By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist
How many people, fans of the Florida Gators or not, would have correctly predicted that this team would score over 60 points in one game, any game, this season? For those of you with your hands up, please put them down and quit lying to yourselves.
As an offensive player, I could not help but get excited when seeing the offensive explosion that happened on Saturday. Hell, it has felt like a decade since we have seen this Florida team completely dominate an opponent offensively. Yes, that opponent was Eastern Michigan, which also happened to be outmatched in every other phase of the game, but it was still evident the Gators were firing on nearly all their cylinders.
Over the last few days, plenty of friends and family have asked me why Florida would schedule such an inept team, what one can truly take away from a game like that and how it could help the Gators move forward this season.
One of my favorite movies is The Longest Yard. Not the original version with Burt Reynolds as the lead actor, but the remake with Adam Sandler. In that movie, he said something that is the thesis of why good teams start off with what most people consider inferior opponents: “Kick the shit out of them and get [your] confidence up.” This Florida team, with a new coordinator and offensive scheme, needed that confidence coming off a season-ending seven-game losing streak and unranked in the preseason polls for the first time since 2003.
I would love to tell you that I do not know what it feels like to have no respect entering a season. I would. But the truth is, 2003 was my senior year with the Gators, so trust me, I know exactly what it feels like – crap.
Most of my life I had been a winner and losing did not happen often. The same goes for a lot of the guys on last year’s team; I’m sure their confidence was shaken. No matter how focused and confident the guys said they were entering the season, you cannot truly believe it until you start to see the results with your own eyes.
Those of you that have read this column for years know I always take a closer look at the offensive line, and I was impressed this past Saturday at how good it looked considering all the turnover. Big holes were opened for the running back, and most importantly, no sacks were allowed. That’s huge against any opponent and a confidence-booster heading into SEC play.
This line is benefitting from a better blocking scheme and quicker tempo. Florida should be nervous, however, that junior D.J. Humphries hurt his ankle and is going to be out for the next few weeks, especially because he will be coming in cold to SEC play against Tennessee. That is something this group did not need this early in the season. However, overall, it was encouraging to watch this group play so well and make a huge statement.
While the Gators have definitely gained some much-needed confidence coming out of last Saturday’s blowout, the coaches must also make sure the players put the performance in context. That game was a warm-up for something much bigger down the road.
It was great to see all the touchdowns and highlight-reel plays, but what got this former player truly excited was the all-out effort I saw from every guy on the field. Hell, redshirt senior Andre Debose dove head-first into the bushes/back gate of the end zone for a ball that was obviously thrown well out of bounds. It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen that kind of complete team effort.
It was good to see fight from these guys. I’ve missed that.
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 is now in his third year sharing his musings and will do so through the 2014 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.