Thoughts of the day: November 1, 2013


Nobody really wants to say it, but these are indeed desperate times for the Florida Gators. Lose Saturday and you have to wonder if they can avoid freefall the rest of the season. Win, and suddenly all bets are off that the Gators will tank. Big wins in rivalry games have a habit of inspiring and this is a team that definitely needs some inspiration. What the Gators need is for a hero to emerge. We’ve seen it before in Florida-Georgia games. Kerwin Bell was just such a guy in 1984 when he threw that 96-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel in the third quarter. Go back to 1977 and it seemed that Wes Chandler did everything but kick field goals. He just wouldn’t let the Gators lose. Richard Trapp made what is probably the greatest run in Florida history in 1967 to spark the Gators past Georgia. The Gators are going to need a hero Saturday, and maybe more than one. It would be the perfect time for Dante Fowler to go Lawrence Taylor on us and make life miserable for Aaron Murray. Trey Burton was a hero against Georgia back in 2010. Could he do it again? He’s a senior so he’s only got a few more opportunities to be a hero. Whether it’s Burton or Fowler or someone else, the Gators will need a hero Saturday. A season could depend on it.


The Gators came into this game a shaky favorite after losing on the road to Auburn, 27-17, the week before. Leading up to the game there were questions about Florida’s poise and confidence, particularly on offense. Against Auburn, the Gators lost a game by ten points even though the defense didn’t give up a touchdown. Against Georgia, Florida’s offense sputtered and gave away scoring opportunities. There were two missed field goals and the Gators failed to convert on 10 of their 13 third downs, but the defense came through with a magnificent effort. The Gators forced five Georgia turnovers (two interceptions and three fumbles) and sacked Matt Stafford four times as the Gators came away with a 21-14 win that jump started a seven-game winning streak that took the Gators to the national championship.


Florida’s 14-0 halftime lead expanded to 21-0 on the first play of the third quarter. Georgia ran a sweep with tailback Kregg Lumpkin, who was hit and stripped of the ball by Derrick Harvey. Ray McDonald scooped up the loose ball and rumbled nine yards into the end zone to give the Gators a three-touchdown lead. Florida missed two field goals in the second half and let Georgia back in the game on a Chris Leak interception and a fumble by Tim Tebow, but with a precarious, 21-14, lead late in the fourth quarter a Brandon Siler sack of Stafford set the tone for a defensive stand that forced a Georgia punt. The Gators took the ball over, survived a holding call and a Kestahn Moore fumble that Billy Latsko recovered, and caught a break when Georgia’s Quentin Moses was called for a facemask when Bubba Caldwell was thrown for a two-yard loss on a third and three. Florida was able to convert one more first down after that and then took a couple of knees to run out the clock.


Third-ranked Florida State is a 21.5-point favorite Saturday when unbeaten and seventh-ranked Miami pays a visit to Doak Campbell Stadium. That’s the largest point spread in history for a game involving two teams ranked in the top ten. You can’t find anyone who gives Miami a chance and perhaps the Seminoles will prove all the experts correct by scoring a huge blowout win. But what happens if it’s close? Florida State hasn’t played a close game all year while Miami has a come-from-behind win that was decided in the last minute just last week. It will be interesting to see how freshman quarterback Jameis Winston handles the pressure if somehow Miami keeps it very close or even has a lead going into the fourth quarter. Can Miami win? Sure. Will Miami win? Probably not, but if the Hurricanes can keep the FSU offense from lighting them up early, this could be a very interesting finish.


That’s what they’ll be saying in Arkansas Saturday after Gus Malzahn and Auburn finish handing the Razorbacks their sixth straight loss. Malzahn is an Arkansas native who was once a walk-on receiver for the Razorbacks when Ken Hatfield was the head coach. Arkansas has had two chances to hire Malzahn and passed both times. The first was in 2007 after Houston Nutt bolted for Ole Miss and the second was last year after the Razorbacks endured a disaster of a season under interim John L Smith. Now there is no doubt that Gus will have an easier time winning at Auburn than he ever would at Arkansas, but there is also no doubt he will not let the opportunity slip by to let the Razorbacks’ faithful know what they could have had.


For only the third time in NFL history an overtime game ended with a safety Thursday night when Cameron Wake sacked Andy Dalton to give the Miami Dolphins a 22-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Bengals fans will be scratching their heads about this one for a long time, not just because the game ended with a sack for a safety, but also because head coach Marvin Lewis elected to punt in overtime rather than give Mike Nugent a chance at a game-winning 56-yard field goal. With 1:24 remaining in regulation, Nugent nailed a 54-yarder that would have been good from 64.


You don’t have to be a former IRS agent to understand the NCAA recruiting manual but it probably helps. IRS agents are accustomed to dealing with mounds and mounds of dumb and often confounding rules and regulations so they are probably the best qualified people in the world to understand the NCAA rules when it comes to recruiting. The NCAA just added a series of new rules that go into effect immediately, only one of which is actually good for the game. In its infinite wisdom the NCAA did decide that schools can pay for the meals of up to four family members who accompany a recruit on an official visit.


That’s the message Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has for the NCAA. Speaking for the five power conferences at a Board of Directors meeting of the NCAA in Indianapolis earlier in the week, Delany warned that if the power conferences aren’t given some leeway to make some rules that apply to their particular needs, then there is a serious risk that they will secede football and form their own organization to govern the sport. Right now there are 351 schools that get a vote for football legislation, many of whom don’t field a scholarship program for football. Yet, whenever the power conferences want to change rules such as being able to pay for an athlete to finish his education even after his eligibility has ended, the proposal gets shot down by a vote of the smaller schools that really can’t afford the extra expenses. I’ve long felt that Division I football needs its own set of rules and a commissioner rather than a former college president to run the organization. Let the have nots make their own rules and leave the schools that can afford it to make their own.


A great trivia stumper for a football fan is to ask who Jimmy Johnson (football coach, not the car racing driver) took to his senior prom at Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, Texas.  The answer is Janis Joplin, who was his next door neighbor in Port Arthur. In the mid-1960s after she moved to San Francisco, Joplin joined the psychedelic blues band Big Brother and the Holding Company, which produced a couple of outstanding albums including the classic “Cheap Thrills” featuring “Piece of My Heart,” the song by which Joplin will always be remembered.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.