The Back Nine: Confidence worked wonders for Gators

Florida's Scottie Lewis (23) celebrates with Noah Locke (10) after forcing Xavier to call a timeout in the first half Sunday during the finals of the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
The Back Nine comes at you after a refreshing weekend off if you like sitting on a recliner and watching 11 straight hours of football.
10. Of course, I watched a little bit of basketball, too, and the Florida win in the Charleston Classic should ease the furrowed brows in the Gator Nation where the dial was set to hysterical. Florida shot lights out in the tournament simply by taking the advice of En Vogue.
“Free your mind
And the rest will follow.”
The Gators simply had too much clutter rattling around in those young brains and it’s understandable for a team built on youth. “I probably didn’t address the hype enough,” said Mike White after the win over Xavier. “I didn’t at all … really for the first time, [last] week, Tuesday. I addressed it. I think that meeting probably helped us a little bit, to get it out of the way.” The guys were just too uptight. You could see it in the body language. And it was like they freed themselves up mentally to just go play basketball and shoot with confidence. Florida shot 50.3 percent in the tournament, 54.7 percent in the first halves of those games.
11. The Gators play again Friday night, but we know that this is FSU week and takes on a certain surliness for a lot of reasons. It’s Rivalry Week at a lot of other places as well, which is what makes college football so much more interesting than the NFL (unless your life depends on fantasy football or gambling). Name the three biggest rivalries in the NFL. Never mind, I don’t have all day. Is it possible we are meaner than NFL fans? I’m kidding, of course, because pro fans get pretty angry. It’s just that they are usually angry at THEIR team instead of the opponent. There is nothing like this week (starting with the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving) in any sport and the ramifications could be enormous for the College Football Playoff. But even when they aren’t, these games matter so much.
12. I joked with Kyle Trask on Monday that it was his last news conference and I was wrong, but I meant to say it was his last one this year in the press box where we have these weekly functions. Trask’s story is still one of the most amazing in this college football season, but as we enter Game 12 it’s almost taken for granted. Certainly, his life has changed, including the media obligations. “It’s definitely been a lot,” Trask said. “It’s made me a better time manager and made me grow up quicker.” I almost didn’t vote for Johnny Manziel for the Heisman Trophy in 2012 because Texas A&M wouldn’t let him talk to the media as a redshirt freshman (there simply wasn’t a better choice that year). It helps the growth of a student-athlete to face the media every once in awhile and I’ll go to my grave believing that.
13. As bad as Saturday’s college football schedule looked going into it, there was just enough compelling stuff going on all day to weld my hindquarters to the chair for one final open week. The Miami loss to FIU was stunning in part because Butch Davis’ team controlled the game until the end when the Panthers almost choked on it. By the way, FIU is an 8-point underdog to Marshall this week. Okay? Manny Diaz at least shouldered the blame, so he’s got that going for him. And the Oklahoma-TCU game was better than expected. Of course, the officiating was exactly what we expect in college football. The mark on the last Jalen Hurts sneak was atrocious and could not be overturned. I have a pet peeve that not many people seem to share — lazy spotting of the football by officials. I could give you a full column on it, but I think I would lose you. All I know is it’s a game of inches, but it’s not treated that way. Can we not go to laser technology?
14. Two of the biggest topics on Twitter on Saturday were the soft schedules the SEC plays on the penultimate weekend of the schedule and the debate about how many teams should be in the playoffs in the future. On the first, I’m with you. I think that’s about to change down the road, but as long as there are eight-game conference schedules you are always going to have room for the Western Carolinas and Samfords on SEC schedules. And if you think the SEC will ever budge from eight games, you are delusional. Secondly, the argument was that Saturday was basically a bunch of playoff games and some teams survived and some did not and that’s what makes college football so great. Nope. So you are telling me that TCU and Arizona State were in the playoffs? Playoffs? Half of you probably had to find those games when you heard the games were close. That’s not a playoff game.
15. Part of my 11 hours straight of watching football (OK, I snuck in four minutes of “Spaceballs” while flipping around) was that I wanted to watch Justin Fields play a whole game because I still have a Heisman vote to cast soon. He’s good, real good and made some great runs. But I’m not sure if he’s in the top two on that football team. The game created another question — can you vote for a player you think is one of the top three when he has been suspended for two games by the NCAA? Chase Young is ridiculous and maybe his actions weren’t that big a deal (taking money from a family friend to get his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl), but he WAS suspended. Already, he was disqualified from the Ronnie Lott Trophy race because of the suspension. I have to think this one through.
16. One more note on basketball as we try to digest what has happened so far (P.S. it has been a mixed bag for the SEC). There are three things you want to get out of basketball during football season:
• You want to figure out what you have and what you don’t have and allow the players to figure each other out.
• You want to build up your resume so it’s not overly reliant on the conference schedule where the game changes drastically.
• You want to give your team competition that gets it ready for the conference schedule.
At least that’s the way I see it.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Alabama radio host Travis Reier, who does a great job with as well. And this has nothing to do with either — “Me and Gary Patterson go to the same gym. The sit up station is broken.” I know, I know. I shouldn’t be laughing,
18. So I figured out why there are commercials during college football games. They are there to let me work on a nice playlist for those readers who take the time to listen. You won’t be disappointed:
• “It Might Be Time” by Tame Impala, which is heavily influenced by the Beatles.
• “I Never Liked Your Friends” by The Federal Empire.
• “Apple Pie Bed” by Lawrence Arabia.
• “Save Somebody Else” by Andrew Combs.
• And for an old one, “That Girl Could Sing” by Jackson Browne.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. I really wonder when or whether the writers for this paper will ever express any educated criticism of the way that any of the Gator coaches coach. For example: Why did no one ever express criticism of Mullen’s use of Franks vs. Trask. Last year, when Franks was removed from the MIssouri game, Trask came in and played well, but no one in the press even suggested that Mullen might be making a mistake by playing Franks instead of Trask. We now can see for ourselves that Trask is much better in every respect except running, but none of the sportswriters have expressed any opinion on this. With respect to basketball: why haven’t any Gator writers mentioned the lack of movement without the ball on the team? Everyone who has ever had any experience in coaching or even watching basketball (Dick Vitale included) knows that if you move without the ball, you have a chance of finding a spot where your teammates can get you the ball for an easy shot. The FSU game was a clear example of that for FSU, but no Gator writer talks about that or even wonders whether coach White preaches that in practice. Even Sunday night Xavier demonstrated how moving without the ball generates easy points (See Scruggs). The Gators had only 8 assists so why no questions asked by the writers? Or are the Gator writers simply cheerleaders?

  2. You’re certainly correct about movement creating opportunities, and the Gators had not been moving well. If you watched the Charleston games, you should’ve seen that they did have better movement. You mentioned Scruggs, and that’s fair, but it obviously wasn’t enough to win the game for Xavier. Did you see the cut from KJ for the dunk, the roll by Blackshear for the layup, or the backdoor cut by KJ for the alley-oop layup?

    It’s true that the Gators had only 8 assists, but Xavier only had 13, so they didn’t exactly tear it up. I get your point, but if the assists total was that important, then Xavier would be declared the winner. For the tournament, the Gators had 36 assists to their opponents’ 32. I think as the freshmen continue to learn how to play with Blackshear and the sophomores, the assists will come.

    As for the writer’s asking questions, I’m not sure any GS writers are even attending Mike White’s press conferences, since it’s still football season, and Kevin Brockway is no longer around. I guess they must be doing their jobs, though, because you’re calling them cheerleaders, and other fans have accused them of being overly negative toward the football team. If nobody’s happy with them, they must be striking the right balance.