Happy Festivus Gator Nation!
But surely you jest.
No, and don’t call me Shirley.
If you’re scratching your head right now thinking “WTF?” then watch the video and it will all become clear.
So in the spirit of Seinfeldian Festivus let’s air HailFloridaHail’s biggest grievance from the past season and the Gator’s biggest feat of strength.
As well as this team played getting to eleven wins and seven SEC wins and almost making it to the SEC championship game, if there was one area that drove Gator fans, coaches, and, yes, even the players completely crazy, it was the myriad numerous penalties that bogged this team down. I’m sure plenty of Gator fans are thinking about the wide receiver play here, but realistically they weren’t quite as bad as you might think and they played about as well as you probably could expect considering their youth, inexperience, lack of depth, and overall talent level.
Penalties, on the other hand, are a whole nother story. Yes, I did say “a whole nother” but wow, these guys didn’t just lead the league in penalties, they seemed to invent new ones. From “roughing the snapper”, don’t laugh they actually called that, to defensive holding on a defensive lineman, they got called for things I haven’t seen in 42 years of watching football.
While those two penalties are highly disputable, as were many others, most were very deserved and entirely inexcusable. False starts, holding, illegal substitution, delay of game coming out of a timeout, and so forth. This team found new ways to shoot itself in the foot. They shut down offensive drives and extended opponent drives. For a team that struggled to make plays in the passing game, penalties are killers.
Back when the old ball coach was roaming the sidelines, the Gators fun and gun could overcome tough penalties, but this team not so much. And often these penalties not only moved them back but brought back great plays including touchdowns and first downs and this team just can’t overcome that.
Last offseason the focus was toughening up and developing depth on both lines of scrimmage. This season, besides finding playmakers in the passing game, the focus had better be reducing and eliminating ridiculous penalties, particularly the lack of discipline type.
FEATS OF STRENGTH
25 consecutive running plays by the Gators versus LSU to win the game.
The Gators most physical opponent last season was far and away the LSU Tigers. Florida was physically overmatched on both lines of scrimmage from the start last season and, realistically, this was the only game the Gators had no chance in.
Coming into this season’s game the Gators knew this would be their first REAL test of how far they had come in strength gains and toughness in the offseason. This LSU team would be roughly the same defense they faced last season and had two potential first round picks on the defensive line. If the Gators had made significant gains in strength and toughness this game would show it.
For the first two quarters the Gators had battled the Tigers hard going into halftime with only a 6-0 deficit. The Gators first show of strength would be right before the first half ended. On a first and ten from the Gator’s 29, quarterback Jeff Driskel was sacked by LSU’s Bennie Logan, fumbled, and the ball was recovered by LSU on the Gator 7 yard line. The Tigers set up on a first and goal looking to go up by ten as they went into halftime. Last season, one of the biggest area the Gator defense struggled was after a quick change of possession and in the red zone. This time they would show that this season would be different for them as they held the Tigers to a field goal going into halftime down only by six, wresting momentum from the Tigers after they had gained it due to the turnover.
In the third quarter the Gator offense would get in on the act as well. The Gators had moved the ball in spurts throughout the game but could never put together a scoring drive. In the second half, the Gator coaches decided to stick with what brung em: i.e. the running game. In a masterful display of the type of toughness and downhill running Will Muschamp had preached about in the offseason, the Gators lined up in a power formation with two extra lineman blocking as tight ends and just plowed through the heart of that tough LSU run defense for two second half scores to win the game 14-6.
Mike Gillislee ended the day with 146 yards rushing on a whopping 34 carries, a career high, and two touchdowns. He received national recognition for his performance that day and the offensive line received ESPN analyst Mark May’s helmet sticker for their efforts. At one point the Gators ran 25 consecutive running plays and still couldn’t be stopped by the LSU defense.
The Gators offensive line was much maligned by fans and media during a stretch following that game where they struggled, but that was mostly due to injuries and lack of consistency on the line during that stretch. The first time the line was completely healthy and had the same starting lineup as in the LSU game was the season ender versus FSU where they repeated their second half rushing game exploits freeing Gilly for 144 yards and two touchdowns to win the game once again in the fourth quarter against what was then the top ranked rush defense in the country.
So there you have it. A Festivus celebration HailFloridaHail style. Feel free to comment with your grievances and feats of strength in honor of Festivus.
Happy Festivus and Go Gators!