David Whitley: Pretty or not, any win is good for these Florida Gators
The noted football philosopher Ringo Starr famously sang, “It don’t come easy.” Florida fans may not like it, but that’s a tune they need to embrace.
Nothing comes easily for the Gators this year, with Saturday’s 24-17 win over Missouri being the latest example. For most of the 88,471 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, it was a sun-drenched afternoon of depressing, exhilarating, worrisome and promising football.
Mixed emotions are a big part of the first year of any rebuilding year. If you want to say the Gators are winning ugly, Oklahoma fans can only wish they had such complaints these days.
It’s not nitpicky to point out the flaws in the Gators’ win. But imagine how worse fans would feel if UF had lost.
“A lot of guys were saying, ‘We’ve got to win. We’ve got to win,’ ” Anthony Richardson said.
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Florida did not want a seventh straight SEC loss, not with (supposedly) the roughest part of the schedule coming up. If the Gators are going to do better than a .500-type season, they definitely needed Saturday to be a springboard.
It was, but not by much.
“We have not executed our formula to win games at the rate we would desire at any point,” Billy Napier said. We are very much ...”
You probably don’t have to guess what came next … “a work in progress.”
He’s said it so often, we should just shorten the phrase to W.I.P. The key thing about being a W.I.P., of course, is the P.
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We didn’t see a lot of it in the first half. There was probably a social media bonfire ripping the homecoming proceedings. I didn’t check, but did Ben Sasse really post that he wouldn’t become UF’s next president until AR had a turnover-free game?
Richardson had a fumble and interception Saturday. But he also had a 35-yard run on a fourth-and-2, the kind of play only an AR could make.
You never know what you’re going to get with these Gators. They had 65 yards total offense in the first half — only 16 of them were on the ground.
About all the fans had to cheer were Xzavier Henderson’s 48-yard punt return and a 49-yard pick-six by Jaydon Hill. He was the subplot of the day, with two interceptions to back up his pregame boast that the Gators had no business losing to the Tigers.
“Man, I knew we had to beat Missouri,” he said. “What I said, we had to back up.”
Hill also did it without a knee brace. It was his second start after missing all last year with a torn ACL. He also had one in high school.
Hill was supposed to wear the brace one more game, but he waved the trainer away before the game.
“I’m just blessed to still be playing,” he said. “It’s just an honor. I feel so good inside.”
He’s a sophomore, the kind of building block that will largely determine whether this year is a success. That determination will not just depend on the final record, though more W’s than L’s will surely ease the psyche of Gator Nation.
Billy Napier's winning formula worked more often in the second half
Napier’s formula kicked in a bit more in the second half. The defense was laughably bad when Mizzou faced third-and-longs. But Ventrell Miller was a beast all afternoon, and the Gators stopped the Tigers when they absolutely had to.
They are 4-2 now, that supposedly nightmarish stretch isn’t looking quite so daunting. Based on their game against Tennessee, Brian Kelly seems to have a Work in Regress at LSU.
Then comes a road trip to Texas A&M, where Appalachian State won this year. The three games after Georgia (South Carolina, Vandy, FSU) all look eminently winnable. Though with this Florida team, who’s to say?
When it comes to W.I.P, you can see enough P to be encouraged.
But all we really know is nothing is going to come easily. And as ugly as the games may be, fans should consider any win a thing of beauty
David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley.