Thoughts of the day: November 30, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning:


 FSU is a 27-point favorite today and most of the experts think the Seminoles will hang at least 50 on the Gators. This is a Florida team that has lost six in a row and has taken a beating at every turn. This is a Florida team in desperate need of inspiration. Even with a Gene Ellenson-like speech or a motivating ploy like the one he used to fire up the Gators in 1968, the Gators might not have it in them to even slow down the Seminoles, much less stop them, but college football is a funny game. Inspired teams do amazing things. Stanford was a 40-point underdog to #1-ranked Southern Cal in 2007 but the Cardinal rallied for the final 10 points to take a 24-23 win. A Florida win today would be considered just as big an upset. It might sound impossible, but it can be done.


It starts with a strong measure of inspiration and it usually one or more players to deliver the performance of a lifetime. When Southern Miss knocked off #1 FSU at the start of the 1989 season, an unknown quarterback named Brett Favre played the game of his life. That was a Southern Miss team that finished the season 5-6 but on that day, the Eagles played an inspired game against an FSU team that would win its final 10 games of the season. Florida may not have a quarterback with the capabilities of Brett Favre, but even with all the injuries, the Gators are more talented than that 1989 Southern Miss team. So can it be done? Yes. Likely? No. But it can be done.


Back in 1968, the Gators were ranked in the top ten when they faced Florida State in game two, but after the way they had to rally to beat Air Force, 23-20, the week before on a Jack Youngblood field goal in the inaugural game at the old Tampa Stadium, there was a queasy feeling in the stomach of nearly every Gator fan. Florida’s defense had struggled to stop Air Force and the question on every Gato fan’s mind was if the Gators had problems with Air Force, just what the heck where they going to do to stop FSU All-American wide receiver Ron Sellers?


The Friday night before the FSU game, the Gators stayed at the Holiday Inn in Live Oak. As the team gathered in the ballroom after dinner, defensive coordinator Gene Ellenson took to the podium and was about to speak when there was a knock on the door. Ellenson signaled to open the door and in walked someone from the front desk with a box. He handed it to one of the managers who brought it to the front of the room to Ellenson. It was addressed to the Florida football team so Ellenson took the liberty of opening it and pulled out a Florida football helmet with a hatchet buried in its crown. There was a note that said, “We’re going to kill your quarterback!” Ellenson read that two or three times and then proceeded to give a fiery speech that had the Gators ready to play that very minute. The next day, the Gators took out their anger on the Seminoles. Jack Youngblood sacked the FSU quarterback four times and kicked a field goal. FSU and Sellers never saw the end zone and the Gators won, 9-3.


The most dramatic finish so far this weekend was Mississippi State’s 17-10 win over Ole Miss in overtime. Injured Dak Prescott came off the bench in the fourth quarter to drive Mississippi State to a tying field goal, then scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime when MSU head coach Dan Mullen elected to go for it rather than kick a field goal on fourth and two from the Ole Miss three. Ole Miss appeared to be going in for the touchdown that would send the game into a second overtime when Bo Wallace was stripped of the ball and fumbled into the end zone where MSU recovered for the win. The win improved Mississippi State to 6-6 and will send the Bulldogs to a school-record fourth straight bowl.


LSU played down to its opponent Friday and needed a near-miracle finish to send Arkansas to its ninth straight loss, 31-27. When quarterback Zach Mettenberger went down with a hyperexteded knee in the fourth quarter, the Tigers pinned their hopes on true freshman Anthony Jennings, an early enrollee back in January. All Jennings did was lead LSU on a 99-yard scoring drive, getting the game winning touchdown on a 49-yard pass to redshirt freshman Travin Dural, who was filling in for All-American Odell Beckham, one of five starters LSU lost during the game. On the game-winning drive, Jennings completed three passes for 76 yards and ran twice for 23 including a 21-yard run that set up the game-winning touchdown. LSU finished the regular season 9-3 while Arkansas finished 3-9 with a school record losing streak.


Former Gator assistant head coach (under Urban Meyer) Doc Holliday got Marshall into the Conference USA championship game Friday with a 59-28 win over East Carolina. Should West Virginia elect to fire Dana Holgorsen, Holliday’s name will be heard early and often. He is a WVU alum who was a protégé of Don Nehlen, the greatest coach in WVU history. Holliday is a lights out recruiter …  Earlier in the week, Akron rewarded Terry Bowden with a two-year extension on his contract. Friday afternoon, the Zips rewarded Bowden with the best win of his two seasons on the job, a 31-29 upset of Toledo. Akron finishes the season at 5-7, four more wins than last year … Bowling Green and Dave Clawson knocked off Buffalo, 24-7, Friday afternoon to win the Mid-American Conference East championship and a berth in the MAC title game with Northern Illinois. You will hear Clawson’s name mentioned in the next two weeks as the firing season begins. UConn has him prominently targeted … If Southern Cal knocks off UCLA today, Pat Haden might have to take the interim label off Ed Orgeron, who has the support of prominent former USC players … Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s name is quietly being listed as a possible replacement for Texas coach Mack Brown should Brown get the axe after next week’s game with Baylor.


Do not be shocked if Nebraska coach Bo Pelini gets the axe this week even though the Cornhuskers finished the regular season 8-4. It’s how they finished. Losing four games in a season is bad enough. Losing badly to Kirk Ferentz and Iowa could be the last straw for Pelini, who is not a fan favorite … Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter is in no danger of getting fired with a 10-1 record, but after losing 62-52 to San Jose State Friday, you won’t hear his name mentioned prominently in any coach searches. There is no question Fresno has a brilliant offense, but a defense that has given up 62, 51 and 40 points plus two games of 28 will kill any chances for an upward move … If Kansas State clobbers Kansas by 40 or more, Charlie Weis could get the axe as soon as Sunday morning.


While all Gators hope for the best today, probably 90% are braced for the absolute worst. This has been a long, trying season for Gator fans, which is why I chose “The Thrill Is Gone” for today’s music. The thrill is indeed gone from this season although a miracle win by the Gators today could change that in a heartbeat. This is one of the best versions I’ve ever found of this song. It features B.B. King and Eric Clapton on guitars with Phil Collins on the drums.

Previous articleGreat escape! Gators slip past FSU, 67-66
Next articlePD’s Picks & Pans: Week 14
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.