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.
I honestly did not think this season could get any worse for the Gators when I sat down to consider the final two games on the slate last week…obviously I was wrong. The loss to Georgia Southern was easily Florida’s most embarrassing defeat in school history and set a number of other records that Adam has already written about multiple times here on OnlyGators.com.
This sucks. It truly blows. I could perhaps express that sentiment more eloquently but that’s how I truly feel. I never thought I would see the day where this team would be what they are now: a horrific, atrocious, undisciplined football team.
I wish I could provide you a fantastic parralell of how I once faced this kind of adversity, overcame it, and the end result was me riding off into the sunset like a hero. I also wish I could tell you that this story will eventually have a happy ending. I cannot.
Fortunately for me, I never had to endure a season like this, and unfortunately for everyone, there probably won’t be a happy ending to this story. More likely than not, it will get worse before it gets better. Unless…
While it may appear on the surface that UF has nothing left to play for but pride let’s not forget about this Saturday’s opponent. When you commit to play for the Gators and join the Florida football program, you usually do so despite being heavily recruited by in-state rival Florida State. You likely have friends and former teammates on the other side and have a special fire burning inside you during game week.
This season, unfortunately, the Gators are playing the role all too familiar to the Seminoles over the last decade – potential spoiler. Florida State was unable to beat Florida when it truly counted – to knock the team out of the national title picture or a BCS game – but UF has that very opportunity this week.
Some of you might be laughing at me for even proposing that the Gators have a chance to win this game – writing it makes me smile a bit, too – but what if the Seminoles take this defense too lightly in the first half and give zero respect to an offense that has a well-put-together game plan like it did for South Carolina? What if their eyes are already ahead to the ACC Championship and BCS Championship games? What if UF, with nothing left to play for this season and a long offseason to heal and regroup, goes absolutely balls to the wall and fights this team tooth-and-nail?
This kind of stuff happens and has before. Usually not with a third-string quarterback at the helm but nevertheless. Hell, remember back in 2001 when Florida was primed to clash with Miami in the Rose Bowl but Tennessee took a big swing the season finale and ruined the opportunity? I’ll admit, speaking for myself and a few other guys on the team, some of us were looking past them and rather towards the SEC Championship and eventual bowl game. Nothing, absolutely nothing should be taken for granted.
I think right now, even with a defeat over Clemson in their back pocket, the Gators are the most dangerous team the Seminoles will face unless they reach the Promised Land of the BCS title game. Florida has absolutely nothing to lose. Neither does offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Perhaps the Gators will play and be coached that way.
[Editor’s Note: The one caveat here is that head coach Will Muschamp has historically not been big on honing in on the importance of rivalry games – at least not nearly the same way Urban Meyer did during his tenure.]
One can only hope that Muschamp understands what is necessary to send these seniors out with a bang and Gator Nation home with some hope for next year. It does not have to be a win, but it could be. There is precedent. Florida can do it, no matter how unlikely.
If you bump into me on Saturday, you’ll see me cheering the loudest I can because nothing has changed with my relationship to this university. I am a Gator – victory or defeat. But as a member of the Florida football program, I also want nothing more than to see Florida State fall flat on its face.
I hope these players and coaches feel the same way. I hope this team gets the memo. This is the last game; there are no do-overs and statements about “fixing” the program’s bigger problems won’t matter until if or when those comments are proven to be true nine months from now. It’s over after this. This is UF’s last chance to do something legitimately special in 2013 and save one of the worst seasons in school history.