What Does Florida Gators' Great Escape Mean for 2012?
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Everything was going swimmingly for the Bowling Green State Falcons. There they were, in the Swamp, playing tough against a ranked (not for long) SEC team that had just painted a menacing, 22-yard long and hash mark-wide Gator head at midfield.
Down 14-7, Bowling Green tailback Anthon Samuel took a handoff, found a crease and dashed into the end zone.
Then he did the Gator Chomp, and sliced his throat afterwards. Why? Hasn't he ever heard the stories?
Erik Ainge made the same mistake once, too. His Vols defeated the Gators in his 2004 freshman year and he executed a gigantic Gator chomp. He never beat Florida again and, as a matter of fact, Tennessee hasn't beaten Florida since.
In 2010, Marcus Lattimore capped a memorable, SEC East-clinching night against the Gators with a few mock chomps. He tore his ACL early the following season, derailing a potential Heisman Trophy season.
Mark Ingram's fate following his mock Gator chomp in 2009 fared no better. He blew out his knee two months later too. He must not have learned his lesson, because he did it again in 2010.
Alabama, who had looked so stout up until that point, suddenly blew to pieces. The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide completely fell apart, going from 5-0 to 9-3.
Ingram wasn't the first Tidesman to mock the Gators' ritual. In 2005, D.J. Hall chomped and throat slashed the Gators. The Gators responded by smothering Alabama the following year, leading to the firing of head coach Mike Shula.
Will the Gators beat Texas A&M next week?
Wes Byrum did a Gator chomp after beating Florida in 2007 with a field goal. The following year, Auburn stumbled to a 5-7 bowl-less season, leading to the firing of head coach Tommy Tuberville.
And don't even get me started on Georgia coach Ray Goff, who triumphantly chomped the Florida crowd after beating UF in 1989. He never beat Florida again and some of his ensuing losses to the Gators were the worst in Bulldogs history. The Bulldogs are 4-18 against the Gators since.
Anthon Samuel must not have been briefed.
Why do something stupid like that and give the Gators the hope of karma? Maybe the whole topic of karma is bogus, but at the very least, it's an effective placebo for any team, let alone one that can't buy a first down. Nothing was working for the Gators in any phase of the game, so why flare their tempers?
The Gators took the ensuing kickoff into Bowling Green territory and that's where the rest of the game was played. The Gators defense, which had been solid, suddenly became ferocious and shut out the Falcons the rest of the way. The offense, which had been comically horrendous aside from two Mike Gillislee touchdown runs, became passable.
The best thing that came out of this game is the proof that the Gators are in fact better than a Penn State team that has basically been downgraded to FCS status. Big deal, I could have guessed that before the season started. At least the Gators got the win. Penn State actually lost to Ohio.
Where to start with the analysis? Should I start with the penalties? The failure to take advantage of numerous golden scoring opportunities? The inability to win the turnover battle against a lower level school? How about the lack of offensive line push? Or worst of all, how about the sickening way the Gators just let the Falcons walk into the Swamp and dictate the tempo from the opening kick?
I could go into all of that, but there's no point. There's also no point in comparing this team to last year's because the Gators have only played one game.
So what does this mean for the rest of the season? Nothing.
The biggest improvement in a team usually comes from the first game to the second. While Texas A&M may have the advantage of having tape on the Gators, the Gators have the advantage of next week's showdown being their second game, and Texas A&M's first.
The biggest issue the Gators have is that they played like pee wee players in their preseason. Their performance was garbage, but it's OK, because it was a preseason game.
The New York Jets' preseason was horrible, but they still have as much of a mathematical shot to win a Super Bowl as the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and New York Giants. Of course, the Gators at least punched the ball into the end zone once in awhile, but that's another story.
I've said all along not to judge head coach Will Muschamp quite yet, and I'll stay with that mantra. Muschamp has not actually lost a game yet in his second season.
However, he's run out of time to keep scraping by. One more performance like this and the Gators will likely not pull it off because the competition gets much tougher. I'll begin to question him then.
Next week, apparently with Jeff Driskel at the helm full time, is the true Judgment Day for the 2012 Gators.
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