Sunday, November 16, 2014

End of the Boom Era

I can't say I was surprised when the news came today that Coach Muschamp had been fired. The miraculous win over Georgia and subsequent handling of Vandy stemmed the tide for a while, but he needed to win out at home to save his job. The team that played with so much fire and emotion on November 1 in Jacksonville to save their coach found a way to choke away a loss Saturday afternoon against a bad South Carolina football team. The great irony was that the Gamecocks had spent their conference season finding ways to lose games in the fourth quarter, but ran up against a team Saturday that was more determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If I'm a special teams player for Florida right now I'd have a hard time looking Boom in the eye today.

That said, Saturday's loss was less about late game special teams breakdowns and more about playing not to lose on offense. And while I think Will Muschamp is an incredible defensive coach, probably the best we've had or maybe ever will have at Florida, he lost his job today for the same reason he lost the game Saturday: We play scared on offense.

Fans like points and you can't win without them. But for four years we've played like we're scared to throw it and would rather try and eke out just enough points on the ground to win a close one thanks to an exceptional defense and error free special teams. To Will's credit, he's such a good defensive coach that this actually worked more often than it didn't. But when things broke down on special teams, we turned it over on offense, or the other team managed to pull away on the scoreboard, we simply had no chance to fight back on offense because we never made more than a cursory effort to be proficient throwing the ball downfield. Further, because we worried so little about passing, we stuck with a quarterback for too long who never demonstrated himself capable of passing the ball on this level or developing receivers who could help him. We completed 5 passes, attempted 11, and accumulated 60 yards in the air Saturday and none of us were surprised at the game plan. That bullheaded commitment to conservative offense is why we'll have a new head coach next year.

All that being said, I think a good number of Gator fans owe Will an apology. While he didn't win enough games, he is clearly a genius when it comes to defense. As a result, I think Will Muschamp will have his pick of defensive coordinator jobs and will make a pile of money for as long as he wants to coach. Hell, I bet Steve Spurrier is already thinking of bringing him up to Columbia. More importantly, unlike our friends in Tallahassee and our prior coach, he was admirably committed to having a clean program off the field, recruiting high quality individuals, and gave no quarter to those players who placed their own needs ahead of the team's. Those things matter to me and I'm grateful for all of his efforts in that regard. I just hope that if Will gets another chance to be a head coach in the future he remembers that championship teams scare you on both sides of the ball, not just on defense.

I'm not going to opine on who our next coach will be. I think we have the greatest Athletic Director in the country and trust that he'll make a great hire. I think that the team will play hard for Will and the rest of the staff for our last two games as well as in whatever bowl matchup in which we find ourselves. I think we win Saturday and hope the fans make a good showing in The Swamp to thank our seniors, departing coaches, as well as any juniors who are likely playing their last home game. I think we'll play the Noles tough for three quarters like seemingly everyone else does, but that their defensive front and down field passing attack will eventually overwhelm us.

Going forward, like the rest of us I'll wait and see what transpires with the coaching search and will do an end of season Report and bowl picks when the regular season ends. Until then, I say Go Gators and Good Luck to all of our coaches and their families who won't be in Gainesville next year.

Go Gators!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 10: End of the Conference Schedule

Golly, Gators, I can't believe we're already to the end of the SEC schedule for Florida. Football season seems to burn by faster every year. Speaking of fast, it will be a brief Report this week. A long weekend in Nashville has me backed up at the office. I will say that Nashville once again delivered an outstanding time for Mr. and Mrs. Report. Thanks to all the friends we encountered up there and you can plan on seeing us again in two years in Music City without a doubt.

In terms of the game, I thought Treon played well and Will Muschamp did the right thing in punting Leon Orr out of the program. I never felt we were in danger of losing to Vandy and it is nice to be back on the winning side of that game after one awful year the other way around. But that's enough on Vandy, we've got the HBC coming to town!

Spurrier had the week off last week to try and rebuild what has to be an extremely fragile team, having blown four fourth quarter leads in prior SEC contests (including against Kentucky and Tennessee, bleh!). Similar to Florida, I really have no idea what we'll see come Saturday out of the USC squad. With a noon start time I suspect the atmosphere to be less than electric, but maybe Gator Nation will surprise me. I'm taking Florida because we've got the better defense and actually have some momentum on offense, though our O-line resembles a MASH unit. With a win, you can officially put away the Fire Muschamp T-shirts, because it just ain't happening barring a complete meltdown against Eastern Kentucky. Count me as one who is rooting for Boom to make it which is a long way from where I was two weeks ago! Florida 27-Cocks 20.

In other games-

Georgia v. Auburn- I know, Todd Gurley is back and Auburn is down after last week. But I can't imagine Gurley will be all that fresh, just think of all the yards he runs in practice against that Georgia run defense. Dawgs win the East with this one- UGA 41-War Eagle 33.

Miami v. FSU- The line on this one is nuts, FSU by a measly 1.5. I always get nervous when I feel like Vegas is begging me to go a certain direction. FSU 31-Canes 28.

Bama v. Mississippi State- The Tide won in miraculous fashion against LSU on Saturday and I'm sure their stadium will be going nuts on Saturday. But I like this Dirty Dawg team in spite of the line. MSU 24-Bama 20.

As I said, short and sweet this week, Gators. I hope to see you in Gainesville this weekend!

Go Gators!


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Fun At Last

Well, Gators, it has been almost a month since I signed off and to be honest, I didn't think I'd be back this season. After LSU I was thankful solely for the fact that I didn't have to write about our Gators the following day. After Mizzou, I sold my Georgia tickets, gave away my parking pass and resolved to spend my afternoon deer hunting instead of attending my favorite game of the year, the game where I met Mrs. Report 21 years ago. We all know what happened next, and I apologize in advance for the language but I just can't adequately express my feelings about yesterday's ballgame without saying THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME!!!  As an aside, you're unlikely to see any deer if you're screaming like a maniac while listening to Mick and Lee call a blowout over your heavily favored arch rival. My apologies to any other hunters who were within 2 square miles of Evinston, Florida yesterday afternoon.

Any of you who have read The Report for a while know my feelings on the Georgia Bulldogs and that I couldn't be truly sure that Boom wasn't a mole for the Dawgs until he won in Jacksonville. That said, while I'm elated over yesterday's performance, that had to be the strangest blowout in Florida/Georgia history. Consider the following-

- Nick Chubb dominated Florida, going for 101 yard in the FIRST QUARTER. Thankfully, Mark Richt was on their sideline, and in honor of his legacy of pissing away future NFL talent, he only gave it to Chubb 5 more times after Florida took the lead.

- Momentum turned on two consecutive plays. The first was a fake field goal involving a 5'8, 170 pound former walk on that works as a bag boy at Publix to save up to attend medical school (Great call by Boom by the way). The next was when we blew up their returner on the ensuing kickoff. From there, our sideline went nuclear and never cooled off.

- We completed 3 passes. Three. We only attempted 6, and only 1 in the entire second half.  Here's your history lesson: The last time we won with attempting less than 10 passes was 1977. Our 418 yards on the ground was the second most EVER given up by Georgia (Auburn went for 430 in 1978). Before Saturday, Florida never had two backs go over 120 yards each in a game. I'm pretty comfortable predicting that I won't see two Gator backs go for over 190 in a game again in my lifetime.

- The O line played outstanding. The receivers, particularly Demarcus Robinson, deserve a ton of credit for their down field blocking efforts in spite of the realization that we weren't going to throw the ball. Like ever.

- Georgia averaged over 40 points per game coming into Saturday. We gave up 460 total yards but they managed only 20 points. We only surrendered  40 yards on the ground in the final three quarters of football.

Count me as one of those Gators that thought Sunday would be about turning the page and talking about a new coach. While I don't think he's out of the woods yet, you have to admit that this team played for their coach on Saturday. Now, am I one who is thinking about the ways we can salvage a trip to Atlanta in early December? No. But I enjoyed the hell out of knocking Georgia out of any potential playoff contention and I'll remember this game as the highlight of Boom's career no matter how long it lasts from here.

Going forward, Mrs. Report and I are traveling to Nashville with several friends this weekend and will be in attendance Saturday night (we'd talked about just hanging out on Broadway before we beat Georgia). Vandy struggled with Old Dominion Saturday night and is seemingly playing their fifth quarterback this season (more on that later). South Carolina blew another fourth quarter lead and lost to a bad Tennessee football team in overtime. Eastern Kentucky is 8-1 and beat Tennessee State 56-42 but I like our chances there. We won't beat Florida State throwing for 27 yards but with four weeks to go who knows what kind of mischief the Noles could get in off the field between then and now. My point is that we have a legitimate chance for a decent bowl game. Compared to what I felt just a few days ago, this is major progress.

The trick now is to get Georgia behind us but find a way to keep the same level of effort this Saturday night in Nashville. The atmosphere will NOT be electric, so the coaching staff has its work cut out for them. I'm hopeful that Boom remembers his quote about playing timid and allows Treon to cut it loose down the field when Vandy cheats their safeties into the box to try and stop Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor. Treon needs to establish some confidence passing the ball if we're to keep winning the rest of the way. The defense needs to tackle like the last three quarters Saturday and not like the Bama game or the first quarter Saturday. Our kick coverage teams need to play like Saturday and not like against Mizzou. And our kick returners need to get up the field.

I have to expect a let down in the running game just because we're playing Vandy, but I think our defense should own Vandy's offense and hopefully our team remembers that the Dores embarrassed them in Gainesville last year. Florida 24-Vandy 13.

In terms of other picks, this is probably the best Saturday of the year with regard to games with major playoff implications-

LSU v. Bama- Both teams had the week off to get ready for this one. While LSU played great in beating Ole Miss and Bama's QB was shaky on the road against Mississippi State, I like Bama's chances with Saban and Smart having two weeks to get ready for this young offense. Tide 27-Tigers 17.

Utah v. Oregon- The Ducks hammered Stanford and look like the best one loss team in college football. Utah's defense is tough, but they are coming off a late heartbreaker at A State. Ducks 35-Utes 23.

Arizona State v. Notre Dame- Maybe ND was looking ahead when they struggled against Navy. Arizona State has two huge last minute wins on their resume and both teams are in playoff contention. I'll take the Domers in a close one based solely on their ability to take FSU to the wire in Tally. Irish 30-Sun Devils 24.

Michigan State v. Ohio State- Sparty had the week off, Urban's Buckeyes handled Illinois. This is the only notable game in the Big 10 for the entire season. Sparty wins big. Spartans 35-Bucks 20.

TCU v. Kansas State- The Frogs survived Morgantown while the Fighting Snyders hammered Okie State. I'd be lying if I told you I've watched much of either team other than when K State gave Auburn all they wanted in Manhattan, so I'll take the purple team. Wildcats 33-Frogs 28.

Oklahoma v. Baylor- Baylor scored 60 Saturday, Oklahoma 59. This is going to be a long game. Bears 42-Sooners 33.

Auburn v. Texas A&M- The Aggies are without their starting QB. Auburn remains the luckiest team in America. War Damn Eagle 35-Aggies 17.

It feels good to be back, Gators. Don't expect a Report until mid-week next week due our traveling home from Nashville Sunday (or at all if we don't win, I'll be back on strike).

In closing, Suck It, Georgia.