The silence from Crazy Joe Alleva and all those Louisiana-based amateur psychologists/sports “experts” has been downright deafening since Saturday evening. We haven’t heard a peep out of these folks who questioned the integrity of Florida AD Jeremy Foley and went so far as to say the Gators were frightened to play the mighty LSU Tigers.
Yes, our poor pitiful Gators were so scared that battered and beaten up as they were, they strode into the belly of the beast Saturday afternoon and came away with maybe the most satisfying coaching win of Jim McElwain’s career. You had to love the way the Gators did it, stuffing the Tigers inside the 1 on third and fourth downs on the last two plays of the game. A screenwriter for one of the Bond movies couldn’t have scripted it any better.
On paper, the game shouldn’t have been close. It was Tiger Stadium. It was the same LSU team that had Alabama on the ropes for three quarters before going down, 10-0. It was the same LSU team that had far more healthy bodies and two or three times the number of former 4- and 5-star recruits on its roster. On paper it was a mismatch. LSU was favored by 14 and Tiger fans were thinking 30 was more like it. Luckily for the Gators, games aren’t played on paper and LSU fans have been known to load up on adult beverages and exaggerate a teensy bit.
On the field, it was the team that never stopped believing it could accomplish the impossible that walked away with a 16-10 win. The Gators heard all the taunts and chose to categorize them as words of the ignorant, not worth a response.
Post game, McElwain had every right to call out Alleva and everyone else that had questioned Florida’s courage. Mac does not have the single most talented team in the SEC or even the SEC East and he certainly doesn’t have the healthiest, but he knows his kids and knows they will neither quit on him nor back down from anyone. The Gators held their ground Saturday and it was LSU that blinked.
Mac and the Gators will go to the SEC Championship Game as East Division champs for the second straight year, the first time that’s happened since Urban Meyer did it in 2008-09. Not bad for a team that was predicted – for the second straight year, mind you – to finish behind Tennessee and Georgia in the East. The Vols may have beaten the Gators at Neyland back in September but they aren’t champions of anything. As for Georgia, let’s just say Kirby Smart might not be the boy genius he was touted to be when he replaced Mark Richt in Athens.
As for McElwain, he’s 18-6 in two years at UF with two trips to Atlanta under his belt. The Florida football program isn’t where he wants or needs it to be but he’s getting there. Rome wasn’t built in a day nor will Florida football be restored to its previous glory in just two years. There are still tweaks that have to be made and players to be recruited but Saturday should have told even the most impatient Gator that there is a plan in place and brick by brick, the foundation for greatness is being laid.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Foley will have the final laugh. He did the right thing by making sure this game was played even if it meant sacrificing a home game. As a result, the Gators are SEC East champs and LSU might be lucky to go to the Belk Bowl. Foley never sacrificed his nor the University of Florida’s integrity and when the Gators celebrated their win over LSU Saturday, his extraordinary UF legacy shone just a bit brighter.
As for Joe Alleva and all those “pundits” from Louisiana who were calling out the Gators, they should all be forced to wear one of those “I’m with stupid” T-shirts to LSU’s next game.
By winning the SEC East, Jim McElwain earned a $37,500 bonus and each of his assistants will get a bonus equal to 10% of their salary.
RIP BUBBA MCGOWAN
Thoughts and prayers go out to the family of former Gator assistant coach Bubba McGowan. McGowan played halfback for the Gators in the 1950s and then became UF’s wide receivers coach from 1965-69. He coached All-Americans Charlie Casey, Richard Trapp and Carlos Alvarez.
GATORS TAKE ON BELMONT IN TAMPA TONIGHT
When the Gators (3-0) take on Belmont tonight in Tampa, the defensive game plan will be all about defending the 3-pointer. In its two games so far, Belmont (1-1) has launched 75 3-balls, connecting on 25. Coached by Rick Byrd (639-324 at Belmont; 731-379 career), the Bruins of the Ohio Valley Conference have made it to the NCAA Tournament 7 of the last 10 years, making it to the second round 3 times. To make up for height and talent deficiencies, Byrd spreads the floor and typically plays 4 shooters who have a green light to launch from beyond the arc if they’re open. Top player for the Bruins is Evan Bradds (22.5 points, 11 rebounds per game), grandson of Ohio State legend Gary Bradds. The Gators have four players averaging in double figures, Devin Robinson (13.3, 7.3 rebounds), Canyon Barry (12.0, 5 rebounds), KeVaughn Allen (11.7) and Justin Leon (10.3). Center John Egbunu averages 9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
COACHES TOP 25 POLL
SEC teams in bold face
1. Alabama 11-0
2. Ohio State 10-1
3. Clemson 10-1
4. Michigan 10-1
5. Washington 10-1
6. Wisconsin 9-2
7. Oklahoma 9-2
8. Penn State 9-2
9. Colorado 9-2
10. Oklahoma State 9-2
11. Louisville 9-2
12. Southern California 8-3
13. FLORIDA 8-2
14. Florida State 8-3
15. Nebraska 9-2
16. Auburn 8-3
17. West Virginia 8-2
18. Western Michigan 11-0
19. Boise State 10-1
20. Utah 8-3
21. Houston 9-2
22. Texas A&M 8-3
23. Washington State 8-3
24. Tennessee 8-3
25. North Carolina 8-3
8 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND
1. Three different sources including Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated are reporting that the decision has been made to fire Charlie Strong at Texas. Strong seemed to have Texas poised for a good enough finish to save his job after back-to-back wins over Baylor and Texas Tech, but consecutive losses at home to West Virginia and Kansas on the road made firing inevitable. Charlie Strong is a fine football coach and an even better man. He will be somebody’s head coach again and he will do extremely well if he (a) picks and chooses his job better and (b) uses the example of former boss Urban Meyer by surrounding himself with the best assistant coaches. Strong was a bad fit from the beginning at Texas with boosters who ran off one of college football’s really good guys in Mack Brown. He didn’t help himself with poor staff choices that resulted in a revolving door for assistants.
2. It’s obvious that Texas will target Houston coach Tom Herman but the Longhorns might have to stand in line to get an interview. LSU definitely is interested and so is Oregon. Don’t think for even one second that Mark Helfrich saved his job by beating Utah Saturday. If Uncle Phil Knight wants a new coach (he does) there will be a new coach and if he wants Herman he will put up whatever cash is necessary to make him the new head Duck. While Texas and LSU offer Herman the best recruiting scenarios, Oregon might offer the best path to national championships. At Texas he’s in a screwy league where nobody plays any defense. At LSU he would be in the same division with Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Arkansas in addition to having to work for Alleva.
3. LSU apparently has its first sights set on Jimbo Fisher, Is there enough money in the world to make him leave Tallahassee for the chance to work for Crazy Joe Alleva at LSU? At Florida State, it doesn’t matter who the AD is, Jimbo will get whatever he wants and he won’t have a schedule that includes Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M every year. There is peace of mind at FSU and that’s something he may never have working for a certifiable idiot. If Alleva whiffs on Fisher and Herman, he’s expected to make a strong pitch for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly or North Carolina coach Larry Fedora.
4. The guy I feel badly for is Ed Orgeron. Coach O has stepped in to smooth over two terrible situations as an interim, first at Southern Cal, then at LSU. He’s done an admirable job at both schools, the kids love him and so do the alums. Only problem is, the AD at Southern Cal wanted Steve Sarkisian and Crazy Joe Alleva has LSU so screwed up it might take years to patch all the leaks. Coach O has come a long, long way since he spent three years trying to figure out this head coach thing at Ole Miss. He’s ready to be somebody’s head coach and when they get him, they’ll get one of the truly great recruiters of all time.
5. Can 2-loss Oklahoma (9-2) make the College Football Playoff? The Sooners destroyed previously 9th-ranked West Virginia, 56-28, in Morgantown in a snowstorm Saturday night for their seventh straight win. They have a bye week next week before finishing the regular season with 10th-ranked Oklahoma State (9-2) in Norman December 3. With a win, Oklahoma will win the Big 12 Conference title with a 9-0 record. Will the playoff committee look at Oklahoma’s strong finish and its high octane offense and put the Sooners in ahead of perhaps a 1-loss, Pac-12 champ Washington?
6. With the firing of Charlie Strong not yet official, there are four open jobs in Division I – LSU, Baylor, Purdue and Georgia State. That list should grow by at least five later in the weekend when Texas officially gives Strong the axe. Additionally, you can all but stick a fork in Mark Helfrich (Oregon), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tommy Tuberville (Cincinnati) and Paul Haynes (Kent State). Arizona is wrestling with the idea of firing Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State has grown weary of Todd Graham, so there could be two more high profile openings in the Pac-12.
7. With a win over Vanderbilt Saturday, Tennessee can not only deny the Commodores a desperately needed bowl game, but it can also finish 9-3, potentially the second best record in the SEC should Florida stumble this week against Florida State and in the SEC Championship Game to Alabama. While Butch Jones will try to sell 9-3 to the Vol faithful and recruits, not everyone is buying the spin. Writes the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s superb columnist John Adams, “When Butch Jones was asked about the East title that got away, he responded predictably, ‘We just want to be 1-0 each week,’ he said. The Vols celebrate going 1-0. The Gators celebrate going to the SEC championship. Jones delivers another catchphrase. Florida coach Jim McElwain delivers another divisional title.”
8. Some SEC notes: Kentucky (6-5, 4-3 SEC) is going bowling thanks to a win over D1AA Austin Peay. The Wildcats have two 1,000-yard rushers in Stanley Boom Williams (1,072, 6 TDs) and Benjamin Snell Jr. (1,006, 12 TDs) … Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett, who has been suffering the effects of a high ankle sprain since the win over Auburn in game 4, is finally healthy again. In the win over Texas-San Antonio Saturday, Garrett had 4.5 sacks for 30 yards in losses … When he ran for 123 yards against Ole Miss Saturday, Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb went over the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year. Webb has 1,058 rushing yards this year and his 3-year total is 3,117 … Georgia’s Nick Chubb went over the 100-yard mark for the second straight game to bring his season total to 900 yards. That’s remarkable considering the severity of the knee injury that cut his 2015 season short. You can almost bet the farm he will move on to the NFL rather than risk another injury in 2017 … Josh Dobbs saved his best college football game for his Neyland Stadium swan song against Missouri, throwing for 223 yards and 3 TDs and rushing for 190 and 2 more scores. It must be noted that Dobbs is the only SEC QB majoring in aeronautical engineering.
Colin Kaepernick remains winless for 2016 as the starting QB of the San Francisco 49ers. I’m sure many of you are finding it difficult to console yourselves.
Former FSU All-Ameican DB and associate AD Monk Bonasorte died after a long bout with brain cancer. He was 53. Bonasorte led the nation in interceptions in 1979.
One of the really good stories about former Gators in the NFL is Quinton Dunbar, who plays the nickel when the Washington Redskins go to 5 defensive backs. Not bad for a kid who signed with the Redskins out of Florida as a free agent wide receiver.
Florida Gulf Coast, who the Gators blew out in their basketball season opener, took Michigan State to the mat Sunday. Michigan State needed 2 free throws with 16 seconds remaining to edge FGCU, 78-77. FGCU was playing without its best player.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Where does Florida’s 16-10 win over LSU rank among the greatest upsets in UF football history?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I saw Bluto going through the cafeteria in “Animal House” while flipping channels Sunday and in the background was the late great Sam Cookie singing “Wonderful World.” Today’s music is Sam Cooke’s greatest hits.