The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 37-20 on Saturday night after putting together a near perfect second half. I’ll get into the game as a whole, but first, a new feature I call What I Wrote at the Half. (Everything in italics was written at the half without any knowledge of the final 30 minutes. No, I can’t predict the future.)
The offense might not destroy the Florida Gators chances of success. The defense not reaching the highest levels of greatness that everyone expected might not either. What could, and probably will, ultimately kill any chance of the Gators competing throughout the entire 2012 college football season will be penalties. Against Bowling Green, it was infuriatingly comical. Against Texas A&M, it was like a different team was out there…in a good way. In the first half against Tennessee, stupid took on a whole new meaning. Luckily, the Vols had their own problems with penalties too.
This is a team with heaps of talent in the defensive backfield. So much talent that I used the word heaps for probably the first time ever (and hopefully the last). But there is pass interference and holding and pass interference and holding. There are occasions where those penalties are okay. If you’re just flat out beat and the receiver is going to make a big play, take the penalty. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than a big play or a touchdown. But when you’re in coverage and you have position and don’t need the hold, well, don’t hold.
And then there was the removal of a helmet on the field. Xavier Nixon, you’re better than that. Or at least, you know better than that. You got dug into by Will Muschamp when you came to the sideline and rightfully so. That wasn’t smart football by any means of the term. That’s just not something you do. You knew where you were on the field and you let your emotions get to you. It was a moment of stupidity. We’re sure you’ll learn from it, but it can’t happen. Not again, and not even once in the first place.
Since I mentioned Muschamp, I might as well express my feelings toward him as well. Yelling, screaming, crazy, red-faced Muschamp used to be funny. Then it became a disturbing sideshow act. Now it has reached the point that I’m about one more profanity-laced tirade away from being disgusted. Get in the face of a player that commits a dumb penalty. Get excited when something goes right. But cut out whatever it is you think you’re doing when you go after the referees. There are bad calls; every game has them. There are also calls that were right on even if they negatively impact the Gators. You screaming and yelling at a ref does nothing and it makes you look like a joke. 16 games into you’re head coaching career at Florida, I’m sick of it and I’m not the only one. You’re the head coach at the University of Florida. It’s a job desired by many. Quit the antics and coach your team.
I now go back to the game and the second half. The Gators are down 14-10. There’s been good and bad, but that’s common of Florida teams of late. I’m surprisingly calm overall, but that’s because I may just be used to this. I’ll throw out another JUST WIN and head back to the television.
That was the first half. The second half was oh so wonderfully glorious, I don’t know what to cover first. Let’s start with the arrogant fan route…
Tyler Bray, stars on one’s back do not make one a star. I received a text during the second half from current/former/something TBG’er One Eyed Willy that read “Bray is one of those quarterbacks that when things start to go bad, they go bad quickly.” Pretty much, yeah. Bray has a nice arm and can make throws look pretty, but there were far too many throws out of bounds or others that got away from him for me to give him the SEC QB of the Year Award after just three games. If that honor exists, it might actually go to the Gators leading man Jeff Driskel.
Driskel was everything you could want. He was more aware of where he was on the field and with each game he looks more and more like he can make every throw asked of him. And then there’s his confidence. I was on Team Brissett headed into the season for one main reason and that was confidence. During the 2011 season, Brissett looked poised while Driskel looked lost. Sorry, that’s not untrue. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t a Driskel supporter, it was just my observations from last season. My how things have changed. Driskel has gone into two extremely hostile environments in back-to-back weeks and looked like the quarterback we all wanted him to be. Game ball to the Gators starting QB. He deserves it.
Trey Burton, I didn’t know you had that burst. The 80-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty and it looks like Brent Pease has a place for you in his offense after all. Then there’s the workhorse. Mike Gillislee came in injured and all he did was rush for 6.4 yards per carry and put up another 100-yard game. No touchdowns for the senior, but three games into his final season and he’s already set a career high in rushing yards.
The defense took some time to figure out Bray, but once it did, everything looked much better. The two halves were night and day and the Gators have not allowed a single team into the end zone during fourth quarters this year. To it’s credit, the defense had some good moments during the first half, but committed too many penalties for anyone’s taste. That leads me back to my first-half thoughts…
I stand by them. Too many penalties. Eight is a high number. 78 yards makes it even worse. It’s just too much and something needs to be done. Closer games can be swung. As for my other first-half thought, Muschamp didn’t change and neither did my opinion. He’s helped guide this team to a record of 3-0 (2-0 SEC). That’s great, but stop the antics. First of all, he’s going to kill himself. Second, just stop. It’s over the top. Worry about the next play, not the call that didn’t go your way. Sometimes it’s not ideal, but it happens. Get ready for the next snap.
In the end, I’m happy. Overly happy. The Florida Gators have beaten the Tennessee Volunteers in each of the last eight seasons. That’s an amazing sentence. I suggest you read it over and over and over. Print it out and put it under your pillow tonight. It’s a wonderful thing. The Gators have won and the Vols have lost. It doesn’t get much better than that.