Wait-til-next-week Gators

A long time ago before championships were both expected and demanded, Florida fans got just as lathered up about not winning – except they were more patient. They wanted change, but were willing to wait. They were known as Wait-til-next-year Gators. Their patience was rewarded in 1996.

Urban Meyer doesn’t keep them waiting as long. He has proven he can turn it around by the next game. (See Georgia 2006 after the loss to Auburn and Arkansas 2008 after Ole Miss loss. And the national championships that followed.)

Maybe LSU can be another one of those turnaround games that will reroute the course north toward that big city in Georgia in December.

This is what the fans desire and think they deserve.

Say hello to the new Wait-til-next-week Gators.

It comes with baggage.

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At his press conference on Monday, Meyer didn’t look drawn and quartered, or hollow-eyed, or despondent, or spooked by the loss to Alabama. He was fairly direct, only slightly evasive, concerned about some individual performances, clearly dissatisfied with the end result and admitted his team had “failed miserably” at their attempt to execute the Plan to Win.

Despite holding Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to under 100 yards rushing, or Greg McElroy under 100 yards passing, Meyer would only call it “admirable” defense.

He was especially perturbed by the turnovers and the break down of the punt returning team on Julio Jones’ near touchdown, spared only by the courageous tackle made by punter/placekicker Chas Henry, who suffered a shoulder injury on the play.

No, Urban will not make wholesale changes. Yes, he knows his calls in the red zone can be second-guessed. And no, he isn’t going to abandon the option play, just try to improve on it. Yes, he will try some more “creative” things in the offense, meaning that we’ll probably be seeing Jordan Reed taking some snaps.

I asked him about the problems in the end zone, but chances are that many of the fans already know the answers – they wouldn’t want to be bored by what he said in his real response. So I decided to make up some questions and answers for some of those Wait-til-next-week Gators.

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Question: Urban, since you obviously have no clue with what you’re doing with the play calling in the red zone, are you planning on firing two or three members of your offensive staff?

Answer: Well, I thought I’d give then another week and see if we can turn this thing around. Maybe we’ll just suspend a couple first. It builds up the suspense.

Question: Did all the Alabama coaches and players have copies of your playbook, because they seemed to know what was coming – especially the Jump Pass?

Answer: No, just our call sheets. We left some lying around the locker room. Stuff happens.

Question: What’s it going to take to get you to put Mike Pouncey back at guard and move Sam Robey to center?

Answer: Oh, is that what you guys wanted? Why didn’t you say so? Sometimes I get so busy I don’t have time to read the message boards before I draw up the game plan.

Question: Is it true that you don’t have one single leader on this team and that you miss Tim Tebow?

Answer: Yeah, we didn’t have a single guy step up. We are leaderless. But we’ve asked Tim to make some tapes and send them to us for use at halftime.

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Observations: (for real)

–Linebacker Brandon Hicks was wearing a tee shirt with the word “Team” on it. When I asked him if he thought his “Team” was better or worse after the loss to Alabama, he gave me a long, convoluted answered – he tried, he really did – after which I asked him “better or worse”? again and he said “better.” I think.

–I don’t find it alarming at all that every player had the same response – OK, maybe it was all choreographed – about who stepped up as “leaders” after the loss. They have been taught that each player group has its spokesperson(s) and that’s what they called their “Power of the Unit.” Does that mean they are leaderless? No, not at all. Will this “group think” work? We’ll find out.

–I found it hilarious, not damning, that freshman kickoff specialist Brad Phillips from Gainesville Buccholz was so anonymous that Urban asked him to stand up in a team meeting so he knew who he was. Speaks well for the kid, too, that he stepped right in and kicked well in his first outing at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

–I’ve always wondered how long the sting of a nasty defeat should linger and when it was time to move on. Same as the glow of a victory, I suppose. On Mondays. Gator players and coaches say they are moving on. “It’s over,” said Urban.

* * *

Since so many people aren’t getting the answers they want, we have decided to turn our reports into Comedy Central, with the best lines of the day – all from that standup comedian Carl Johnson:

On what was said at halftime and why they played better: “There was no pixie dust at halftime, no kumbayas – it was just play Florida football in the second half.”

On whether they were deflated after failing to score on the first draft: “Actually it wasn’t deflating. It just showed that these Crimsons Tides weren’t gods.”

On what he would call on the 1-yard line – the jump pass? “I’m just a player, I dunno.”

Did he think Alabama knew what was coming? “I dunno, but my grandma watched the game and she said says that before we did the jump pass all the Alabama coaches were hollerin’, ‘watch out for that!”

On the lack of a short-yardage speciaist: “No, there’s no Tim Tebow—just like there’s no Randy Moss, either.”

* * *


Nobody much is talking Atlanta anymore short term, but no question they are thinking long term. And why not?

We may not be having this conversation next Monday unless the red zone offense is fixed, but on the other hand, the next few weeks set up nicely for a run.

These Gators could fall flat of their face, or they could go out and beat a 5-0 LSU team and vault back into the Top Ten, then play and defeat Mississippi State at homecoming. That gets them to the open date and a chance to heal up for the final five games: Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Appalachian Stat and Florida State.

Even the most pessimistic Wait-til-next-week Gators would have to admit that looks pretty do-able.

I certainly do. Optimistic? Don’t forget, I picked Alabama.