Snell’s Slant: Gators must stick together after Florida offense folded against Miami

By Adam Silverstein
September 10, 2013

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell joined OnlyGators.com in 2012 as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team. He has returned to continue sharing his musings through the 2013 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 of those contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.

Everyone has experienced déjà vu in one way or another over the course of their life. At the conclusion of Saturday’s game between Florida and Miami, I strangely found myself not nearly as upset or irritated as I normally would be after the Gators lose (especially when they do so in such a pathetic manner).

The interesting part was that I couldn’t help but notice the uncanny parallel between Saturday’s game and another that still sticks in my craw to this day – Florida vs. Tennessee in 2001 – a game I started at left guard. The similarities are quite scary, actually. For those of you that either do not remember the game or were not yet Florida fans, that 2001 contest was another simple reminder that it takes both offense and defense to win a football game.

There are no two ways about it – it is frustrating when one side of the ball is not “pulling their own weight.” This is the exactly same way I felt during and after our showdown with the Vols 12 years ago.

Our defense couldn’t stop Tennessee’s offense, which wasn’t actually that good. A trip to the SEC Championship was on the line as well as, ironically considering when I am writing this, a shot at playing Miami in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship.


We were originally scheduled to face the Volunteers on Sept. 15, but the game got pushed back to Dec. 1 due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Both teams were 9-1 (6-1 SEC) entering the game, and the Gators had an 11-game home winning streak, too.

It is tough, even today, to express how discouraging it was to watch Tennessee running back Travis Stevens charge up and down the field that day with our defense unable to stop him. Every time UT scored in that game, UF’s offense felt like we had no choice but to match them and knew we may have to do it on every single possession. The defense was just not strong that day.

If you grew impatient and checked the box score by now, you’ll know that Florida lost that game 34-32 in The Swamp. Just unacceptable.

In the locker room after the game, you can bet I was pissed off. One, because I suffered a high ankle sprain, and two, I felt that the other side of the ball simply did not hold up its end of the bargain that Saturday. I never cried after football games that I lost – I always remembered it was just a game – but I did that day.

With as talented as that team was with the playmakers we had, it was a given that the Gators should have ended up in Pasadena, CA, for the Rose Bowl. And you can also bet that – for a long time – I blamed the defense for our shortcomings that day

It’s an unwritten rule among organized sports from the high school to professional level that you always speak of unity in the team when speaking with the media or anyone outside the program. No one is to point fingers because it creates unnecessary division among the team. Everyone is supposed to be on the same page realizing that each player and either side of the ball can have a bad day at any time.

But in my mind, I guess I was pointing fingers. I knew I didn’t play the best that day, and I know that I could have done more to help the team win the game, but it was hard to get it out of my head that the defense was to blame. It only seemed logical.

I’ve realized over time how idiotic it was to think that way.

My offensive line coach at UF, Jimmy Ray Stephens, once told me: “No one wakes up in the morning wanting to be horrible at what they do. People make mistakes and one day so will you.”

I’ve always been a vocal leader. I’ve always prided myself on that. But one should never, ever criticize a teammate’s performance no matter what the situation. When I had a bad game or did something wrong on a play, which happened more often than you might think or I want to admit, I would always hope a teammate was there to pick me up, not rip me apart. This is why you always hear the term “brotherhood” among football players. They bled, sweat and cried together, and they’ll have each others back no matter what. Just like family.

Looking at Saturday’s performance after years of reflecting on a similar experience, it is tough for me to be upset at Florida’s offense. The Gators moved the ball and did so quite well most of the game. There were some major mistakes, yes, especially from two players in particular, but crushing these guys is neither going to make you feel better nor help the team perform better.

I’m most anxious to see how Florida responds to the adversity that it has been presented with early in the season. The coaching staff has a dubious task of trying to keep these young men together and on the same page in order to keep separation from happening as a unit.

[ Editor’s Note: In 2001, Florida regrouped and crushed Maryland 56-23 in the Orange Bowl, which was Steve Spurrier’s final game as the Gators’ head coach. ]

One of the most genius things I have heard head coach Will Muschamp say since he has taken over his team was when he railed against the defense for allowing 14 points to Miami in the first quarter. Was he actually disappointed in the defense? Sure. But he also knew the offense was going to get trashed by the media, fans and boosters for nearly two weeks heading into – oddly enough – the Tennessee game.

Muschamp was reminding everyone that football is a team game, not two units operating separately.

I also enjoyed what redshirt sophomore linebacker Michael Taylor said after the game when he was asked about the offense and the red zone mistakes. “It’s not really their fault,” he said. Asked to elaborate, he added, “If we don’t let Miami score, we win.”

If only I thought like that 12 years ago.

17 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Shannon, you aren’t the only one who remembers that game. It was right after Darnell Docket twisted Ernest Graham’s leg and we had to go with Robert Gillespie. I still remember Scott Brantley saying on the radio that Gillespie could be tackled by a stiff breeze. Too bad Spurrier had a such blind spot when it came to Robert because sitting on the bench ready to go was Ran Carthon.

  2. ziggy says:

    You’re completely right Shannon. I don’t remember much of that game except that it was moved due to 9/11 as you said and that we should have won the game. I can see your point about Muschamps comments. At first, I was concerned that he was thinking more like a DC and not worried about the offensive performance as much. Champ said last week that Taylor was what UF football is supposed to be. His quote shows great maturity and attitude for a young player.

    Back off of the ledge people, we’ll be fine. GO GATORS!!!

  3. sjkoepp says:

    For a loss that really stung like hell, I’m really glad to have read this. Thanks for another great piece of perspective. I honestly think this team does have the ability to bounce back and beat everyone on their schedule. Every game will be winnable- it just comes down to whether or not these guys can stick it out and play like everyone knows they can.

  4. Joe says:

    This loss was particularly difficult for me due to the fact that I grew up and lived in Miami most my life. I was even once a cane.

    The one thing I came away with is that Miami fans are really confident in their team and blindly so. As if the season hinged on this one game, where in fact, they were statistically thumped by us. In the same vein we should not be overly concerned about this loss. This was just one game, in which we thoroughly dominated in almost every statistical category. The season is not over, Miami must still play a full season of football and a performance like they gave Saturday sees them losing a few before the season is over. On the flip side, a performance like we had minus a few critical mistakes has our Gators on the clear path to an SEC championship. It was bad but this season is far from over and the results I saw on Saturday were actually encouraging. The line will gel, the backs will secure the ball and this team will develop. Hopefully into an SEC champion.

  5. gatorhippy says:

    Great piece as always, Shannon…linked it in a comment over at another site where the vitriol on Driskel and the offense has just been making me sick…

    IAKOW…

  6. G8RFN says:

    Remember the game well. No doubt we would have moved into the NC game and had a strong showing. If Dockett wasn’t such a dirty player (still is) and didnt intentionally twist Graham’s knee after the play was over, our offense would have been more solid that game.

  7. Timmy T says:

    Bottom line, turnovers kill. They killed last year against Georgia, and they killed again last Saturday. Everything else was just fine for winning a football game against whatever opponent you throw out there. Even though I would LOVE to see a play-action pass on 1st down every now and then, the offense was moving the ball down the field. Alas, turnovers killed us. The rest is just talking points.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      What’s the one constant in all those TOs you’ve referenced? Driskel. I don’t care what kind of player you are or what your make up is. When you can’t help but turn the ball over, you are a detriment to the team.

  8. Mr2Bits says:

    Man that Tenessee game was a hard fall and it just kept going down hill with the departure of Spurrier after the Maryland beat down. I remember sitting in the North endzone as I watched Grossmans 2 point attempt to tie sail out of the south endzone pylon screamin for a penalty or do-over. i just knew if not for 9/11, that would have been our season to be in the big game! The only consolation afterwards was to think “well it was a tough first year as a freshmen but next year is going to be better”. Then SOS moved on to the skins and the Zooker arrived beating up fraternities for years thereafter.

    To digress, the only thing I ask of this team and staff is that they play every opponent as if they were down. The whole “Pease and this is not Vanilla” routine is overplayed. I want to see our offense play Toledo as if we are down by 20 with a quarter to play. We can practice rep our vertical game till we are blue in the face but if we never get live reps in the games and blame failures on X and Y, we will never grow as a team. I’d like to call it offensive diversification and practice it when we’re up and beating some ass, that way we know what to do when we are down by 20, we don’t panic acting like we’ve never been there!

    I’d like to say this game mirrored more of Georgia 2012 but we really didn’t learn too much last year so Im hoping I am wrong with the “give it away” comparison. Throw in nearly losing to the Rajun Cajuns and barely dominating Jax St. and you know what I’m referencing. Thankfully FSU swung our way but then we ended the season with the stinker…..fingers crossed shows better promise!

    • gatorboi352 says:

      “I want to see our offense play Toledo as if we are down by 20 with a quarter to play.”

      You think Driskel has too many boneheaded turnovers as it is right now, asking us to play like that would be handing teams the W from the opening kickoff.

  9. gatorboi352 says:

    “One of the most genius things I have heard head coach Will Muschamp say since he has taken over his team was when he railed against the defense for allowing 14 points to Miami in the first quarter.”

    Agree to disagree here. I don’t see how that was “genius” by any stretch of the imagination.

    The offense got trashed by the media for very good reason. They handed UM the game, gift wrapped.

  10. gatorhippy says:

    Hmmmm…who’s opinion to consider as carrying more weight?…

    Gatorboi or Shannon Snell?

    Yeah…think I’ll listen to Snell…

  11. Shannon Snell Shannon Snell says:

    GatorBoi,

    No offense, but I think you’re missing Coach Muschamp’s point on this one. How helpful do you think it would be for him to go into a media room and rip Driskel and company apart? He didn’t need to be captain obvious on this one and point out that the turnovers we a big reason the outcome of the game was the way it was. I think he’s probably worried more about keeping cohesiveness among his team than throwing certain people under the bus. Wouldn’t you agree?

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Sorry for the delayed reply here…

      “How helpful do you think it would be for him to go into a media room and rip Driskel and company apart?”

      Not implying that at all. Rather, I don’t understand how slamming the defense for giving up TWO plays the entire game with 3 quarters still left to play helps even in the slightest.

      I get that he’s defensive minded and comes from that background, so he’s probably more sensitive to things on that side of the ball, but he’s a head coach now in year 3. Continuing to protect the offense like the O is doing good things on a consistent basis is just making the fan base become increasingly frustrated.

      Two plays, all game, and he calls them out specifically. Driskel continues to regress (4 turnovers vs. 3 touchdowns in 2 games so far) and he acts like the guy is the crutch holding this team upright. Injuries happen, so blaming back up line men only goes so far. But there are no more excuses for the kinds of mistakes Driskel is making especially considering at what points in the game and on the field they are occurring.

  12. NYC Gator says:

    YES, my favorite part of OGGOA in the fall is back! Great job once again, Shannon. That was actually the most insightful column I’ve read about the game.

    One question though, seeing how you played offense in the infamous Fun & Gun era, do you agree with Muschamp’s philosophy of a conservative, make no mistakes kind of offense? I love watching our defense play but it is physically painful to watch us play offense at times. Texas A&M and Georgia seem to have no problem airing it out against SEC defenses, why not us?

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