Snell’s Slant: What the hell happened to Florida?

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell has joined OGGOA as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.

What in the world happened to Florida? The last time we saw this team, it was hitting Florida State in the mouth and running up and down the field on its in-state rival. On the flip side, Louisville looked as if it did not even belong in a BCS bowl after losing two of its last three regular season games. It is truly amazing the difference one month can make. And it’s exactly why they play the game on the field and not on paper.

The Gators clearly got outcoached, outplayed and outsmarted in every phase of the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Wednesday. The Cardinals were obviously the more focused team on a night where both squads were being showcased on a national stage for the whole country to see. One team took advantage of the moment.

What was so amazing about Florida’s failure is that this team played the toughest schedule in the country and went 4-1 against teams ranked in the top of the BCS standings. All five of those teams were better than Louisville. That brings me back to my original question: What the hell happened? Why did a team so much better lose to a team that is definitely not at the same level?


1. The SEC is overrated.

Just read. The Gators could very well have been in the BCS Championship Game, which for Florida fans would have been great. Being completely honest here, you cannot tell me a team that put on a performance like that on a national stage is the third-best in the country no matter what he did the rest of the year.

Then you have South Carolina and Georgia, both of which won their bowl games but were pushed all the way to the fourth quarter against Michigan and Nebraska, respectively. These are SEC teams ranked in the top-10! They should be dominating these teams from other conferences. Don’t get me wrong, the SEC is still the best league in the country. There is no doubting that, from top-to-bottom, this conference beats the best of the rest. What fans do need to realize, however, is that there are teams in other leagues that have raised their game and can compete. The SEC’s overall dominance may continue but it has most certainly been lessened.

2. Long layoffs during bowl games can be good and bad.

Extremely long breaks between games are supposed to be helpful for top-notch coaching staffs, allowing them the ability to work on their team’s fundamentals while putting in a fool-proof game plan. That is how Urban Meyer utilized his bye weeks and time off, and it is exactly why the Gators were so successful under him when they had more than a week to prepare. However, these layoffs also help improve the health of players. In the case of Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, it allowed a player with ankle and wrist injuries to get back to full health and perform like he was on another level. Then you have head coach Charlie Strong who used the long layoff to game plan for every single thing Florida’s vanilla offense was going to do.

For the Gators, this layoff hurt them massively. Florida had just come off an emotional win against FSU and was riding high on the possibility of either playing in the BCS Championship Game or taking on Oklahoma in a high-profile Sugar Bowl. Instead, the team learned that Louisville would be the opponent and the focus was more on the coaching match-up than what would happen on the field. Additionally, UF went from being year-long underdog to a heavy favorite. The Gators lost a season’s worth of momentum and that is a recipe for disaster.

3. They didn’t care.

While I’m extremely excited for Matt Elam and Sharrif Floyd and their futures after the duo decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, as a former player I was disturbed that both players announced their decision immediately after the loss to Louisville. I would never question the heart of any Florida player – especially guys like these two that both played well in the game – but one does have to wonder how much the NFL has been on their minds, whether or not it was discussed a lot in the days leading up to the game and how that had an impact on their teammates. Remember the 2009 SEC Championship Game? Those guys were looking ahead both to the NFL and to the BCS title game and thought they could just walk over Alabama. Then they got smacked in the face and kicked in the ass by a focused, motivated team.

And no matter what head coach Will Muschamp said during bowl week – yes, I read all of his quotes here on OGGOA – there were most certainly players out celebrating and enjoying Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. Perhaps they did not break curfew and therefore there were no discipline problems, but I was on the team for four bowl games and can promise you that plenty of shenanigans go on.

So, yes, this game does leave a very sour taste in my mouth, especially from the perspective of a former player. Bowl games can most certainly provide a boost for the following season, so the Gators really didn’t do themselves any favors this time around.

However, when it all comes down to it, one disastrous loss should not make fans lose sight of the fact that Florida did go through the toughest schedule in the nation and came out relatively clean with an 11-2 record that was better than almost anyone could have expected. Muschamp proved this season that “his way” works, no matter how many mistakes the coaching staff made in the bowl game.

While the season did end on a bad note, the Gators are a young team that is going to be even younger next year. With another great recruiting class about to enroll, the future remains very bright for a Florida team in the middle of a turnaround.

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23 Responses to “Snell’s Slant: What the hell happened to Florida?”

  1. joe says:

    The last sentence says it all. As much as we want to be back, we are just in the middle of the turnaround and not at the end. Urban had 2 years to break the program so it figures it will take at least that long to rebuild it if not longer.

    • G2 says:

      That’s true, I say 2-4 years depending on if your rivals got better at your expense during the Urban crash. Think Ga and FSU did load up to a degree. At least we got payback on the FSU situation and look to be the favorite going forward.

  2. Spike says:

    Always appreciate the insight. Adam- glad I am decent at math or the caption wouldn’t have let me post!

  3. pook says:

    Nebraska never scored again after 9:42 mark in the third quarter.

  4. Rich says:

    I love reading Shells slant, he tells it likes it is. I hope he continues to contribute. He has great insight. Despite the loss it’s great to be a Florida Gator!

  5. Shannon Snell says:

    Pook,

    So what? The score was tied headed into the 4th, reguardless of what or when Nebraska scored in the third.

  6. kb_gators says:

    Adam – any way to subscribe to comments so that we can see follow-up comments?
    I already registered an account.

  7. Oldflyer says:

    Well, on a positive note, the coaches will have plenty to talk about.

    Based on the record, I just felt like the Gators were going to assert themselves at any time up until the latter part of the 4th qtr. Of course, based on past performance, I was not surprised that they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly.

  8. VO2max says:

    Shannon, thanks a whole bunch for your contributions this year. I sincerely hope that you will be back next year. I can’t imagine Adam and you not doing it again. It was a very popular segment.

  9. RattlerGator says:

    Shannon, love your stuff. A question that I hope you won’t think is beyond the scope of your column. I love Driskel. I wanted to see much more out of him and our offense in this bowl game. Was that an unreasonable desire in your opinion? You wrote “Charlie Strong [] used the long layoff to game plan for every single thing Florida’s vanilla offense was going to do.” I agree. Was that (sticking with the plain vanilla same ole, same ole) hubris on the part of Muschamp et al. or just a matter of “it is what it is” this season and the staff will wait to begin implementing enhancements in the spring? Hell, if this Q *is* beyond the scope of your piece maybe it could be the basis for a future column from you.

  10. rico says:

    I don’t think the offense was vanilla. They were out coached. Boom didnt make the necessary adjustments to win the game. They were to focused on not losing they forgot how to win. The onside kick is a perfect example. They were predictable on offense and played scared on defence . Losing isn’t the problem but how we did it. Lack of execution both georgia and Louisville

  11. jmurray20 says:

    Here is my problem: there was something off about Florida football all season. Despite going 11-1 with the toughest schedule in the country, no one seemed to care. If you had looked at the attendance for Missouri and the next two games, you would’ve thought we were the canes trying to fill sun life. Granted ULL and JU are horrible games, but Missouri is an SEC team and we were in the hunt for the national championship. Any other year BHG would’ve been damn near sold out. Among other instances I could mention, top that off with just one player out singing the alma mater at the end of the sugar bowl (which went semi-viral and was a huge embarrassment) and we have something seriously wrong here.

    I love Muschamp’s intensity on the field, but he better start doing a better job with the intangible Gator tradition stuff. Fans are losing interest, just like the players did in this game. When both fans and players don’t give a shit about winning the sugar bowl and tying the record for most BCS bowls won, there is something wrong.

    I’d be very interested in Shannon’s and Adam’s thoughts and if I’m totally off base here.

    • The attendance was mostly due to consecutive terrible seasons. But I agree, it is alarming that the stadium did not fill up for the Missouri game.

      As far as the one player singing the alma mater, that is not a tradition when the team loses games – only when it wins. So he just did that personally out of respect and appreciation. That is positive for Kitchens not negative against the team.

      Fans are losing interest though, you’re right. I’m not exactly sure how the team can fix it.

  12. G2 says:

    We just got out-coached and out played. Think the players cared about winning but think they took the opponent lightly, just like everyone else did. We were down 14-0 early and nobody had an answer.
    Do think this was a bad match-up for us, the guy can throw and we couldn’t cover receivers at all. Just got picked apart. Stupid penalties just made things worse. Huge downer after the game at FSU.

  13. XRLTW22 says:

    I think the lack of attendance has to do with several things. Obviously the poor play over the past two years, but look at all the other ways to watch games. NFL is struging with the same issues, fans wanting to stay home and watch HD, Redzone, etc. Not to mention the cost of tickets, gas, and concession items continues to increase.

    • Sam says:

      And booster minimums are going up this year too. From what I was told when I was ordering last season boosters who had multiple sets of tickets have decided to get fewer for a few years now. So instead of buying 10 tickets they’re getting 4 etc.

  14. sjkoepp says:

    I think attendance has something to do with the whole offense sells tickets, defense wins games mantra. We are a defensive team. Just one potential reason I think.

  15. MAR says:

    Driskel has a lot of work to do to win me over. He had two good games this year. I really thought he had figured things out vs. Tennesse. However, that was his best game of the year. He should have continued to improve from then on. He couldn’t have looked worse in the Sugar Bowl. I don’t want to see or hear Driskel’s name in the same sentence with Tebow again. At least not until Driskel earns it. As sophomores, they were universes apart, not in the same realm. I will write it off as an adjustment year with a new coordinator and have optimism for the offense next year.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Agreed. A lot has been made about the offensive line and receivers being the cause of our woes, but when given time (and open receivers) Jeff way too often held the ball Brantley-esque lengths of time or simply failed to progress thru reads. He is clearly at his best when running, and if he doesnt improve drastically in his own passing game over the Spring and Summer, it’s going to be a tough Fall with our defense taking a step back experience wise with the loss of the juniors. Hell, I just want to see him able to progress onto a secondary, non ‘presnap determined’ hot receiver.

  16. jagator0 says:

    The players in 2009 thought they could just walk all over Alabama? Really? Then they would have to be be dumbest SOBs to ever put on a UF uniform. First, most of them played in the ’08 SECCG so they KNEW how tough Alabama was. Second, I remember this game being the “de facto BCS Championship Game”. Everyone knew the winner of this game was going to steamroll whoever they played in the real BCSCG. If those guys took Alabama lightly then they must have been brain dead. I can see taking Louisville lightly, but Alabama?

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