In all the years I’ve followed the Gators, I’ve never experienced a weekend like this.
Not even following heartbreaking losses (some against Alabama, ironically), have I seen the fan base in this shape.
Gator Naton is revolting.
Sure, the fan base has shown consternation previously; look no further than last year’s 4-8 campaign. It’s not like a significant amount of fans have changed their tune about Will Muschamp and quarterback Jeff Driskel. But it’s in a different tone right now. There’s a mix of anger from Saturday’s 42-21 loss to Alabama, betrayal after watching the season opener and fear that the Gators are headed down another losing season.
Despite the same group of people calling for Will Muschamp’s job last year, there was a small pass in that a good portion of the team was injured during the season. A new offensive coordinator, one from a school that racked up a lot of points last year, gave supporters hope coming into this season. Throughout the offseason, the media and fans were told about the improvements of the offense, how the uptempo style is meshing well with the talent, and how Driskel looks more comfortable in the offense.
The claims seemed to have been founded in the season opener against Eastern Michigan. Sure, the Eagles were a cupcake, but Florida devoured them the way a major program does, scoring the most points under Muschamp, 65. Even though the following week’s victory over Kentucky took three overtimes, the concern from some fans was met with understanding and respect of a Wildcat team that is removed from the lackluster seasons of decades past. While Driskel threw an interception, he stood in the pocket and helped put points on the board too. Players like Vernon Hargreaves III and Chas Green saw a difference in the way their team handled the adversity. It seemed like a good test before Alabama.
While the worries of Gator Nation were pacified, Alabama’s opening play against the Gators opened those emotions up. Shortly after the 87-yard touchdown pass from Blake Sims to Kenyan Drake, the sentiments were the same on social media: Not this again.
Even when Florida kept it close, as they did for most of the game, there was still a sense of nervousness, a type different from usual feeling of a big game. It was as if Gator Nation knew the horrors of last year would arise, and was just waiting for it.
Florida and Alabama’s offenses helped make those fears a reality. While the Gators sputtered out on offense, Alabama wore down Florida in the second half with their running game. The Gators couldn’t tackle, were out of position and allowed 21 second-half points.
They also set the fan base into overdrive.
After the game Muschamp said the team will work on communication issues in the secondary, but the schemes ran Saturday left Alabama receivers wide open. The head coach also said Driskel, who went 9-28 with 93 yards, gave them the best chance to win.
In a young season, the football program already finds themselves at a crossroads. The supporters that were pessimistic, optimistic, and then pessimistic after Saturday will not waiver any more. They want change, because in their eyes the season is slipping away under the current plan.
As extreme as sports opinions can be, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
At one point during the game, I was having a discussion with one of my followers, Jason Cooley about the game and the state of the team. His quote summed up a lot of Gator Nation’s sentiments and the resounding feeling of change that needs to take place.
“Bro. Seriously. Stay positive. I’m just tired of this. I used to find the positives.”