeper only allow one made shot on five penalty kicks, but the bigger story was that Florida got it to overtime despite playing with only 10 players the final 55 minutes because of a red card (it was deserved). Florida plays SEC champ Vandy today at 6 p.m. Well done, ladies.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from ESPN personality Trey Wingo — “Jameis Winston has played 48 games in his NFL career. He’s thrown 50 interceptions and fumbled 21 times. 48 games… 71 turnovers. He is what he is and if you expect it to change at this point … that’s on you.” That’s dead on. It’s amazing to me that a quarterback who has played as many games as he has can still throw the ball up for grabs as often as he does.
18. So my headphones need this little connector to work with my iPhone and I can’t find it so that’s my excuse for not working out this week. Too bad because I have this great playlist:
• “Back Down” by Bob Moses.
• “Song About You” by Mike Posner.
• “Ohio” by Andrew McMahon and The Wilderness.
• “I Should Have Known” by JD and the Straight Shot.
• And for an old one, “Plush” by Stone Temple Pilots. Hard to believe that qualifies as an oldie, but it was 26 years ago.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.