We are the boys from old Florida
Where the girls are the fairest,
The boys are the squarest
Of any old state down our way
We are all strong for old Florida
Down where the old Gators play
In all kinds of weather
We’ll all stick together
We are the Boys of Old Florida, the fight song of the University of Florida Gators sung traditionally before the start of the fourth quarter of every home game. After a tough loss to bitter rival the Georgia Bulldogs, it’s probably a good idea for Gator fans to remember the words to this song. The first thing fans want to do after a stinging loss is head to message boards and call-in shows to whine, complain, and moan about “what went wrong”. Everybody’s got an opinion of why they lost and what “needs to be done”. From fire Muschamp (no really I actually saw such a thread on a message board yesterday), to benching Driskel, to packing Pease’s bags back to the WAC ( I know they are in the Mountain West but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good bitch session), to “oh no we suck again”. Armchair quarterbacks and and armchair coaching staffs alike giving their two cents about why all is lost and the “season is over”. And don’t dare call them out. Oh my lord, how dare you, you… you… you sunshine pumper.
The word fan is derived from the word fanatic which roughly equates to one with an extreme enthusiasm or uncritical devotion. So you can excuse them if they appear to be ready to jump off a cliff after a tough loss by their favorite team. And message boards or call in shows are great outlets to vent one’s frustration with their team’s poor play. At some point though Gator fans need to understand that “through all kinds of weather, we all stick together”.
What does that mean? It means win or lose we stand behind the team and together for the University of Florida Gators. In the game of football there are winners and losers and, like it or not, odds are these guys are going to lose one along the way. It’s how they respond to a loss that determines their season. As fans it is wise to understand that and respond appropriately ourselves to a tough loss. Believe me I’d rather eat chopped liver every night than deal with a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. But like it or not we have to deal with a loss in this game for the second year in a row.
So what does need to be done? In my mind not much. They don’t need to change quarterbacks, change philosophy, or “throw the baby out with the bathwater” as they say. What they need to do is refocus on who they are and what got them here.
Running the football. This is who they are. They are a run first team that must find ways to move the football on the ground. The passing game, while not non-existent like many want to proclaim, is certainly a work-in-progress. They lack consistency in pass blocking and wide receiver execution and Jeff Driskel is not going to light em up any time soon. I’m reminded of the old quote from John Mckay when asked about his team’s execution he responded, “I’m all for it”. All joking aside, though, the focus needs to return to the ground game and what it takes to move the chains when they load the box. Whether that means schematic shifts in blocking or just pushing the guys to get better at getting a hat on a hat and moving their guys, that’s where the focus needs to be in the next couple of weeks.
Taking care of the football. Sounds simple and every coach preaches it. However, coming into the Georgia game they had 4 turnovers on the season so they were doing something right. It’s inexplicable to me how they could cough it up 6 times in one game. As bad as some offenses have been in my 35 years of watching Gator football I can’t remember the last time they gave it away 6 times in one game.
I do think their lack of intensity played a roll. When a team is flat and unemotional sometimes they lose focus on the mechanics of what they are doing because they focus too much on the other teams intensity. I think the staff got a little careless in the play-calling as well. Just like players who try too hard to make a play and make mistakes, I think the coaches tried to force some downfield plays trying to take advantage of the loaded box rather than play it safe and play field position football like they have all season up to this game. Too often Florida started deep in their territory and they tried to pass their way out rather than play it safe, use the nation’s leading punter to flip the field, and rely on the fantastic defense that kept Georgia stifled for 54 minutes on Saturday. Kyle Christy had only 3 punts in this game and that alone was one of the bigger stats from Saturday’s game.
Finally, they have to find ways to eliminate penalties from their game. Again every coach preaches it and it sounds simple but for some reason this team cannot seem to do it. Every time Florida got a big play on 0ffense and a little momentum or a big stop on defense, they seemed to get a stupid penalty. By stupid penalty I mean mental errors, not aggressive errors. False starts, too many men in the huddle, offsides, or unsportsmanlike penalties that put your team in negative down and distance, a killer for a run-first offense, or which extend drives for the opposing offense have to be dealt with immediately. This team does not have the capability to overcome them. Whatever it takes, they have to find a way to eliminate these silly, momentum killing mistakes.
So it’s obvious to me that all is not lost, and the response to this loss doesn’t have to be earth-shaking. Refocus, bear down, dig up some pride and move forward. This team still has all it’s goals ahead of it, they just no longer control their destiny. If Georgia hiccups against one of Ole Miss or Auburn, Florida wins the East with a win next weekend against Missouri. I realize that’s a tall order and Georgia will be big favorites against both, but remember it’s tough to get up the next week after a big conference win and Ole Miss is a much better team this season than many people realize.
Even if they don’t win the East, they still have tough games ahead against Missouri and the other rival FSU. Assuming they win out there is still the possibility they can back into the BCS Championship Game if things fall their way like they did in 2006 and 2008. Short of that they are still playing for a potential BCS game berth in the Sugar Bowl. Any of those scenarios is a far cry from where most fans and analysts thought they would be when this season began. So, that having been said, it’s smart for Gator fans to not jump off the Gator Train just yet. This was just a pit stop along the way and right now it’s “all aboard that’s coming aboard”.
Regardless of what happens, Will Muschamp is our coach, these players are Gators and they are this season’s team. If you are a Gator whether a fan or alum remember We are the Boys of Old Florida, and through all kinds of weather, we all stick together… for F-L-O-R-I-D-A!