Florida football embarrasses itself on and off the field as program bottoms out

By Adam Silverstein
November 5, 2017
Florida football embarrasses itself on and off the field as program bottoms out

Image Credit: ESPNI

Florida Gators football could — and probably will — lose the rest of its games this season, but it would be hard to believe the program reaching a lower moment than it did Saturday in Columbia, Missouri.

One week after being flattened 42-7 by rival Georgia, which is trending in the complete opposite direction of a Florida team that has truly bottomed out, the Gators were throttled by a Missouri team that is often routed itself by Power Five opponents and was winless against such teams this season.

On the field, Florida was soundly defeated 42-16. The defense gave up 42+ in consecutive games for the first time since 1917, and the Gators are now allowing more yards per game than in any season since 1971 — and more points per game than in any season since 1946. Some of that is a coaching deficiency, but most of it has to do with talent and depth, which have respectively been hampered by poor recruiting and extensive injuries this season.

The offense is rudderless without a reliable starting quarterback leading the way. The offensive line was overrated to start the season and is now missing starters due to injury. The playmakers actually are there but with no one to get them the ball, protect the quarterback or open consistent lanes, there’s only so much they can do. Special teams — as it has been all season — is atrocious and led by an assistant whom the team should have moved on from last season (and never should have been hired in the first place).

All of that is terrible for Florida. It is now clear that the Gators are in a worse spot than they were following the departures of Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp. This is a true low point for Florida football, and while that presents a tremendous opportunity for coaches and players that join the program in 2018, it does not make things better in the present day.

Compounding that is some inane decision making off the field. The Gators’ official Twitter account on Saturday thought it would be a good idea to play up the fact that the team is a shell of its former self by sending out a self-depreciating GIF labeled “nothing to see here” with an explosion in the background.

Websites instantly jumped on this, many crediting Florida for finding humor in its predicament, while others wondered why the team would send such a tweet. Surely, UF was attempting to send a relatively light-hearted message as many other teams have in similar situations. The difference is that while the San Antonio Spurs account may release a similar tweet while being blown out in a regular season game, the Gators are doing it while losing to what their fans portend to be a far inferior opponent one week after UF parted ways with its head coach.

Bad timing. Bad decision. Bad look.

Redshirt senior punter Johnny Townsend, Florida’s best player and a potential Ray Guy Award winner this season, took notice to the tweet when he returned to the locker room after the game. Townsend, who has given maximum effort all season, admonished the Gators in a since-deleted tweet for bashing themselves and the players who were sweating and trying to play hard on Saturday.

He was 100 percent right, of course.

Townsend quickly deleted his tweet, and Florida wound up doing the same shortly after the fact. The Gators did not admit a mistake, apologize to their fans or anything of the kind. They just pretended it didn’t happen.

As if that was not enough, sophomore linebacker David Reese — in a rare moment of leadership for this Florida team — rightfully called out his teammates after the game in a pointed statement.

“I just want to say one thing,” he began. “We loved every single one of our coaches that’s been through here. It’s unfortunate what’s happened to them. I hate the way we represented our coaches like that today with this game.

“Those guys really care for us and gave us a real good gameplan to do what we had to do. It’s sometimes disappointing when everybody doesn’t want to come together and just play for each other. That’s sad to see. We’ve still got a lot to play for. Me personally and our defense, we want to play for those guys. We can’t have appearances like we did today. That’s just unacceptable.”

He continued: “[As] far as this game, we didn’t come out as one. We didn’t have the energy we needed. We didn’t play together. We didn’t play as a unit. It just wasn’t as personal to us as it should have been. There’s only so much you can do. It’s just sometimes the character of an individual … sometimes it’s a little bit overwhelming, but you have to focus on the task at hand, the game at hand. We’re going to hit it hard at practice and try to get everybody that wants to be on board, on board. That’s something we didn’t have [today].

“If you want to be a Gator, let’s be Gators.”

Florida can throw out its “championship experience with integrity” tag line all it wants, but until the football team begins to even come close to living up to it once again, it rings completely hollow.

The Gators are in a bad place right now. There is obviously going to be a coaching change. Along with that will come attrition both on the current roster and within the recruiting class — perhaps to a minor degree that can be mitigated with the right hire.

The truth as it stands now is that Florida absolutely must calmly and confidently make some calculated decisions over the next 4-6 weeks. The Gators football program must head in a completely new direction. If the administration makes the right move, everything can legitimately be salvaged in a year or two. One more massive mistake along the lines of Jim McElwain and Florida might be headed the way of … well, let’s just remember how long it took Miami to get “back.”


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