PULLING RABBITS OUT OF THE HAT
Given the injuries and the general run of bad luck that the Gators have encountered this year, no one is really counting on a winning performance tonight when Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC East) faces off with #10 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC East) at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia (7 p.m., ESPN). But stranger things have happened. The Gators have pulled rabbits out of the hat before. Remember that 2003 Florida-LSU game? The Gators traveled to Baton Rouge on the heels of a loss to Ole Miss at The Swamp and with a 3-3 record to face unbeaten and sixth-ranked LSU in Death Valley. When Skyler Green ran Eric Wilbur’s punt back 80 yards for a touchdown on Florida’s first possession, Tiger fans and more than a few Gator fans thought the rout was on. Only problem was, nobody told freshman quarterback Chris Leak that he couldn’t carve up that LSU defense coordinated by Will Muschamp and certainly nobody told Ciatrick Fason that he couldn’t run on the mighty Tigers. Leak threw for two touchdowns and Fason ran for 92 to offset six LSU sacks as the Gators scored the final 19 points of the game to pull off the upset.
PULLING RABBITS OUT OF THE HAT, PART II
Now, this Florida team is certainly not as good as that 2003 Gator team that was coached by Ron Zook, but then again, South Carolina isn’t as good as that LSU team, either. That LSU team went on to win the national championship. Beating LSU in Baton Rouge that year took an extraordinary effort by a focused team that carried out its assignments on both sides of the ball. When the Tigers bloodied Florida’s nose with that punt return, they expected the Gators to roll over and die. When the Gators instead fought back, LSU went into a mild state of shock and never recovered. If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud that has been hanging over the Gators all week, it is that South Carolina has played its worst games against the weaker competition. If the Gamecocks come into this game with the same attitudes they had against UCF or Tennessee, then Florida might have a chance to pull a rabbit out of the hat and spring the upset.
WHAT WILL BE FLORIDA’S OFFENSIVE APPROACH?
With Tyler Murphy more than likely sidelined with a bad shoulder, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg is probably going to take his first snaps in a college football game. If the Gators elect to dumb things down considerably – which is what most people expect – it probably plays right into South Carolina’s hands. If they elect to go wide open, it’s a serious risk since the Gators have had problems protecting a quarterback and South Carolina has two first round draft picks on its defensive line. So how will the Gators attack? This late in the season, what can they do? Remember the FSU game in 1997 when Steve Spurrier alternated Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson at quarterback? That was a radical approach but Spurrier made it work and sprung the upset over the Seminoles, who needed only to win to make it to the national championship game.
WHAT WILL BE FLORIDA’S OFFENSIVE APPROACH, PART II
I think most Gator fans expect Will Muschamp to go deep into his conversative shell to try to minimize the chances of mistakes. As one fan told me this week, he expects Muschamp to go Bob Woodruff on the Seminoles. Woodruff, the Gator coach in the 1950s, would often punt on third down. I don’t expect ultra-conservative nor do I expect Muschamp to go totally radical and throw the kitchen sink at the Gamecocks. I do expect a bit of a hybrid – a mix of the conservative with just enough radical to throw the Gamecocks off track – because I believe Muschamp has to do something totally out of the norm if he’s going to spring this upset. He’s got everything to gain and nothing to lose with such an approach.
FLORIDA-SOUTH CAROLINA FLASHBACK, 2006
With eight seconds remaining in the game and South Carolina needing a Ryan Succop field goal to win the game, Florida called a time out, seemingly to ice Succop before he attempted a 48-yarder. Florida wasn’t trying to ice Succop. Instead Jarvis Moss was busy telling Urban Meyer that he not only wanted to be in the game, but he needed to be. Moss had blocked an extra point by Succop earlier in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, Succop had a 47-yard field goal attempt stuffed by Ray McDonald. The 6-7 Moss convinced Meyer to put him in the game and take 6-5 Derrick Harvey out. Those extra two inches much have made the difference because Moss leapt high and got a hand on the Succop kick to preserve a 17-16 Florida win.
THE DONOVAN APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE
One player (Dorian Finney-Smith) is off suspension while two others (Scottie Wilbekin and Damontre Harris) remain suspended as the Gators head into their third game of the season today with Arkansas-Little Rock (4:30 p.m., Fox Sports Florida). If there is one thing you can know about Billy Donovan it is that there is no cookie cutter approach to discipline. Discipline is tailored to the situation and circumstances with the idea that it will impact the kid’s life both immediately and into the future. Donovan is here to win, no doubt about it, but he also sees the big picture.
As much as a coach you want to win and you get focused on results, at the end of the day, these are young kids that are having to make choices and decisions and learning how to deal with those consequences and then learning to move on with them and that’s part of our job and our responsibility here,” Donovan said.
IF THERE IS NOTHING TO HIDE …
State Attorney Willie Meggs says the case of an alleged sexual assault by Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is “a cluster.” The alleged assault took place back in December but it was only this week that the Tallahassee Police Department turned it over to the state attorney office. Meggs confirmed that he has received two “witness affidavits” that claim Winston did not commit a crime. If the alibi is airtight, then why is it that Winston will not talk to police and has indicated through his attorney that he will not speak with the state attorney? If there is nothing to hide, then why the silence? Perhaps there is a logical explanation, but the lack of cooperation raises plenty of questions.
THE FEARLESS FORECAST
Besides liking South Carolina over Florida, I like Aubrin over Rainy Night in Georgia; Gloria Vanderbilt over My Old Kentucky Home; Ole Miss over Helen of Troy; and Alabama over Mississippi Cow College.
Last week: 6-1
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I had never heard of Achinoam Nini until I listened to her perform with Pat Metheny on an album called “Noa.” The only reason I listened was because I saw Pat Metheny’s name on it. I didn’t know that in Israel Achinoam Nini is simply known as Noa but listening to that album I became a great fan. This is “Child of Man” performed with Pat Metheny. Pat Metheny’s guitar is the usual off the charts excellent, but I think you will really like the energy you and range of Noa’s vocals. This is really a cool song. She has recorded songs in English, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Galician, Hindi, Italian, Spanish and Thai.