This loss was inexcusable. As far as I could tell, only two players showed up ready to play: RB Ciatrick Fason with 143 yards on just 16 carries and LB Channing Crowder who finished with 20 tackles. Chris Leak had a nice game statistically, but you couldn't tell by the way he was missing receivers on deep passes and telegraphed an interception that setup the Bulldogs' winning score. The Florida coaching staff was outcoached in every facet of the game. The players played with absolutely no enthusiasm. All you had to see was the Gators' run coverage to understand. MSU was doing run plays so basic they might have come out of Tecmo Bowl, but the Gators could not stop them. They made the wrong adjustment in the 4th quarter by moving linebackers up to the line of scrimmage in hopes of tackling the runner in the backfield, but Mississippi State RB Jerious Norwood was too quick for that. Since linebackers were blitzing, Norwood usually only had one linebacker to contend with over the middle of the field before he broke into the secondary. And God only knows why the Gators were playing nickle coverage when MSU was driving into the substantial wind that made passing extremely difficult. UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong looked completely puzzled the entire second half.
This was an awful game to watch from the beginning. It was setup as a look-ahead game with Florida facing Georgia next Saturday, but if it was going to be close, the Gators should have snapped out of it enough to beat a team that lost to Div. I-AA Maine earlier this year. Yes, that's right, Maine, who held the Bulldogs to just 7 points. MSU was averaging paltry 12.5 points a game going into this one. I began to realize that as time went on, they weren't going to snap out of it. It was going to be close. I went from thinking "Uh oh, this isn't going to look good to the pollsters," to "Uh oh, they're hanging around way too long to roll over and die - we might actually lose this," to thinking nothing and feeling sick. It was the same feeling as during the 4th quarter of LSU - it wasn't a matter of when the opponent took the lead, but how much time would be left on the clock when it happened.
This brings me back to Coach Zook. As much as you can try to be apologetic for the loss at Tennessee (we really and truly got shafted by the refs) and against LSU (it's a young team, LSU was desperate, and so forth), there's absolutely no excuse for this game. You could stretch and say it was the bad karma of wearing the white jersey-white pants combo that the team wore in the Tennessee loss, but I think that's up to the coaching staff too. It's Zook's fault for arrogantly trying to come out and run over the Bulldogs after saying so in the media - even bad teams can stack the box, especially ones coached by guys that take the phrase "playing for pride" seriously (like Sylvester Croom). It's Larry Fedora's fault for calling a haphazard mix of plays instead of committing to a balanced offense that could get the players into a rhythm. It's Charlie Strong's fault for getting completely outcoached. It's not just Zook whose inadequacies were exposed, but the entire staff's shortcomings were on display. Barring some kind of miracle and wins over Georgia and FSU by an average of 50 points, UF may have its January bowl streak snapped (the streak being a particular point of pride for athletic director Jeremy Foley) and Zook and his staff will be out of their jobs. He has lost the fan support with this loss, and for proof you can look no further than the fact that www.fireronzook.com appears to have suffered the same effects as a Slashdotting and now is unavailable due to excessive traffic amounts.
Okay, the positives. A big congratulations to Sylvester Croom on his first conference win. You earned it big time, Sly, and I have no doubt that soon you will make your program into a national terror. Alabama will be wishing it hired you instead of Mike Shula, who can't actually coach. Also, it should be noted that the president of Utah who hired Urban Meyer happens to be one J. Bernard Machen, the recently-inducted president of UF. Oh please, oh please, oh please (please?).
Your assignment, if you read this in time: watch Texas at Texas Tech, at 7 on TBS. In Mack Brown's tenure, he has only lost one regular-season game following an Oklahoma loss, and that was two years ago in the last time they visited the Red Raiders in Lubbock. Your other assignment is to watch Fresno State - Boise State at 10:15 on ESPN 2. Not only to you get to watch a game on the priceless "Smurf Turf" in Boise, but you get to see what is likely the Broncos' last chance at losing this year. Also, it's your second-to-last chance to see the Broncos play on national TV before bowl season, and they're a fun team to watch. QB Jared Zabransky is highly talented, and with the way the BSU defense has been playing recently, Fresno has a chance to score almost anytime they line up on offense. Plus, Boise puts the nation's longest winning streak (17 games) and home winning streak (22 games) on the line, so there's that intrigue too. You also just might see a team in orange and blue win today, which would be a welcome change.