Each season of the Urban Meyer era, I have given my own name to the “Season in Review video” that would be put out. The seasons/titles were as follows:
– “Flag on the Play: The 2005 Florida Gators”
– “1st and 15: How the 2006 Gators won the BCS title 5 extra yards at a time”
– “The Drive to 55: Tim Tebow and the 2007 Gators”
– “Promise Kept: The 2008 Florida Gators”
– “Going through the motions: The 2009 Gators mail-in their way to 13 wins”
This leads us to this year and the 2010 Gators in what ended up being their last season of the Urban Meyer era. What would be an appropriate title for this year’s season highlights video? We’ll get to that in a moment.
First things first… Gator Fans (and I include myself in this mix) are insane. In the pre-season, we were ranked (and felt deservedly so) in the Top 10, and in most polls, around #6 in the country. We drank the John Brantley, 2006 Gatorade player of the year Kool-Aid and were ready for a “real quarterback” this year. Tim Tebow was gone now and of course we would miss him, but we thought JBIV, would just step in and change the way we did things and we’d move forward without missing much of a beat. Only, we forgot something.
We forgot that we had some other players on this team besides #15.
We forgot about Joe Haden who was a shutdown coverage corner, but also an outstanding tackler against the run. He appears to be the 2nd coming of Ronde Barber in the NFL.
We forgot about Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper, Tebow’s go to guys, but the only receivers we had last year with the ability to get open consistently. On 3rd down and 5 or more, might as well have been 3rd and 55.
While we didn’t forget about Maurkice Pouncey being gone (Mike Pouncey would send reminders flying by JBIV’s head every so often), we forgot about what a great guard Mike Pouncey was. The running game was atrocious this year and not having a Pouncey in the right place hurt.
We forgot about Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham. Florida had the LEAST intimidating pass rush from the edge of any of the 11 reasonably good SEC teams this year. Everyone knew about Dunlap, but Cunningham was very underrated and is proving his worth with the New England Patriots this year.
We forgot about Brandon Spikes. The heart and soul of the defense and in some aspects the team. Not everybody loved Tebow’s “Rah Rah” screaming act, and Spikes filled in the “motivational gap” with the players who weren’t feeling that. Outside of him being an outstanding player, we missed his pre-game routine of telling everyone that they were his brothers and he loved them.
We missed Ryan Stamper. Too slow for Div. I football, too slow for the NFL, but always in the right place at the right time and a fantastic teammate. This year’s linebackers could run with anybody, but didn’t have the torque in their tackling that Stamp did. We missed that against the Gamecocks this year especially.
The most glaring omission this season that we “forgot” about was Brandon James. On our mediocre days in 2010, we could put together a 40-55 yard drive from time to time, however this year a 40 yard drive after starting from our 20, puts us in perfect position to pooch punt, or go for it, or miss a long field goal. When B-James was returning kicks, our average starting position was so much better that we could have been much more competitive with the lackluster offense we trotted on to the field this year.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 10… count them, 10 guys playing in the NFL PLUS Ryan Stamper (I left out David Nelson who is playing for Buffalo), that are gone from last year’s team. Yet, we had the audacity to think we were a Top 10 team and would just pick up where we left off. Gator Fans, we’re crazy.
Keeping it afloat
At the beginning of the year if I would have told you that going into the last game of SEC play for us, we’d have only 1 more loss than Alabama; that the winner of the UF vs. USC game was going to be in the SEC title game, that we were undefeated at that point vs. our traditional rivals (Tennessee, Georgia), and that Tim Tebow’s former backup was the front-runner to win the Heisman trophy (and it wasn’t even close), you would have been pretty happy, right?
Except that Bama came across a string of bad luck and wasn’t as good as advertised (despite the beat-down we received from them), South Carolina was very good, but still did “South Carolina things” to lose games instead of running away with the SEC East like they should have, Tennessee stunk- but we knew that would be the case, Georgia was gawd-awful and it took Will Hill making the only play he’s made since the 2008 BCS championship game to pull it out, and the Tebow backup getting Heisman love was NOT John Brantley, but was in fact Cameron Newton who was now playing at Auburn.
What a crazy year!!
I guess I should start by citing the fact that all but one of the teams Florida played this year, played in a bowl game. We used to scoff and snicker at that, but now that we’ve been brought back to earth a little bit, it bares mentioning that Miami (OH) won its conference and its bowl game. It was a sign at the beginning of the year that we narrowly escaped them (ignore the final score). A sign that they were better than we thought, and we were not as good as we thought. In truth, we were probably lucky we played them in Game 1 instead of in that week where we play App. State.
What we need to realize about the 2010 season is that this game that we love so much is a game of inches. Al Pacino, in “Any Given Sunday” told us all about the game of inches in this amazing scene from the film. (Click here for a cool video that integrates the speech into the 2008 Gators’ highlights). We completed an 8-5 season with a bowl game win vs. Penn State in the Outback Bowl. Not all was lost on this 5 loss season though.
A game of inches
As poorly as the team performed in some weeks, an inch here and an inch there can change the season. Here are some examples:
“Inch #1”: vs. Miami (OH)- With Miami down by 12 points in the 4th quarter, on 3rd and goal, Zach Dysert completes a pass to the ½ yard line against the reeling Gators. The WR is called for a personal foul and the ball has to come back to the 15 and Miami ends up kicking their 4th field goal of the day. Without the personal foul, who knows what happens in that game.
“Inch #2”: at Alabama- After Alabama drives the ball downfield and we hold them to a field goal on their opening possession, Florida puts together an impressive 12 play, 74 yard drive of their own. On 2nd and goal, Burton rushes off tackle for a gain of one and is short of the end zone by maybe an inch. The replay in MY house showed that the ball broke the plane of the goal line, and the replay in Alabama might have agreed had they decided to use it. Instead Burton was stuffed on another rush attempt and then intercepted in the end zone on a jump pass attempt. Our season was never the same after this. The fan base’s relationship with Steve Addazio had been troubled, but it was HIV positive from this moment on.
“Inch #2a”: at Alabama- With time running out in the 3rd quarter, Emmanuel Moody rushes off the left side and again, looks like the ball crosses the plane of the end zone, but not to the referees or the booth officials that didn’t even call for a replay… again. On 2nd and Goal, Brantley lines up under center to hand off, trips over Pouncey’s foot, falls down, and fumbles. Bama recovers. Tide ball… game over for all intents and purposes. I know I’m assuming a lot to make 2 “inches” make a difference in a 31-6 game, but assuming the first inch results in a TD call, and the second as well, that gives Florida 20 points. Assuming Brantley doesn’t have to throw such a desperate pass earlier that got taken to the house by a Bama linebacker, the score would be 24-20 and a different game altogether. I know… I’m assuming A LOT. I’m a Gator fan and I’m not objective when looking in hindsight.
“Inch #3”: vs. LSU- This one is much less convoluted than the others I listed. Try this at home:
Take a football and go stand in a grassy field. Try and bounce the football off the grass back up to yourself. Repeat this 100 times. How many times does the ball bounce back to you where you wanted it? On the fake field goal attempt in the 4th quarter, if the ball bounces on the ground one inch differently… in any direction… Janoris Jenkins tackles the LSU kicker and we win that game and who knows what happens with our season. Just dumb luck. BONUS INCH: Terrence Tolliver’s TD catch was caught on his fingertips and his toes were in by less than an inch. Just a brutal loss.
“Inch #4”: vs. Mississippi State- Nobody to blame here but ourselves but on two of the fumbles in the red zone, our ball carriers were about in inch away from being down… but they weren’t. And of course, if Chas Henry hits the ball a fraction of in inch to the right of where he hit it, it goes in and we’re in overtime.
No inches could have helped us vs. South Carolina or Florida State. Yikes.
So if we’re reasonable and don’t assume anything vs. Alabama, those inches vs. LSU and vs. Mississippi State, could have made us a 9-3 team going into bowl season. Not sure how that would have affected our status in the SEC East. I think it would have tied up with South Carolina, and they would have won the tiebreaker, but to be honest… I didn’t want anything to do with playing Auburn. Not at all.
So what happens if we finish the regular season 9-3 and no SECCG appearance? What bowl are we in?
If you’re like me, you’re giggling right now because we’re in the Outback Bowl at 9-3!!!!! Funny, huh?
This season has made me face the harsh reality of college football today. It’s about money. Here are some examples:
– Florida in the Outback Bowl at 7-5 while Miss. St. is in the Gator Bowl at 9-3 (bonus pt. for beating us head to head at home!)
– Boise St. finishes an inch OR LESS (there’s that inch again) from being undefeated, but instead they’re in the Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22nd.
– LSU and Texas A&M, two Top 20 teams playing on January 7th or 8th or whatever it is so the TV money can be spread out for the networks. Really… the Cotton Bowl on January 7th!?!?!
– The 5 Ohio State players being allowed to play in the bowl game, as long as they “promise to come back” next season to serve their 5 game suspension. As a fan and viewer… thank goodness, but in actuality this is an absolute joke. Dez Bryant must be beside himself.
– The Cam Newton saga. Too much has been said already…
There are certain players on this year’s team that I love: Pouncey, Ahmad Black, Moses Jenkins, Jeff Demps, etc… but this was a mostly forgettable season and it’s accentuated by the fact that in essence, none of it mattered. 2 losses or 5 losses, and we were going to the Outback. It was a lost season on fans and for the seniors, however, keep an eye out for the freshman that got some PT this year and will be playing next year.
In Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense watch out for the following players:
– Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown (pro style backs with pro talent)
– Chris Dunkley, wide receiver you may have never heard of unless you’re a recruitnik
– Gerald Christian, limited to special teams mostly this year
– Andre Debose, maybe we’ll throw the ball to him sometimes…
On defense under Dan Quinn/Will Muschamp watch for:
– Ronald Powell and Dominque Easley, both underutilized or misused this season.
– Sharif Floyd is going to be A BEAST. Think of Auburn’s Nick Fairley, but bigger and stronger.
– Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, with a year of experience under their belt will be better and hopefully, saltier.
– Matt Elam and Josh Evans, two high talent players that will finally get their chance next year if Will Hill leaves… and even if he stays maybe.
So we’re closing the book on the 2010 Gator Football season. It was fun at times, but I’m ready to move on to the next chapter and start the Good Will Muschamp era.
Oh, and in case you hadn’t figured it out. This season’s highlight video would be called, “A game of inches: The 2010 Florida Gators”. Not to be confused with Urban Meyer’s next book entitled, “How 4 inches saved me and my family”.
Until next year… Hit ‘em straight. Go Gators!