Just win. It has become a motto of sorts around these part over the last few seasons. On Saturday, when the Florida Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers 14-7, we experienced a game that truly defined it. If ever there was a Just Win Game, this was it. The Gators won to improve to 8-1 (7-1 SEC) on the season, but the game felt like a struggle–one during which early you thought to yourself “just win.”
The Gators were once again a second-half team. Not scoring until the 9:03 mark of the third quarter raises concerns. Not doing so against a team you’re heavily favored against and should defeat rather easily raises more. But Florida finds itself in the same situation over and over again this season: thankful for the defense, and this time it wasn’t as dominating as it can be. Therefore, as we thank the defense, we also have to thank Missouri quarterback James Franklin. If Franklin had been even slightly more “on his game,” there’s a decent chance this would have been loss number two instead of win number eight.
There were offensive stats, but they were offensive. (Saw that one coming from a mile away didn’t you? Two miles? You’re more in tune to awful jokes than I thought. Kudos.) It’s not what we’ve come to expect, so I won’t go that route, but more what we’ve come to accept. This is a team that is still light years away from offensive consistency. It’s disheartening, sure, but the Gators are 8-1. If you can honestly say you predicted that (and we’re hopped up on orange and blue Kool-Aid at the time) at the beginning of the season, you’re a fabulous liar. We still love you, but you’re a liar all the same.
Brent Pease has his work cut out for him. This isn’t the WAC (or whatever conference Boise State was in, used to be in, or was going to be in while he was there). He’s learning that the hard way. The Gators are lucky they can lean back on the defense and that they can win games without being elite. However, it is a problem. Proof Point #1: the loss to Georgia. With just a smidge more out of the offense, 8-1 is 9-0 and that’s why it’s frustrating. Knowing that the Gators have the record they have and seeing that it could have been even better is painful.
We’ve been spoiled by the past and spoiled by the present. Because of the high-flying offensive teams of the past, we expect it in all versions of the Florida Gators football team. Because of the current season’s record, we expect more out of this specific version. But maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should expect and hope for the one thing that really matters—winning.
The Gators have not accomplished that goal only once this season. Eight other times, Florida left the field as victors. Saturday’s outing wasn’t pretty, but not many of them have been recently. We have been brainwashed to want style points and yards upon yards upon yards. It’s a hard concept to grasp, but we should always want the win first regardless of how it comes. 14-7 when it should have been 27-10 or even 38-7 isn’t ideal, but the result is the same—W.
For three seasons now the Gators have struggled to find an offensive identity. Pease may be the answer and he may not be. He needs more time, but we also need to focus on that phrase—“just win.” We worry about the other things because we look ahead to opponents like Florida State. We wonder if the Gators were to get to the SEC Championship Game how they could possibly keep up with Alabama. For now though, just win. 8-1 with 9-1 on the horizon. That ninth win may be a thing of beauty or it may be the most destructive of dumpster fires, but if it’s a win, it accomplished goal number one whether we liked watching it or not.
The Gators can check Missouri off of the schedule with a heavy sigh of relief. On to the next opponent. Just win.