Michigan Wrap-Up

Let's take a look at what went right and wrong in this disappointing loss to Michigan, while looking forward to spring practice. Also, I have some snippets on Charlie Strong, Rex Grossman and Clint Mitchell.

Ron Zook addressed the media following the game and when asked about the Gator final play, he wanted to turn the clock back 15 minutes and go with his instincts and overrule the call. But as many first year head coaches with 12 games of experience under his belt he allowed it to be called and the Gator chances of forcing overtime went into the arms of Victor Hobson. It seems as if the haunting images of this season were evident on New Years Day with the defense back to giving up big plays that made you scratch your head, the punting game was almost impossible to watch, the offensive line wore down and so did the whiteness of Rex's jersey. Yes these are the images that leave Florida at 8-5, a season that will be a learning experience. August 2003 cannot get here fast enough for the Zook led Gators. But let's  reflect on what was a very entertaining game in which several players had great games on offense.

Florida's offense seemed to be in control of the game today and on the move to possibly send the Outback Bowl into overtime when Ron Zook allowed a play to be called that was befuddling. Vernell Brown's interception pass stymied the Gators last effort at pulling out the game and sent them to their first five loss season since 1989. Ironically the NFL's all-time leading rusher and Gator legend from that team, Emmitt Smith, was on the sideline to witness it. The UF defense did not play exceptionally well and for the second straight game there were no turnovers caused. Michigan big played Florida and killed them with the backside/weak side screen to the backs. UF had opportunities to make big plays including the blitz of Cromartie which was avoided by Navarre in a big play that set up the 21-16 halftime lead. The offense ran very well in the first half with Earnest Graham but as the game became a track meet in the second half the Gators abandoned the run for the arm of Rex Grossman. Rex played hard and made some great throws, he also locked in a couple of times to Jacobs in critical down and distance situations. Overall it's hard to fault Rex for much in that he had his team in position to win and then came the "mindless" call of the double reverse pass. The offensive line played great in the first half but then Michigan got after them pretty good in the second half but remember the Gators had over 500 yards of offense. This game was a typical bowl game in which  two offenses have time to prepare thorough game plans and they open the playbook on two solid defenses. Michigan did not turn the ball over and Florida did not capitalize enough on field position and gave the Michigan team 8 points in the outcome by snapping a ball over the head of Grossman when he was still checking to another play and going for two instead of kicking an extra point at 13-7. Finally the season certainly was a disappointing one for Gator fans and 8-5 will fuel the message boards and radio shows everywhere, but I can tell you this team will be more skilled and deeper next year. Now if Zook can sharpen his skills on certain decisions that backfired this year UF can be back playing on New Years Day 2004.

Charlie Strong was also on hand at the game and will head to Gainesville on Thursday to begin recruiting. John Thompson was more of an inhouse recruiter, but Charlie asked to be on the road and will pick up Odom's recruits including Joe Cohen and Earl Everett...Emmitt said he hopes to be back with Dallas but will wait until the new coach (Bill Parcells) and him meet...Bright spots for Florida also include the play of Randy Hand in the first half, the tremendous effort by Ben Troupe and the running backs overall as a group played very well...The two point play was called by Zook on the sideline but was not executed fast enough to really be successful...Sources say Clint Mitchell and Rex Grossman will both make themselves eligible for the NFL draft. Last week I said I thought Rex may stay but it appears he really likes Zook and the staff but the word is he is probably going to go. We should have word by the end of the week. Maybe he will shock everyone and say he is coming back...Zook will turn his focus to recruiting and preparing his team for spring football.

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