In the intersection of football flamboyance, Fat Saturday might not register very high on the scale of achievement. Clobbering The Citadel, 70-19, is certainly not the ticket to BCS supremacy. But hold on here, folks, and let’s check the longitude and latitude of these Florida Gators.
They’re right in a sweet spot, on a sweet roll.
The body of work is what’s important and while there is so much yet at stake in the next two weeks, we need to look behind from whence they came in order to appreciate where the Gators are and where they may be going.
First off, let’s get this one the table: There would be no reenactment of Appalachian State vs. Michigan.
In Florida’s 10th win, the small-school Citadel Bulldogs got run over by a freight train the likes of which these parts may have never seen.
And brutalized though they may have been, the Bulldogs should take comfort in that they are in good company as Gator thrashees. Similar beatings have been administered to Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina in the six previous games.
While the 10 wins really don’t mean anything to Urban Meyer right now, they do speak of the stairstep of progress for a program that once relished that statistic as if were the four-minute mile before Roger Bannister.
They will be 10-1 rolling into Tallahassee Saturday, just the 11th team in school history to achieve double-digit victories in a season, a team still maybe not absolutely at its zenith but peaking at precisely the best time, pointed toward the biggest prize in college football.
“I don’t know much about the history,” Meyer said of the 10-win plateau, “but it’s hard to imagine two more important games than what we’ve got coming up.”
Uh, make that three games coach.
For just this one Saturday, Meyer allowed himself to emote. As he greeted 21 young men at midfield to acknowledge their swan song, the Florida coach got downright mushy. In his fourth Senior Day at Florida, it’s the first time I’ve seen him hug every player. And he almost got a little misty-eyed bragging on the fact that every one of the 21 would be receiving their degrees, if they hadn’t already.
Urban Meyer is a sucker for his seniors and he gave them center stage on Saturday to show them some love. They all got a little sugar — a touchdown catch for Louis Murphy, two touchdown carries for Kestahn Moore, a reception for Tate Casey. And he even let a lineman get into the act.
A senior tackle with bad knees and a big heart had his moment in the sun when Javier Estopinan lined up a fullback on the one-yard line and lived the dream of all tackles as he romped into the end zone — the ultimate parting gift.
We saw the Alpha and The Omega — Johnny Brantley coming and George Edmonson going. Mr. Two Bits is gone, having bid adieu after 60 years. Brantley, the heir to the Heis-Man, played a full half and part of a quarter in his longest stint as a Gator, on his way to a bright future. When it was over, Brantley even got a lesson on how to take a hi-five victory lap by Tim Tebow.
It’s probably paranoid to wonder why Tebow felt compelled to pass the torch to his backup, but neither did Tim come out and speak to issue of whether he’s planning to come back next season. Smart money says he will be back.
At the same, there was a quiet goodbye by Percy Harvin, who most certainly appears headed to the NFL. Could we read anything into it when Percy did the Lambeau Leap into the east side stands? Harvin had a big grin on his face as he received love pats from the students.
The astonishing thing about Percy is that he arrived in somewhat understated fashion, but developed into one of the premier players ever to suit up in the orange and blue. And now he departs quickly, before we really ever got to know him. There are, of course, more chances for Percy to shine, just none in his home park.
Thanks for the memories, Percy.
Meyer once told me Harvin was “as good a football player as I’ve ever been around.” Now he says his junior wide receiver/tailback is one of the two or three best players in the country.
One thing to remember about Percy Harvin: We have seen a special player whose talents we will only come to appreciate after he is gone.
Percy won’t get a Senior Day, or will linebacker Brandon Spikes, who appears to be leaning toward an early exit as well.
Together, this group of players has constructed near-magnificence. We cannot fully judge yet, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Meyer’s 2008 squad could be as good as any Gator team ever.
These things are difficult to measure, one era against another, but I could make a case for the ‘08s playing as good as any team I’ve ever seen over a the recent six-game stretch (not counting Citadel).
In the aforementioned run against Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, Florida won by an average of 41 points per game. It reminded me somewhat of the six-game streak of the 1996 national champions.
By an average of 32.1 points a game, Steve Spurrier’s team smacked down Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina by a margin of 32.1 points.
And so on. There are other comparative stats to support that the ‘08s might be better than the ‘96s, but the big difference is the trophy case and the ring finger of the players.
With the naked eye, this Meyer team seems beyond compare with a complete repertoire — offense, defense and special teams. But there is no jewelry yet to back up that contention.
Fat Saturday was for saying goodbyes, getting reps and building up stats. This week it’s back to Big Boy Football. Methinks the Boys From Old Florida will be up to the task.