Snell: Florida-Kentucky not for the faint of heart

By Adam Silverstein
September 15, 2014

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

I’m sure Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is so close to UF Health, because after Saturday night’s Florida-Kentucky game, I’m guessing a whole lot of people had to be admitted.

This may not be a popular opinion, but the first thing everyone should know coming out of Saturday’s game is that the Wildcats are a good football team. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and his boys did not make the trip to The Swamp just to put on a good show and play in a close game. They came to win and gave themselves every opportunity.

In reality, there are a lot of things that the Gators can take away from a game of this nature, one they won – not lost – in three overtimes.


There were three standout players that changed the dynamic of this game and were the reason Florida walked away with a win. If you watched the game, you should already know who I am referring to here.

Regarding sophomore Demarcus Robinson, I honestly cannot remember personally seeing a finer performance from a Gators wide receiver, ever. This young man is an absolute beast, and he is simply on a different level compared even to his own teammates. The Wildcats found that out first-hand. It has been a long time since Florida’s had a playmaker of this caliber out wide, and he is only going to get better. That should be frightening for opposing defense, which will likely lead to double coverage for Robinson and more open passing lanes for his teammates.

The Gators’ defense got beat up pretty bad, especially the secondary, but junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is living up to his preseason billing as a future first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Fowler was in the backfield all night making plays and wrecking havoc.

Not only that, but his versatility was on display, as he was getting moved around to multiple positions throughout the contest. I noticed he played as a standup linebacker and at three-technique over the guard in addition to his normal pass rushing position. It’s not easy for offensive coordinators to scout a defense when the best player lining up across from them can play all over the field.

Then there’s junior running back Matt Jones, who was tremendous on Saturday despite being overshadowed by Robinson. Yes, Jones carried 29 times for over 150 yards, but I do not think anyone realizes how he helped break down Kentucky’s defense.

Jones cannot be tackled by a single defender. He was breaking tackles left and right, wearing down the Wildcats throughout the game with tons of yards after contact. Everyone was ready to name sophomore Kelvin Taylor as Florida’s starter, but Jones proved that it is still his job to lose.

The statistics say that the Gators’ offense had a great night; anyone who watched the game will tell you otherwise. Simply put, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel – and his offensive line – did not play well. The line run blocked well late in the contest, which was encouraging, especially when the coaches called five-straight power plays that all gained positive yardage.

However, the pass blocking was awful and absolutely contributed to Driskel’s struggles. The offensive line struggled against the blitz, which the Wildcats called on about 90 percent of Gators third downs. Driskel took a number of unnecessary hits, and it looked like they rattled him some. Offensive line coach Mike Summers must clean this up or else other teams, especially those with better, more talented pass rushers, will use this blueprint to dominate Florida.

Driskel himself seemed lost at times. A couple Gators wideouts had drops, two in particular on third down ere maddening, but he appeared to hold the ball longer than normal and was obviously erratic with his throws. In addition to his interception – a careless throwaway that he was supposed to have eliminated from his game – he threw another that luckily bounced off a defensive back’s chest and into Robinson’s hands.

This is clearly not the performance Florida fans want to see from their veteran quarterback. Mistakes, such as the ones he made and nearly made on Saturday, can and will lose games for the Gators. Driskel simply has to play much, much better if UF hopes to have a truly successful bounce back season.

It seems like Gator Nation’s confidence was shaken on Saturday. I get it, I do. I was sitting in the stands sweating bullets like the rest of you. The Kentucky team Florida played on Saturday was legitimate. It was well-coached and had some talent, especially at the receiver position.

[Editor’s Note: It is important to remember that while the Wildcats are not historically a successful program, Kentucky has put together some solid seasons with big-time wins over top-tier opponents. Just look at the 2007 campaign, the last time UK really gave UF fits in a game, as an example. It has happened before.]

If your team is going to go into triple overtime against an opponent, no matter what respect level you had for said opponent entering the game, a win is better than a loss. And guess what? The Gators won on Saturday. Florida scored in all three overtime periods and nearly scored touchdowns in each period save for a Driskel miscue. UF showed perseverance and tenacity against an SEC opponent, something missing last season.

Anything can happen when Saturday rolls around. A program like Kentucky can compete with Florida, a team like the Gators can surprise a top-10 team like the Crimson Tide. If Florida-Alabama was to finish in a similar fashion, would that indicate that the Crimson Tide are worse than expected or the Gators were able to hang with one of the best teams in the nation?

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.

27 Comments

  1. Michael Jones says:

    That’s good writing and an intelligent analysis. I agree that Kentucky is better and under Stoops will continue to get better. They are not at this point 3-overtimes-at-the-Swamp better, though.

    The worst thing that can happen is for us to be just mediocre enough that Muschamp stays around. I hope that we either (1) get a lot better or that (2) we completely crash and burn if that’s what it takes to get Foley to swallow his considerable pride.

    At this point, I don’t like the way Muschamp and his embarrassing sideline antics represent our school. He needs to get a grip and show a little poise.

    • Steven says:

      If a 4 win season capped by a home loss to Ga Southern can’t get him fired I’m not sure what can.
      The state of the program is so sad that people aren’t livid that it took 3 OTs and a couple of extremely fortunate plays to beat Kentucky.

      Also Garrett Johnson the player that made our dbacks look foolish would have committed to UF in a heartbeat, but was never offered because he wasn’t good enough.

      I actually really liked most of our playcalling, but wish we had a QB who could execute it.
      I think Roper is working through what Driskel can and can’t do.
      Unfortunately Driskel can’t execute anything but the simplest of plays. He has tons of talent, but zero football instincts. Roper took some chances and Driskel made sure our receivers had no chance to catch any of them. Arguably his biggest throw hit a Kentucky player in the chest and bounced into a receivers hand.
      The 4th down play was outstanding, but something we have seen few and far between from Jeff.
      The very next drive he missed a wide open Robinson on an outstanding playcall that very well could have cost us the game.

      We went 11-2 a couple years ago in spite of Driskel not because of him. If we had even an average QB I believe we had a good chance to win it all with how dominant our defense was thanks to Urbs 5 stars.

  2. Zach Bayless says:

    Everybody in gator nation who is doubting Coach Muschamp for example Michael Jones needs to stop. Coach Muschamp is a great coach and needs some more credit than he gets. I didn’t see any sideline antics with Coach Muschamp. Mr. Snell that was a great writing as well. Go gators!!!

    • Steven says:

      He is a great at setting record lows and turning a dominant program into a laughing stock.
      I’m still not sure this isn’t some elaborate georgia troll.
      His style of football is boring and dumb and it has driven fans away.
      Go Gators!!!

    • g8ter27 says:

      Champ? That you?

    • Michael Jones says:

      Did you say “great?” Not even just “passable” but “great?” Like right up there with Bear Bryant?

      • G2 says:

        He looked lost to me in this game, in over his head. The clock expired, we should have lost, Zach would you be saying this when we just lost to UK?
        Doesn’t he coach the db”s? Hows that working right now? These are all 4* players but not looking that way now. I knew this was coming, can’t loose your best players every year early to the nfl and be successful unless you are loaded to the gills which we are not.

        • 1) The clock expiring had nothing to do with Muschamp. Roper needed the timeout earlier in the OT and Muschamp did not have one to call. That was a player issue.

          2) The defensive backs are all four-star players, yes, but freshmen and sophomores. Jabari Gorman was the worst one out there and he’s a senior.

          • G2 says:

            Wasn’t blaming Muschamp for the clock issue, point I was trying to make is if it wasn’t for a blown call by the ref, we lose that game. If that happens, don’t think WM has any change of surviving the season. I know the secondary is young but should be talented enough (all highly recruited) to look better than it did.

      • Zach Bayless says:

        Yes I said Muschamp is a great coach. He is not up there with Bear Bryant which I never compared him to: but he is passionate UF and has made the necessary changes on the coaching staff that were needed in the offseason. Since Muschamp arrived to UF our defense has been great. Arguably better than when Meyer was the coach. Muschamp took a mediocre team in 2012 and took them to a BCS bowl game. This program was going downhill as Meyer was leaving. Nobody can put all the blame on Muschamp. People have got to understand this is a process. As long as Florida is improving and getting back to competing for championships that is all we can ask of him. Plus if the players are letting last year go we should be too. Go gators!!!

        • Steven says:

          1.) That 2012 team was absolutely loaded with defensive talent. Probably the most talented UF defense ever.
          All the key players were Meyer recruits. Credit to him for making them great, but the cupboard was overflowing with talent.

          2.) This program wasn’t going downhill. Meyer was recruiting as well as ever. We had a QB problem. Brantley just wasn’t any good. Once Meyer got his new QB in we would have been fine. His biggest mistake was not going with Jordan Reed at QB fulltime.

          3.)This is year 4 for Muschamp. If this was year 1 then it’s a different story. These are his recruited players. This is his team that he has shaped and we are worse off than when we started. There should be no more excuses about Meyer this Meyer that. If he can’t get Florida competing against the Bama’s, LSU’s, UGAs by year 4 then we have the wrong coach.

  3. Mr. Bayless, you must NOThave watched the same game as I did. He went balastic on the sidelines.If u think he is a great coach, then what planet have you been on????

  4. Daniel M. says:

    Coach Muschamp has a history of blowing up on the sidelines and he knows it. I believe at some point last year he made reference to working on that. Anybody that was paying attention would have noticed that in the second half he was completely calm. He realized he was wigging out, or more likely an assistant probably barked it at him, but he did change the behavior.

    Florida was an atrocious team last year due to record injuries and some kind of breakdown on the team. All we can ask for is improvement, not perfection. I have seen improvement. If you don’t see how this season plays out then your are short sighted.

  5. SW FL Joe says:

    The offense is averaging over 50 points per game while the defense is only giving up 15. Remain calm all is well.

  6. Ric says:

    The only time I saw Muschamp really blow up was when dude speared Taylor late in yhe small of the back.
    I personally appreciate is antics… loved what Meyer did for UF but he looked like he was having heart problems everyclose game, and I wont even go into the Zooker.
    Bottom line is Driskel needs to decide faster… and pull the ball on the readat least 4, 5, 6 more times than he did.
    As always, great writeup by Shannon, I really appreciate his take.
    Go Gators!

    • Steven says:

      Ask yourself this. Would Ron Zook still be Florida’s head coach if he performed like Will Muschamp has.

      I prefer the Zook era to this. With Zook on any given saturday we could beat anyone. With Muschamp on any given saturday we can lose to anyone.

      Zook got a tough shake. He was cheated out of at least 2 wins and never seemed to be able to catch a break.
      Muschamp needed 2 breaks just to beat Kentucky.

  7. Shannon Snell Shannon Snell says:

    God bless america! Does everyone need a shot of Jack Daniels? I could only imagine what would be said if we lost. As for the Muschamp antics, I remember not long ago we had a coach that would throw visors and headsets yet I don’t think he was ripped as much as much as Champ is now. Yea, he won a lot and maybe that was overlooked but don’t judge someone for having passion for his team. Maybe we should let this thing play out, and then yell and scream. (If necessary.)

  8. Spike says:

    Was everyone ok with Spurrier throwing his visor when he was upset? I’m not a fan of any coach blowing up but many do it. It has zero impact on the game.

    You can’t win for losing. Either fans say a coach blows up and is out of control and if he doesn’t the other half will say he has no emotion or intensity and thus must not care. I find it all quite funny.

  9. MD says:

    Good take, Shannon. Coach Muschamp was SEC Coach of the year two years ago because he took the mediocre team he inherited, toughened them up and overachieved. Last year the wheels fell of with all the injuries, yet he maintained his cool in spite of the chorus of childish rants calling for his head by people who know nothing about playing, much less coaching, real football. He is now 2-0 and the same losers are whining again. I suggest you fair-weather fans go jump on some other bandwagon, because your Muschamp-hating act is getting tiresome.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Oh please. He took a very talented team that performed pretty well in spite of his ridiculously conservative/scared offensive philosophy, the same offensive philosophy that caught up with him last year and for which he wasn’t even man enough to own up to and instead threw his OC under the bus.

      Nobody “hates” Muschamp and I for one never called for his head, but I’ll tell you what also gets tiresome. It gets tiresome hearing drama queen Muschamp homers imply that those of us who have legitimate criticisms of Muschamp are somehow less loyal or less knowledgeable fans than his supporters are.

      GO GATORS!!!

  10. Michael Jones says:

    The TV announcers apologized on the air last Saturday for the profanity Muschamp was hurling at the officials and which was being picked up by the microphones and broadcast over the airways. You ever heard of that happening with a Gator coach before? And you want to compare that to throwing a clipboard or a visor?

    And don’t tell me that hurling profanities at the refs has no impact on the game.

    The spearing of Taylor infuriated me as well. It was BS. That happens in a game sometimes, unfortunately, but a head coach cannot lose his composure the way Muschamp does. He looks like a lunatic on the sidelines, not a “passionate” coach. Totally and routinely losing control is not a sign of a coach’s “passion” for his team or the game. It shows a lack of poise and composure, much like our team’s many personal foul penalties that we get called for EVERY game, EVERY season.

  11. Shannon Snell Shannon Snell says:

    Seriously, if you don’t like cussing, maybe you should go watch swimming, or gymnastics. Lol. But maybe you’re right, maybe after Taylor got got speared on the ground, Muschamp did go a little over the top. But he is very passionate, not only about football, but about the young men he coaches, which he considers sons. What would you do if your son was playing and got speared on the ground after the play was over? A clear dirty play… What would you do? I seriously doubt you would sit there and twittle your thumbs. You’d be pissed, just like I would with my son. Picking out instances where a coach or a player loses his cool is not fair, because I’ve done it many times myself. It’s not because Muschamp is a tyrant, it because he gives a $hit about his craft and his team. Brotha, I’d take that everyday of the week.

  12. Michael J. says:

    Shannon, both you and I were right about Georgia vs South Carolina. You said Georgia would score 30+ and I said South Carolina would win. We’ll find out if UF is better this week against Alabama. I think UF is still a bad team, I don’t believe Kentucky is good. If UF had a decent quarterback, UF would have blown Kentucky out. Matt Jones looked great, but it’s Kentucky, he also dominated them last year, let’s see him perform against a good team. As for Fowler, he was like he was last year. Durkin said he’d come close to being dominant in some games and disappear in others. That’s what he did against Kentucky, brilliant at times and other times Kentucky handled him pretty easily. He better step it up, there’s only a couple of teams left on the schedule that are worse teams than Kentucky. Demarcus Robinson was a bright spot, finally it appears the Gators have a top receiver. One thing I learned Saturday is that players matter more than coaches. Both Kurt Roper and Jeremy Pruitt were, respectively, supposed to turn around Florida’s offense and Georgia’s defense immediately. But Roper doesn’t have a good quarterback like he had at Duke and Pruitt doesn’t have the players on defense he had at FSU. Neither guy is a miracle worker, and it showed on Saturday.

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