At what point do the excuses stop?

This isn’t like Michigan losing to Appalachian State at The Big House in 2007. This is worse. Much, much worse. Appalachian State had won two straight Division IAA championships and would go on to win a third that year after knocking off the mighty Wolverines in the season opener.

Georgia Southern 2013 isn’t anywhere as good as that Appalachian State team. The Eagles lost four games this season to the likes of four-loss Samford, five-loss Furman, six-loss Wofford and eight-loss Appalachian State.

But they won seven games and one of them is over the Florida Gators.

This is not 3 a.m. Saturday morning. You didn’t just wake up with your head and heart pounding away because you dreamed that the Gators sunk to depths lower than the whale poop on the bottom of the ocean. You are very much awake and what you never thought possible just happened.

This is your very cold, very hard reality. Georgia Southern came into The Swamp Saturday afternoon and beat the Florida Gators, 26-20, and they did it without completing a single pass or reverting to anything remotely tricky. Oh, sure, they run that funky option offense that a Florida high school coach named Tom Perrin used to drive people crazy back in the 1960s but let’s get one thing straight here. The Flying T, as Tom Perrin called it, isn’t about deception. It’s about precision. It’s about five-foot splits in the offensive line and undersized linemen carrying out their assignments perfectly. It’s about the quarterback knowing when to hand off, when to tuck and run and when to pitch.

It’s about 429 rushing yards against an SEC defense.

That’s what Georgia Southern did to the Gators Saturday and that six-point margin of victory could have actually been worse except that the Eagles were gracious visitors who did their best to give the mighty Gators a fighting chance to win with such miscues as their punter letting a snap slither through his fingers at the 14-yard line or Irving Huggins fumbling the football at the Florida two or Kevin Ellison making the wrong read and handing off to his fullback instead of taking the ball outside a fourth and two with 6:45 left in the game.

So much for that theory that a D1AA team has to play a perfect game to beat a team from the Southeastern Conference.

Excuses? You can make a thousand of them, but at what point do you say enough is enough, that there isn’t an excuse in the world sufficient to cover up the fact that there is no way in heaven or hell that Georgia Southern should be able to come into The Swamp and knock off the Florida Gators.

Injuries? Okay, so the Gators have injuries and maybe you can use that to excuse those five straight losses to SEC teams, but this was Georgia Southern. Florida’s second, third and fourth stringers would be considered stud recruits in Statesboro. How many on Georgia Southern’s two-deep roster got offers from Florida coming out of high school? If they had been offered they would have been on the Florida sideline Saturday instead of hugging everything and everyone in sight when the clock struck zero.

Oh, and if you’re going to use the injury excuse once again, then go have a chat with Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken. He’s lost 19 players to injury this season including his best offensive player, Dominique Swope, so it’s not like the Eagles were pounding away at the Gators with their best players, either. That was a patchwork Georgia Southern team, which is why Monken stated rather matter of factly earlier in the week, “I’ll guarantee you the backups they’ve had to run in there are better than our backups.”

So forget that excuse and accept this reality: Florida losing to Georgia Southern is inexcusable.

Will Muschamp called it “embarrassing.”

This is the same Will Muschamp who told Florida fans to “get a grip” after last week’s loss to South Carolina. Maybe he is the one who should get a grip and start thinking about wholesale changes to both his offensive philosophy and his offensive staff after the Gators managed only 279 yards against the Eagles and made it 32 consecutive games since a Florida team scored two touchdowns in the first quarter of a game.

Georgia Southern loaded the box with eight and covered Florida’s wide receivers one-on-one on the outside. Florida did the same thing with Georgia Southern. Here’s the difference. Georgia Southern kept running the same plays over and over again and they worked. Florida kept running the same plays over and over again and they didn’t work. Now ask yourself which was the better-coached team?

Let’s also talk about complete and total disrespect. Georgia Southern loaded the box and dared the Gators to throw the ball down the field. Georgia Southern was all too willing to cover Solomon Patton, Quinton Dunbar and Trey Burton one-on-one. That is disrespect.

The Eagles got away with it because it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Florida’s offensive philosophy is too timid to take shots down the field and offensive coordinator Brent Pease is the kind of guy who would drive 40 miles out of his way to a 33-flavor ice cream shop and order the vanilla.

You see, Georgia Southern knew it could offer up all the bait in the world and Florida wouldn’t take it. It’s not a gamble to dare someone to throw when you know they either lack confidence or imagination or decent enough coaching to make you pay.

And don’t go blaming this on being down to the third-string quarterback, either. Think about why Skyler Mornhinweg was playing in the first place. It’s because the offensive line failed to protect either Jeff Driskel or Tyler Murphy. Skyler has been in Gainesville for two years. If he looked inept throwing the ball that should tell you he hasn’t exactly been coached up.

So let’s get real here.

Some of what has happened to the Gators this season can indeed be attributed to injuries but at some point you have to factor in coaching, particularly on the offensive side of the football. You see, with or without the injuries, Florida’s offensive numbers really haven’t changed all that much in the last three years. The offense stunk in 2011, it stunk in 2012 and it stinks this year, too. Three straight years that the offense will finish outside the top 100.

If there are no changes in the offensive staff or philosophy by next season, then you can figure the offense is going to stink again. Remember this: if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always be what you’ve always been.

Translation: If Will Muschamp intends to be coaching long term at the University of Florida, he better do something different offensively next year.

Back on November 13, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley stated that he’s behind Will Muschamp “1000%.” Can he say 1000% after losing to Georgia Southern? Can he even say 100%?

And what happens if Florida State comes to town next Saturday and flattens the Gators by 50 or so? You don’t think that can happen? Well, if you don’t, then your optimism totally outweighs common sense.

But let’s assume that Foley has dug in his heels and isn’t going to budge. Let’s assume that Muschamp is coming back next year. Let’s also speculate that if Muschamp returns without significant changes in the way he conducts his offensive business that the Will Muschamp era at the University of Florida won’t extend to 2015.

You can count on that.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.