In the end, you can’t run from it.
It’s the elephant in a very small room and Florida football fans are very aware of it. It is staring them straight in the face.
Florida has lost four straight games. That’s never a good thing. Especially with a fanbase that constantly carries high expectations for the program.
Billy Napier and Co. will try to snap that streak next Saturday against McNeese State. If they don’t, there will be plenty of hot seats to go around.
The Friday Hash is back and ready to dissect Florida’s first — but definitely not last – loss of the season, 24-11 to Utah.
What’s the frequency Kenneth?
Maybe some of you need to switch over to a different channel to make sure everyone is on the same page. It felt like that Kentucky game two years ago when the Gators self-destructed with false start penalties.
Billy Napier (now 6-8 as Florida’s coach) said...
… the crowd noise was a factor and that’s a boisterous group letting out some pent-up rage (you know why), but let’s face it. Isn’t it going to be louder in SEC stadiums? And the formation penalties?
“We got to communicate with the official better,” Napier said. It’s not that complicated.
But this goes back to what I was concerned about.
Even with Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe out and best defender Karene Reid leaving the game early with a concussion, Utah still had a major experience advantage over Florida. And the young guys are only going to get better, one would hope.
“We have a lot of young guys, we have a lot of talent and this will be a step in their process to being a complete team,” said quarterback Graham Mertz.
Mertz did not go all Tim Tebow on us...
… but the words that are affixed to the stadium may have had an influence. “Myself, I need to hold myself accountable to that, and I need to see that across the board. I am going to push the guys every day.”
Where was the “God bless?”
The national narration of this debacle will be...
… that Napier is firmly on the hot seat. Certainly, it was not a good look to lay an egg like that in the first game of your second year. In fact, he’s the first Florida coach to lose the first game of his second season since Doug Dickey lost to Duke in 1971.
I still don’t think he’s on a hot seat, but to have your team be so sloppy in the first game of your second year is the reason Napier is going to catch a lot of heat.
In the postgame...
… Napier regurgitated the same stuff we have heard before. No offense, Billy, but Florida fans are now 12-18 over the last 30 games. They want more in the way of explanations.
“There’s no question that we can coach better and play better,” he said. “We can do our part to help our players and certainly, we had a lot of cats out there, first game for the Gators, that made some costly mistakes in the game.” Then stop making them.
Before we go on, let’s give a hand for the defense...
… especially in the third quarter when they limited Utah to five yards. The Utes were 3-for-13 on third downs and that should be enough to win you a game. But the defense had its share of mistakes like the first Utah play of the game.
“Guys getting too antsy or forgetting their role or their job on a play,” said linebacker Shemar James. “We beat ourselves.” It was nice to see these guys get four three-and-outs in 12 drives.
Florida did win the statistical battles...
… but as Steve Spurrier once said, “Statistics are for losers and assistant coaches.” Once Utah got a cheap touchdown early in the second half and a 24-3 lead, the Utes were just trying to get out of there with a win. It allowed Mertz to pick his way down the field on a 59-yard drive and a 98-yard drive.
“The guy’s doing what we would want him to do,” Napier said. “The ball is going where it’s supposed to go.”
One stat battle Florida did not win – sacks.
The Gators had zero-point-zero sacks and not a lot of pressure but Utah only attempted 23 passes (one a double pass that should have been a touchdown). Florida allowed five sacks of Mertz, one that was a real drive-killer.
“We have to keep him clean,” Napier said.
But let me finish by talking some people off the ledge.
It was the first game of a team cobbled together by Napier through the portal and recruiting. We knew it was not going to be easy. We just didn’t think we’d see the same problems as last season.
“I think that you find out who you really are in difficult times and I think this group is going to respond,” Napier said. “I know that group in there, there’s fight in that group. You can see it already.” Let’s hope.