Yes, The Silver Lining is once again out on Thursday. It will return to its regular Wednesday afternoon slot…eventually.
Gators won’t stop believin’
This time last year, Florida was down in the dumps, sporting a 4-3 record after consecutive road losses to LSU (17-6) and Missouri (36-17). The Gators have one fewer win (due to the canceled Idaho game) but those same losses to the two groups of Tigers (30-27 and 42-13, respectively), despite the fact that UF was supposed to be improved in 2014 and played both of those contests at home.
Nevertheless, facing it’s last possible chance to salvage the season and somehow remain in the SEC East race, Florida is putting on a strong, confident face entering its rivalry game against the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs.
Numerous Gators expressed pure determination while meeting with the media this week. While they obviously chose not to guarantee a win against a program that has beat them three-straight years and proved to be the better team at the season’s halfway point, there were no heads down or shoulders slouched.
Here’s what a number of players had to say about the team’s current mindset…
» Sophomore wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood: “We’ve taken some devastating losses the past two times we went out – the heartbreaking LSU loss and then Missouri – but I wouldn’t say it’s like last year. Last year I felt like we were defeated before we ever got on the field. This year, we’re still fighting. We’re just trying to win the rest of these games. … It’s a real big opportunity. Georgia is a very good squad and we believe we can beat them. We believe we can do what we need to do to get the W.”
» Sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis: “I feel like we’re still hungry. I said that a couple weeks ago. We’re a hungry team and we still are. I don’t feel like that’s changed at all. Last year, I feel like it was later in the season when everybody knew it was actually over. I feel like that’s when that sense of giving up came in, but I don’t feel that will ever come in this season. We know what we need to do and I feel like we go after that at practice every day with that in mind. We try to harp on things and focus on those things as we practice and try to get better. We never want to look at anything and dwell on it. We keep moving on to the next one every time.”
» Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries:”[We must] get a ‘W’ by all cost. Anything we can figure out to win we’re going to get it. … Everybody is still optimistic. Nobody is getting into a slump and feeling like the season is over. Everybody is still trying to go out and win out pretty much.”
» Redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green: “I know it hasn’t gone as planned, but when you watch these games, we have never lost our fight in these games. We didn’t quit. … We just got to sure up some things and make sure we take care of the ball, that’s huge, don’t turn the ball over. But we don’t quit. We got a lot of tough guys, which is a great starting point. We just got to play a lot smarter across the board. … I feel like the team is confident. … As a team, I feel like the team is confident. Yesterday we had a great practice. Guys were out there flying around, busting their behinds. We were talking trash; we were having fun still. I think we’re still confident as a team. We just got to get this next win and go from there, take it one week at a time like we’ve been doing.”
» Redshirt senior LB Neiron Ball: “We know we’re good. The last game wasn’t so pretty, but against LSU, that game was questionable, I felt like we could’ve won that game, but we lost. I feel like we’re a great team but we just got to come out with the win. I think just as a team, defensively, special teams, offensively, we all just got to play well together. I think we can, I really do. The only way to improve it is to do it. We can’t just say it, we got to go out there and do it.”
» Sophomore safety Keanu Neal: “We know the talent that we have on the team. The execution, it wasn’t there the past few games, but that can be fixed. And we’re working on that during practice and everything. But as far as talent, we know we can compete with anyone. … We got to bring Florida back. The old Florida football.”
» Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.: “Mentally, we’re just ready to get back on the field and play for us and the Gator Nation and just win from here on out. Because we’re all we got and we’re all we need. That’s how it’s been from day one and we got to keep it going like that.”
» Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor: “You know, we’ve just got to go in there and play hard. After that, we’re just gonna keep working hard and really just trying to go in there and get a win. … I believe a win this week would mean a whole lot for Gator Nation, period. We really owe our fans. We have great fans and we owe them a win. We have to play hard, play for our coaches and play for each other. Everything else will turn out fine.”
While Florida as a whole may not be executing on the field any better than it did a year ago, there is no doubt that the Gators’ locker room has taken a turn for the better over the last 10 months.
Players and coaches discussed time and again this offseason the team truly coming together as a single unit with everyone involved with the program having each other’s backs and facing adversity as a team rather than a group of individuals. It is apparent now more than ever as Florida is on the verge of a season-defining game that will either allow the Gators to continue marching to the only goal they have left or see major changes coming to the program as a whole.
Right now, stop it. You are making fools of yourselves.
Oh, I guess I did not make it clear who I am addressing here. Let me clarify. Anyone who is calling for Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley to be fired because he hired Will Muschamp as head coach and has stuck by his side through some major struggles over the last two seasons, shut up.
The main argument being presented for Foley’s ouster following the Muschamp hire is the fact that, while Foley is
arguably the best athletic director in the country and has made some of the bravest yet most-spectacular hires during his tenure at Florida, his inability to hit with Muschamp makes him 0-2 when choosing someone to lead the football program (the other loss in this record, of course, being Ron Zook).
Well, that’s stupid. And it’s plain wrong.
First, let’s address the Zook hire, which Foley was forced to make suddenly after Steve Spurrier unexpectedly left the program and jumped to the NFL. Foley was not prepared for Spurrier’s departure, for which he deserves some blame, but he still went out and got a coach who may not have been successful on the field (losses) or off it (the fraternity house confrontation which also led to his firing), but he was tremendous on the recruiting trail. Zook kept the Gators’ till filled with talent, so much that his successor went on to win a national title due in large part to what Zook had built from a depth chart perspective.
That successor, of course, was Urban Meyer, who the same people calling for Foley’s firing do not want to give the athletic director credit for hiring. The theory here is that then-new Florida president Bernie Machen, who joined the school from Utah, was so close with Meyer that he set the stage for Meyer’s arrival and all Foley had to do was say hello, drop off a contract and walk out of Meyer’s house to tons of acclaim.
That’s just not true.
According to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley, Foley had 15 coaches on his list of candidates for the open position and created a search committee to help gauge interest with them during the regular season. He did not do this by contacting the coaches directly but rather making inquiries with parties somehow related to or in business with the coaches because he did not want to bother men leading college football programs while the regular seasons will still in progress. Some had a little, others had none because they were already at well-paying, high-profile jobs, but Meyer was absolutely interested.
Two days after the end of the regular season, according to Dooley, Foley – not Machen – got in touch with Meyer. Two days after that, he flew out to Utah and spent four hours meeting with Meyer. Four days after that, Foley reconnected with Meyer and had Billy and Christine Donovan reach out to Urban and Shelley Meyer, respectively, to talk up the athletic department and Gainesville, Florida. Through all of this, Machen had not yet spoken with Meyer.
Foley spoke with Meyer by phone multiple times after that. Foley (and assistant AD Greg McGarity) – not Machen – boarded a plane to Utah to meet with Meyer and formally offer him a contract while informing him that he was their choice to coach the Gators. Foley and McGarity stayed in town and waited while Meyer mulled staying at Utah, going to Florida or even heading to Notre Dame. Meyer then called Foley – not Machen – to set up a final meeting and accept the offer.
So did Machen have anything to do with Meyer being hired as the Gators’ coach? Absolutely. There is little to no doubt that they conversed – likely more than once – with Machen probably telling Meyer why he made the move to Florida and why Meyer should do the same. That’s part of the hiring process. Did Machen already being at UF potentially increase Meyer’s comfort level with the move because he had a familiar face at the university’s top spot? Absolutely.
But did Machen hire Meyer? Did he put in the work to fly across the country, pitch the job, connect the Meyers with the Donovans, fly back across the country, ease fears and calm concerns, and ultimately sign him to a contract?
No. That was Foley.
So if you want to accurately call Foley 1-2 in his head football coach hires, go ahead. His “1” won two national and conference titles. His “1” left the program despite being well-paid, treated like a king and under contract for the foreseeable future.
Foley was once again in a tight spot after Meyer left, but similar to the Zook-Meyer move and unlike the Spurrier-Zook situation, Foley was prepared. Did he make the wrong choice in Muschamp? Perhaps. But that happens. No one bats 1.000, though Foley is close.
Those so blindingly upset about Muschamp’s performance and Zook’s failures not only fail to credit Foley for hiring Meyer, they purposely overlook Donovan, Amanda O’Leary, Becky Burleigh, Mary Wise, Roland Thornqvist, Mike Holloway, Kevin O’Sullivan, Tim Walton and Rhonda Faehn. Those hires are not luck or happenstance. That’s talent and ability. That’s a track record.
What Foley has accomplished purely from an athletic department-wide, coach-hiring perspective is extraordinary. He is the best athletic director in school history,
arguably the best active in the nation today.
And he’s not going anywhere, if you’re lucky.
Not Only Gators: Boardwalk Empire
Despite being one of the most-hyped shows I can remember upon its debut, Boardwalk Empire concluded Sunday night with little fanfare. Perhaps that it is because it went up against a huge Sunday Night Football game (Green Bay at New Orleans) and viewers decided either to DVR the show or watch it on demand at a later date, but the ending of one of HBO’s most ambitious programs appeared to largely go unnoticed.
Well, I caught it late Sunday (after the game) and came away impressed overall. You see, the series finale was a microcosm of the entire series itself. Boardwalk Empire as a whole was rarely an attention-drawer on a week-to-week basis. Rather, the sum of its parts was much greater than its individual episodes.
Each episode, season, and ultimately the series as a whole, was like an old television set. You turn it on, wait while it gets warmed up and then thoroughly enjoy the experience until it’s time to go to bed.
Boardwalk Empire will never be described as one of the greatest shows in the history of television, but it will be remembered for breaking ground in set and costume design, delivering enthralling story lines and never taking its audience for granted.
Each season was unique yet still fit together in the grander scheme of the show. Each character was thoughtfully developed and nearly all were well-acted by some of the best thespians in the business, including a number of stage actors that jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the series.
Critics and viewers expected Boardwalk Empire to be HBO’s next The Sopranos, but it was not made to replace such an iconic series. And looking deeper at the programs, they were nothing alike. The Sopranos was a completely fictional story about two families dealing with mafia business in one present-day location. Boardwalk Empire weaved larger-than-yet-still-real-life persons with delicately-crafted characters and set the whole thing during the Prohibition era of the United States in the 1920s. The lines were blurred in such a way that it appeared to be a tremendous retelling of historical record rather than simply a show made to entertain the masses.
In the end, Boardwalk Empire succeeded in its charge, and it’s finale put a bow on a successful series. Final episodes get a lot of grief these days, so give this show credit for coming to the only conclusion it could but doing so in an artful and profound manner.
Not Only Gators: The Judge
I went on a little longer than I expected at Boardwalk Empire, so here are some quick thoughts on The Judge.
» Robert Duvall was a supporting actor in this flick, but his star was bright. This role – a hard-ass, small-town judge simultaneously in legal trouble while suffering from an advanced illness – is his best since The Apostle. And when you consider that Duvall has made 23 films since that one came out in 1997, that’s saying something. Expect multiple award-season nominations.
» Like Duvall, Robert Downey Jr. was made for his role of a fast-talking, high-powered, big-city attorney and estranged son who returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral but winds up staying to defend his father. Since starring as Tony Stark in Iron Man in 2008, Downey’s film choices have been almost-exclusively comedy and action (other Marvel movies, Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes, Due Date, Chef). This is his first deep part since The Soloist, and in my opinion, one of his best parts.
» While the movie bordered on great, it was about 15-20 minutes too long, which is a criticism I rarely, if ever, state – I usually wish films were 15-20 minutes longer.
» The film was well-directed (David Dobkin) and tremendously-acted (Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong also star) with a solid script and high production value. There were some issues with the cinematography, which varied greatly at times during the picture, but it is definitely a must-watch film whether in the theater or otherwise.
This Week’s Movie Trailer
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (extended):
The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
1. Full House
2. Boy Meets World
3. Family Matters
4. Step By Step
5. Perfect Strangers
Honorable mention: Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper
Other shows considered: Just the Ten of Us; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
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