Put this one on me. I’ll take credit for the loss. Sure, the Gators showed their youth at home on Saturday night in front of a national television audience, but what I said after last week’s game at Ole Miss was inexcusable.
If you read my story last week, you know exactly what I’m talking about. A few people called me out on it, and I immediately realized the fatal flaw I made. Here’s the quote from the end of last week’s story:
“…heading into what looks to be an easy win versus Auburn, I think they will be just fine.”
So I’ll take the blame.
With that all said, there were some issues on the field though. That game was close to a replica of the South Carolina game last year. When Carlos Dunlap was being recruited, the obvious comparison was to Jarvis Moss because of his body. On Saturday night, he came a few feet away from fulfilling the role of kick blocker as well as Moss did.
You would be hard pressed to find a better atmosphere though. You hear it all the time about tough environments, but there is something that makes them even tougher at night. Spurrier touched on it when talking about how happy he was South Carolina got LSU at 3:30. You felt it Saturday night. The Tennessee atmosphere was great, but the Auburn game topped it.
It just hurts that such a great night now feels wasted. Especially after all the confidence we all gained during the second half.
I don’t want this to turn into a “what if” look at Saturday’s game, but there were plenty of plays that could have changed the game. What if Jamar Hornsby doesn’t run into the kicker on Auburn’s first drive? That was after three and out, and forced the defense back on the field to give up a long touchdown drive for Auburn. Then there’s Percy running backwards on the screen, the 2nd and 16 option, the penalty on the fake punt and settling for a field goal after 1st and goal from the three yard line.
The list could go on. But guess what? There’s no point. This is what happens when you have such a young team.
Before the season started, Gator fans’ expectations were too high. Honestly though, I don’t think it was a bad thing. We had seen in the past what Coach Meyer and his staff have done in the two previous years, and a great season with no letdowns wasn’t exactly a stretch.
When this team beat Tennessee 59-20, expectations were raised even more. A team that once was expected to lose two or more games this season was being put on the national map and talked about in the national championship hunt. Quarterback Tim Tebow was one of the first players mentioned in the Heisman hunt. No doubt he’s been outstanding, but the fact remains that he is a sophomore.
This is still Tebow’s first season as the starting quarterback, but it goes much further than that. The Gators leading receiver is also a sophomore, in Percy Harvin with 455 through the air. Look to defense where sophomore Brandon Spikes, who is beginning to be known as “The Predator”, is the leading tackler. The defense’s number one cornerback Saturday night was a true freshman in Joe Haden, who had never played a bit of cornerback until he stepped on campus.
Are you noticing the theme? A smooth, unblemished season was an unreasonable expectation.
The current Gator team is full of high school All-Americans ready to explode. Some of them have shown flashes of it, while still others are getting there. So who are we as fans to expect a perfect season?
Of course it stings to lose in what was believed to be a revenge game. I’m not saying that we have no reason to be frustrated. That was my first loss in the Swamp as a student, and it’s something I’d like to never experience again. But the rest of this year, who knows?
I originally expected two losses this season, but right now I think we would all be wasting time with our predictions. We just do not know how these young players will react to the given atmosphere of any game.
But here is their chance to put themselves back on the map. After being beaten in their home stadium on national television, they have another chance. This time it’s a bigger game, in one of the toughest road atmospheres in the nation, with a chance to knock off the number one team in the nation.
I would have to imagine that if there were a game Urban Meyer could choose coming after a loss, it would be this one. Expect him to challenge the manhood of these players all week, and build some toughness that will be necessary for a win Saturday night.
I’m heading to Baton Rouge next weekend, with a detour to New Orleans, so I’ll be back next week to give you guys the wrap up. Until then, I’m predicting a 28-20 victory!