Saturday was a rough one. It’s been almost a week, and to be completely honest, I don’t really know how to feel. Florida lost to Tennessee. I guess at some point it was bound to happen. After 11 straight victories, including one that almost got away last year, the Gators couldn’t stave off the Vols any longer. It sucked losing to such a hated rival, and I’m sure Gator Nation is still upset. But perhaps I can be somewhat of a help and maybe a bit of a revelation in this difficult time.
Rewind 14 years ago back on October 28, 2002. I remember sitting in the media room being asked this question: “Do you expect to beat the Georgia Bulldogs?” To which my answer was simply, “Yes, we’re going to beat Georgia.” If you Google it, you will read a bunch of headlines that said I guaranteed victory against Georgia — actually, they also said I guaranteed a second Georgia loss to either Auburn or Ole Miss, which would have given Florida a shot at heading to the SEC Championship Game that year. To this day, I have no clue why everyone made such a big deal over my comments. There is this huge myth about bulletin board material. Let me tell you something: It’s complete and utter bullshit. It’s stupid, and there’s no such thing.
Do you honestly believe that a comment is going to make another team or another player go harder? What kind of sense does that make? I mean, I get it. We’re in an age of censorship and being politically correct. Maybe some of you think Quincy Wilson should have said something different than what he did. Maybe he should have said Tennessee was a great football team and that he hoped the team would just be able to stay in the game with them. Should he have said that he thought Tennessee was going to win the game? Screw that.
I respect him more for what he said than had he said the normal run-of-the-mill B.S. you see every night on SportsCenter. Honestly, I’m disappointed in some of you that decided to turn your backs on this young man or the team when things started to go rough. I even read one comment that said “I hate Quincy Wilson. He’s to blame for this loss.” Really? I thought the saying went “in all kinds of weather we all stick together?”
Is it OK to be frustrated with the outcome? Sure. Is it OK to vent frustration? Sure, freedom of speech is one of the liberties that we are given. But to direct your anger and frustration at young men who are truly trying their best and came up short, that’s not OK. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and neither side is productive or helpful.
Streaks are meant to be broken. They do not go on forever. Ask Cal Ripken Jr. when his 2,632 consecutive MLB games played streak came to an end. Or maybe something a less well-known streak, such as De La Salle High School football in California winning 151 football games in a row. If you’re a movie buff, check out “When the Game Stands Tall;” it highlights that streak. But regardless, streaks are not meant to stand the test of time. The same is to be said about the Florida-Tennessee rivalry.
Hell, back in 2003, Florida lost to Miami 38-33 in nearly the same exact manner as the game this past Saturday. (In that game, the Gators were actually up 33-10 in the third quarter.) Granted, that season didn’t finish all that well, but the point is that plenty of teams have had streaks broken and lost games they should have won.
So, what now? Where does this team go from here?
Simply put, there’s a ton of football left to be played this season, so I don’t think anyone on the Gators is going to have a “shut it down and go home” attitude. Head coach Jim McElwain won’t let that happen.
There are, however, a lot of things that need to be corrected before this team can move forward and compete for an SEC crown. As I said last week, missed tackles and missed assignments were Florida’s undoing. That has to get cleaned up, because if it does not, the Gators will continue to be in a lot of tight games that they should otherwise win easily.
If this team take care of business and win out, it will find itself back in Atlanta. Tennessee has a rough stretch the next three weeks with away games at Georgia and Texas A&M followed by a date at home with Alabama. For the Gators, the main focus is to win and take care of business. Otherwise, it could be a long Rocky Top winter come Dec. 3rd in Atlanta at the SEC Championship Game.