The Back Nine comes at you and I’m in love. I’m in love with the fact I have an actual game to talk about, statistics to look at and highlights to review. OK, maybe we’re just dating.
10. Don’t do it, Gator fans. Don’t jump off that ledge. Don’t spend your next two weeks grousing about your team and complaining about a victory over a fierce rival. And don’t make me say it. You know what. Look, there were a lot of bad things that happened in that game. One of them was throwing the ball on first down after a stop in your territory with 4:30 to go and the lead. I’m all for being aggressive and going for the jugular, but that seemed like a bad time to ask your quarterback — who started the half with a badly-thrown pick — to make that play there. And he has to be smarter. And so do a lot of other guys on that team. But let us remember that the one constant among Dan Mullen teams is they get better as a football season progresses. You saw it last year and I imagine you will see it this year. You won the game. Those of you who were there sat in a sauna for 3½ hours and walked away with a victory. You won on a night you couldn’t run the ball, committed 100 yards in penalties, forgot how to wrap up ball carriers on tackles and had a minus-three in turnovers. Take it, and move on.
11. Of course, one of the predictable takes on this game was that there should be no more Week Zero games (or as us sophisticates like to call it — Week Zulu). This game was so poorly played at times it was as if the two teams were trying to celebrate the 150th year of college football by making 150 mistakes. It was a bizarre game that was full of errors (many by the officials), but I think college football is more likely to expand the calendar on the season than contract it. It was a game of gaffes, but first games usually are. It’s just that this one couldn’t hide because it was exposed and fully hyped. What difference does it make when the teams played? They still had the same amount of practice. Maybe they let the enormity of the stage get to them, but would you rather have been watching The National Cornhole Championship or a Fantasy Football advice show Saturday night?
12. Sunday I got back and headed for the golf course where I played with a great group of guys and finished 18 holes on my own ball for the first time in three years. The knees held up, the score wasn’t great and then it hit me. I was Feleipe Franks. I hit just enough good shots to bring me back. If I had a fan base that hung on every putt and chip and drive into the creek, it would probably want me to quit playing and cussed at me through the TVs. (Luckily, none of the shots were recorded except the card). My point (yes, there is a point) is that Franks had a bad night in some ways, but he also made some terrific throws and was playing without a running game. It was also a strange game in that Florida only ran 54 plays in the game. Contrast that with Florida’s four-game winning streak to close out last season when the Gators’ offense averaged 76.3 plays per game. Of course, when you turn it over and go 2 for 10 on third-down conversions, that’s what you are going to get.
13. One of the biggest problems for the Gators was their inability to run the ball. And I think that goes back to the lack of plays and the impatience we’ve seen from Mullen before. Florida only ran the ball for 52 yards and even if you don’t count the one sack the Gators averaged 2.34 yards per rushing attempt. That’s on the offensive line, but we all (should) remember the Kentucky game last year when the offensive line struggled and then got better as the season went along (there seems to be a theme here). Let us all remember this — Miami’s defensive front is pretty darn good. It was the strength of the team coming in and allowed the Hurricanes to play two deep safeties for most of the game.
14. I was asked on a national radio show whether or not I would drop Florida in my AP voting. Nope. I didn’t have them in the top 10 before and won’t when we vote after this week’s games unless a couple of strange things happen above them. You know what I might do? I might stick Miami in at No. 25. That is a good football team that might have won the game with a veteran coach instead of a guy in his first game. I didn’t even look at Miami’s schedule until after this game and it looks doable. Of course, the ’Canes have that meeting with Jim McElwain’s Central Michigan team on Sept. 21 to look forward to. And yet.
15. And now, we get ready for Week One, or whatever you want to call it. There are some good games and some not so good that could surprise because TEAMS SOMETIMES HAVE HICCUPS IN THE FIRST GAMES OF THE SEASON! All I know is Dr. Football went 2-0 on the first Saturday thanks to Hawaii stopping Arizona’s Khalil Tate at the 1-yard line on the final play of the game. I’ll take it. Tate had 469 yards of total offense in the game, by the way. But it was another gut punch for the Pac-12.
16. It was crazy the buzz that went through the press box concerning Andrew Luck’s retirement. And way to show some class Indy fans who booed Luck as he left the field. (Note to self: root against the Colts this season. Man, my negativity bandwagon is getting full). Sometimes, guys fall out of love with the game. More specifically, they fall out of love with everything it takes to play the game. I think sometimes it takes as much courage to walk away as it does to keep going. His legacy will be a strange one, that’s for sure.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Jacksonville radio guy Denny Thompson — “Things to work on during the bye week for the #Gators
Falling on fumbles
Not hitting guys out of bounds
Holding onto the ball
Not throwing the ball when you’re clearly supposed to run
Red Zone Plays
Check to the 12th power.
18. It won’t bother me if I never have to go back to the stadium where Saturday night’s game was played. I will avoid the name to keep the sponsor from getting free pub. It’s in a terrible area of town and nobody seems to know where anything is. And my sources told me it took an hour to get out of there after the game. There also was a different vibe about that game because it was a true 50-50 split in fans and you know how Miami fans can be. Anyway, enough of me complaining about my free seat and free sodas. Let’s cleanse the palate with a sweet playlist:
• “Denver Haircut” by The Hold Steady.
• “Go” by The Black Keys.
• “I Wanna Be The One” by Pete Yorn.
• “Will We Talk” by Sam Fender.
• And for an oldie, one of my favorite songs from my old days at St. Johns River CC, “Where Do The Children Play?” by Cat Stevens.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.