Hello, Gators. If you've been reading the Report for a while you probably know by now that I'm a pretty positive person. Because of that, I want to talk about two very good things that happened this weekend before I talk about our Gators.
First, I met Mrs. Report on October 29, 1993 during Florida-Georgia weekend. This weekend we celebrated our 20th year together and while we haven't always won the game (particularly recently), we always have a fantastic time and the game serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to have one another. Life can be tough sometimes, but if you pick the right spouse it gets a hell of a lot easier. Thanks for a perfect 20 years, Erin, I can't wait for our next 20!
Second, one of my personal heroes, Tyler Staab, turned the big 16 on Saturday. I've mentioned Tyler's Hope for a Dystonia Cure several times before, and Tyler and his sister Samantha continue to give Dystonia all it can handle. I firmly believe we are on track to curing this disease and am grateful to have the opportunity to know Tyler and his entire family. If you feel like doing something amazing today, log on to www.tylershope.org and read about how you can help us cure Dystonia. Consider it your subscription fee for The Gator Report...
Now, with those items properly putting Saturday's ballgame into perspective, here are my thoughts on the game-
At halftime I was already composing the final Report of the season. Our poor Gators couldn't play dead on either side of the ball and it looked like Georgia was going to paste us. Gator fans were streaming for the exits as a result.
I'm really proud of the effort we put in to scare the hell out of Georgia. I don't want to become a Vandy fan and start celebrating moral victories, but it was heartening to see the fire again on the Florida sidelines. I thought Mack Brown had one of his better games. This simply isn't our year, though, and every time we tried to take a step forward we managed to take two steps back. The stupid penalties simply have to stop and I was baffled by Muschamp's postgame comments about Florida always being terrible with penalties. Then again, I was baffled to read that a Florida fan was yelling at him as he left the field. That's simply inexcusable. Nobody on the Florida sideline wanted that game more than Coach Boom.
I said last week that we'd have to win on special teams in a big way to get the W. With the two missed field goals we actually lost the game on special teams. On defense, we played better for most of the second half but couldn't get them off the field on that closing drive. I know you're tired of hearing about injuries, but that loss of Easley just looms larger and larger. We've gone from an elite defense to very average against the run and that's been the killer against LSU, Mizzou and Georgia and will very likely see us beaten soundly by South Carolina and FSU. I've heard plenty of Gator fans say that we should have recruited better, but you just don't replace a defensive tackle that would have gone in the first 5 picks of the NFL draft. Offensively, we played significantly better up front. I think we have a future star in Taylor, but the lack of depth on the O line is just a killer for any hopes of significant improvement this year. You'll note that I picked the score exactly right, I just had the wrong winner. This team needs its fans' support and I think they'll keep fighting hard like they did on Saturday. Hopefully it is enough to at least get us to a bowl game.
The campaign for bowl eligibility starts when Vandy comes to town for a Homecoming nooner. The Dores last beat Florida in 1988, and this looks to be their best chance since then to get a win. The Dores are coming off a shellacking at the hands of A&M and a bye week. They are 4-4 with wins over Georgia, Austin Peay, UMass and UAB. Both Mizzou and TAMU hung 50+ on them. In spite of our injuries, we have an obvious talent advantage over the Dores and we easily won 31-17 in Nashville last year.
On offense, we've got to take the positives from the Georgia game and keep playing aggressive. Throwing on first down, looking down field, and encouraging Murphy to run when he has an opening are all important come Saturday. Murphy's got to to a better job of putting some zip on those short throws so our receivers and backs have time to catch it and make a move. We did a great job of not turning it over against Georgia and need to stay in the positive column in turnovers against the Dores. Kelvin Taylor needs to get his touches in the running game as does Patton and Showers. Defensively, we need to find a way to get out of bed early and get ready to play in the first half. We've been much to passive early in games the last month. On special teams, we simply have to come away with points if we manage a field goal opportunity of 40 yards or less.
I know it is grim being a Gator these days, but we're going to beat Vanderbilt on Saturday and I hope the Gator Nation shows up to cheer the boys on to a Homecoming victory. Mrs. Report and I will be there ready to go. Gators 31-Dores 20.
In other games-
Wake Forest v. FSU- The Noles are on fire. We all know that Miami may have been the worst top 10 team to come into Doak Campbell in 20 years, but FSU was able to overcome some interceptions by Jameis Winston and dominate the Canes with their power running game. I don't know if they'd be able to handle Bama or Oregon, but I do think they are an exceptionally talented and deep roster and will have plenty to beat the Demon Deacs. FSU 45-Wake Forest 16.
Bama v. LSU- Vegas has this as an 11 point line and I'm not sure that is enough considering the way that Bryant Denny will be rocking for a prime time matchup against LSU. Both teams had the week off and LSU's offense is significantly better than last year, but you just can't pick against the Tide and Nick Saban with 13 days to prepare. Tide 35-LSU 20.
Stanford v. Oregon- This is an unbelievable Thursday night matchup. Stanford is the smash mouth, power football team in the West that beat Oregon last year in a 17-14 overtime classic. This year they get the Ducks at home, but Oregon has looked better than ever this year. I love the way Stanford plays, but their loss at Utah exposed that defense as maybe not what it was last year. I gotta go with the Ducks in a close one. Ducks 33-Cardinal 28.
Baylor v. Oklahoma- This week we finally get to see Baylor match up against a team with talent across the board. I don't think this is one of Stoopsie's better Sooner teams, but I also don't think Baylor runs the table. Both teams had a bye last week (are you seeing a theme here?) and I'm taking the Sooners to find a way to win. Sooners 28-Bears 27.
Stetson v. Davidson- Our Hatters lost a heartbreaker, 19-18 to Campbell. I know it goes without saying, but you just can't give the Camels second chances to beat you. This week they welcome Davidson to DeLand. Davidson is winless on teh year including a 56-13 loss to Kerwin Bell's JU Dolphins. For the record, if Florida was looking for a new Offensive Coordinator, we could do far worse than the Throwin' Mayo-in. Let's go Hatters! Stetson 19-Davidson 18.
Enjoy the weekend of football, Gators. Before too long you'll be wondering what happened to football season.