FOOTBALL: Style Points Without The Style

If you wanted to nitpick, you'd find fault with Florida's offense on Saturday. But if you're a rational person who understands the big picture, you'd know that the Gators and Urban Meyer had as successful an evening as they possibly could have had against Florida State.

Sure, if you wanted to look at this game solely as a football analyst --- without caring for things like psychology, recruiting, coaches' reputations, or the health of two programs --- you could make a case that Florida did little on offense. There were a bunch of overthrown balls, shaky option and shovel pass plays, and few sustained scoring marches when the outcome was still in doubt. But Florida's offensive problems weren't going to be solved in a day, and they won't be solved in the lead-up to one bowl game. They'll be solved in the offseason. On this day, the true style points were not to be found in the realm of technical merit, but in the area of artistic impression. On this ever-important scale, the Gators exceeded expectations in a very big way.

Florida's defensive front was so dominant, the Gators so full of energy, and a Swamp crowd so juiced that potential recruits had to love what they saw, either inside BHG or in front of a TV set. But perhaps more importantly than that was the fact that as great as Gator football --- the total package --- looked to the eye on Saturday, Florida State football looked like the worst train wreck you've ever seen. The Noles offered little resistance, virtually no toughness, and a profound lack of skill in a non-effort so abysmal that Bobby Bowden looked like a beaten man midway through the second quarter. As much as the Semis have been bloodied and beaten down in recent years, they look as bad as they ever have since Bowden came to Tallahassee in the mid-1970s. With FSU playing this poorly, two smackdowns seem assured for a Seminole team that has "7-6" written all over it. And while it was bad enough for the Noles to lose regionally televised ABC games against ACC foes in previous weeks, with only some eyeballs watching, it is exponentially more painful for the FSU program to lose to Florida on a nationally televised CBS spotlight game on a Thanksgiving weekend that possessed few compelling matchups.

So while the SEC East was missed, Urban Meyer's crew picked the right time to get off the canvas and send the Seminoles tumbling to an embarrassing defeat. It all started up front, as guys named Siler, Mincey, Thomas, and several others made Drew Weatherford taste grass with delightful frequency, all while getting his hat knocked askew. The sustained fury with which the Gators brought pressure to the Noles' maligned offense harkened back to the Tennessee game, when defense anchored the Gators in a bruising, satisfying win.

Speaking of the Tennessee game…

It was on that night in September when special teams made huge impact plays, and on a sparkling late afternoon in Gainesville, Florida's third unit proved to be special once again. Marcus Thomas and Reggie Lewis changed the whole trajectory of this contest, transforming a tenuous 7-0 game into a 14-0 affair destined to become the runaway it was. Add on a few Chris Hetland field goals, and the Gators were able to accumulate a substantial third-quarter advantage that forced Weatherford to pass --- and get the Thanksgiving stuffing knocked out of him --- on virtually every second-half snap. It was all over but the shouting, and Florida made the impression it needed to make --- for its own health, and also for the unhealthiness of the Seminoles.

Go ahead, knock some rough edges on offense. They really didn't matter on Saturday. Mission accomplished… with style points that went beyond traditional boundaries of what is normally viewed as "style."

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