This is like a bad movie that keeps re-running

At some point, you have to figure the law of averages is going to catch up with the Florida Gators. Somehow, someway, someone is going to step up in the final two minutes and the Gators are going to seal the deal in a football game that really matters against a ranked opponent. You know it's going to happen. It has to, right? The only question is when, or as the late, great Lewis Grizzard once said, "When my love returns from the ladies room will I be too old to care?"

The problem is we do care, and because we care, Gator fans are shaking our heads in unison, wondering who is sticking the needles in the voodoo doll that causes such strange things to happen to our team in the final two minutes of critical games? Why is it that when we're ahead in the waning moments of games that our hearts don't exactly beat with a measure of confidence? Why is it that we have developed this all too familiar penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the final two minutes?

You don't believe that's true? Well consider this. In the past year and a half, the Gators have lost six regular season games. In five of those losses, Florida had the lead with two minutes left in the game.

Why is it that the Gators can't seal the deal? Why can't someone make a play when the game is on the line?

Saturday night was deja vu all over again. Trailing 21-17, LSU took over at midfield with 2:06 to go in the game. Six plays later, the Tigers go the winning touchdown. Only one of those six plays went for negative yards. LSU was so confident the Gators couldn't stop them that they weren't even in a hurry. Four of the six plays were running plays and the Tigers called time out only once. Joseph Addai was at tailback and every time he touched the ball, the Gator defensive line parted like the Red Sea. Of LSU's 50 yards, Addai got 34 on the ground and he caught a little swing pass from Marcus Randell for the touchdown that gave the Tigers the 24-21 win, scoring with 27 seconds left in the game.

Why the Tigers were in the position to drive those final 50 yards is also one of those questions for which there is not a logical answer. Florida had the ball at its own three with 3:49 remaining, needing a couple of first downs to run the clock out completely, at least one first down to secure better field position for a punt that would leave LSU in so-so field position with hardly enough time to drive for a touchdown.

First down from the three, the Gators go shotgun and run a bubble screen to OJ Small. Shotgun in the end zone? And a bubble screen to boot? When we're needing to run the ball and kill some clock?

Someone tell me I imagined all this.

LSU had 10 players within five yards of the line of scrimmage, something they'd done all night long and a chief reason the Tiger defenders had basically destroyed the bubble screen all night. This one was no different. Only some nifty footwork and an adrenaline rush that gave Small enough strength to get the ball over the goal line prevented a safety.

A running play would have been nice, but if the Gators were going to throw the ball, why not something off play action? Line up in the I-formation, which the Gators had been doing most of the second half and fake to Ciatrick Fason. There were 10,000 LSU fans at this game and 9,999 of them expected C4 to get the ball. A play fake could have worked.

If that's not bad enough, it does get worse.

Second down, the Gators go I-formation and this time Fason gets the ball just as everyone in the ball yard knew he would. He gets a yard but LSU's Kenneth Hollis is called for an incidental face mask and an automatic five yards, repeat the down.

So it's second and six from the seven. The clock starts again. Fason has 66 yards rushing in the second half on 12 carries. Six yards? Two carries? Even if he can't get the six yards, you have to figure LSU will burn two of its three remaining time outs.

Instead of Fason we see an incomplete sideline pass from Leak that was intended for Dallas Baker and that stops the clock. Third and six, from the shotgun, Leak avoids a sack in the end zone, swerves to his right and then up the field. If he's 6-foot-six or has a 40-inch sleeve, he gets a first down when he stretches the ball out at the 12 when he goes down. Unfortunately, he's 6-0 and he doesn't have long enough arms. First down missed by six inches. LSU calls time out.

Eric Wilbur punts on fourth down, LSU takes over at midfield and you know the rest of the story. Florida loses in the final two minutes and once again the Gators have their backs to the wall at midseason, another all too familiar scenario. Instead of one SEC loss, the Gators have two and the odds of getting to the SEC championship game are astronomical at best. Five wins in the last six games are necessary to avoid a date in scenic Shreveport.

Florida could have put this game away early. The Gators led 14-0 in the first quarter by converting interceptions by Dee Webb and Jarvis Herring into nine yards of total offense and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, as has happened too often in the past three years, prosperity was something the Gators couldn't stand. They let LSU back in the game thanks to a senseless penalty, a mistake that would be repeated later in the half.

With LSU facing third and seven at their 38, quarterback Marcus Randell completed a pass in the flat to Justin Vincent who was stopped short of a first down. Instead of fourth down and a punt, however, Ray McDonald got called for roughing the passer when he head butted Randell. LSU used that new life to extend the drive eight plays and a touchdown to halve Florida's lead.

Florida would go ahead 21-7 with 1:39 remaining in the half on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Leak to Small on a crossing pattern, Florida's only sustained scoring drive of the evening. Matt Piotrowicz followed that TD up with a kickoff into the end zone.

LSU would drive it 80 yards and would get seven snaps off. There were plenty of missed tackles and blown coverages, plus there was another stupid penalty, this one on Jeremy Mincey whose imitation kung fu kick of a downed LSU player happened about five yards from an official. The extra 15 yards set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Randall to Early Doucet on a slant pattern. Safety Corey Bailey saw the play coming his way but he stood frozen in the end zone, flatfooted and statuesque until the ball was already in the air. Too late. Touchdown LSU, 21-14 at the half.

The Gators would get an interception by Bailey off a tipped ball in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, they would get a blocked field goal by Travis Harris, but they couldn't convert those turnovers into scores. In another all too familiar scenario of the past two seasons, Florida's offense just didn't work in the second half. Florida held the ball for eight plays only once and the longest drive of the half was just 33 yards.

The Gators weren't trying to put the game in the deep freeze. The play calls were aggressive and timely, just that the Florida offense and timely were strangers on this night. There was always a missed pass, a missed block or a blown opportunity for a big play. Leak finished the night just 15-33 and 142 yards. Florida had 59 offensive snaps. LSU had 83.

Despite the blunders and despite the fact that LSU had the ball for an eternity in the second half, Florida still had the lead with 2:06 remaining, needing only someone, somehow, someway to step up and make a play.

But, as we all know, the play that was needed was not to be. You would figure that by now if nothing more than by sheer accident, someone would step in the way of a pass or force a fumble or someone would manage to wrap up someone to make a tackle at a critical moment. You figure it would, but by now you know it wouldn't and didn't.

Like a bad movie that keeps showing up on Saturday night re-runs, Florida found a way to lose another one in the final two minutes, leaving the 80,000 Gators of the 90,377 fans in attendance wondering when is this going to change? When is someone going to finally say enough is enough and make a game winning play?

Guys, this is getting old. Really old.


Fightin Gators Top Stories