The Monday morning quarterback

Remember when we used to leave The Swamp circling down the ramp cheering “It’s great to be a Florida Gator” in unison?  Those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end.  When it happens again I will relish it all the more and never take it for granted.

We were 4-7 my senior year.  We lost four close games by a point or so. We played eight teams in the Top 20.  We had a ton of injuries.  We lost Carlos Alvarez, Andy Cheney, Jim Yancey, Tommy Durrance and Mike Rich on offense.  We lost Robert Harrell, Danny Williams, Jimmy Barr and John Silman on defense.  We were in the second year of the coaching change from Ray Graves to Doug Dickey.  Coach Dickey decided to go with his young recruits to begin a rebuilding year.  Times were tough.

Times are tough now.  What good does it do to criticize the coaching staff or administration?  What will be will be. Changes will probably be made although I’m not sure what they’ll be. I would love to see a better offense.  It’s hard to enjoy an offense that is ranked 111th in the nation.  I know we have better players than this.

I love Solomon Patton because he plays with a lot of heart.  I expect to see him play on Sunday. I would take him on my team any day. Kelvin Taylor has provided a spark in the running game. I like our center, Jonnothan Harrison. He  looks like he’ll play on Sunday too.

Solomon had some great plays Saturday. He forced the muffed punt attempt coming off the edge, have a nice reverse, two touchdown catches and a great kickoff return. He had a nice catch to get us to the 10 – uh-oh, the dreaded 10-yard line and you’re right, there was no TD. We had to settle for a field goal. We had a chance to score five times and came away with only 13 points. WE should be better than that.

Skyler Morningweg threw a nice touchdown pass to Solomon on the post while taking a shot in the grill! That was a nice play and great to see a tough kid making his throw even when he knew he was going to get hit.

Dante Fowler has had a good year on defense and so have our two cornerbacks. There is no doubt that we have the ingredients for a very good team.

We have so many starters out but Georgia Southern had 19 scholarship players out.  Injuries pale as an excuse when you see those numbers. We are allowed 85 scholarship players. They start with 63. There’s a big difference.

I still can’t believe we gave up 429 yards rushing.  That is simply hard to fathom. Georgia Southern is a good team, 7-4 in their last year of lower division football, but still it’s a lower division team.

We couldn’t stop them late to give us a chance to win. The Eagles needed only five plays for the winning touchdown. Even so, we still had a chance at the end. I look back at that overthrow of Kelvin Taylor in the flat on the left. That was the play that hurt most because I believe he might have scored. Next was that slight overthrow in the right corner of the end zone to Quinton Dunbar. I’m not sure if maybe he stopped running but whatever the reason, we came up short.

It was a tough loss that makes us 4-7 with six straight losses. Now, we have one chance to salvage the season and that is by beating FSU. It’s possible. Don’t tell me we can’t beat FSU. We can spoil their season.

In 1971 we were 0-5, having lost three games by one point. FSU came into our game 5-0. We had a team meeting on Florida Field – no coaches – on Friday night.  We pledged to each other that no matter what the outcome the next day, we would leave it all on the field. We got Tommy Durrance, Robert Harrell and Jimmy Barr back from injury.  Tommy had a good day rushing the ball for close to 100 yards.  Miraculously Jimmy Barr intercepted a fumble in midair and returned it for a touchdown. On the game-winning play, Larry “Moose” Morris was the long snapper and Coach Dickey put me in to hold. Richard Franco split the uprights with a 42-yard field goal and we upset the previously unbeaten Seminoles, 17-15!!!

The fans chanted “It’s great to be a Florida Gator!” I remember that like it was yesterday.  We have the greatest, most loyal and probably long suffering fans in the nation.

So, one more game this season. Our Seniors have one more chance to live a dream and play football for the Florida Gators in The Swamp. How quickly it passes and your career at Florida is over.  I still remember my last game at Florida Field. We got an autographed football and our parents stood with us on the 50. My mother, Emily, and stepdad, Ernie Lamb, were there with me.  They went to every Florida game I played, home and away but it was an empty feeling as I looked around at the end of the game and realized I would never play there again.

I’m sure our seniors will be thinking something similar Saturday afternoon. Maybe we are having a really tough year, but there is no reason why we can’t give our seniors a proper sendoff. We need to let them know how much we appreciate the years they’ve given us. They need to leave the stadium for the last time knowing they were loved and appreciated by the fans. We owe them that even if it has been a tough year and even if all of us aren’t happy with what’s been going on this year.

Again, I say and I’ll say it till it’s over …”it’s great to be a Florida Gator.”

John Reaves QB7

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John Reaves
When he finished his University of Florida playing career in 1971, John Reaves was the most prolific passer in the history of college football. He threw for 7,581 yards in his UF career but he's best remembered for the 70-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Alvarez on the third play of his collegiate career against Houston in 1969. A first team All-American, Reaves played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Bucs, plus three years in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits. He was the quarterback coach at Florida from 1990-94. He's also the father-in-law of former USC coach Lane Kiffin.