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Florida Gators' embarrassment a few years in the making

JACKSONVILLE — In other eras, this was common.

In other college towns, it is understandable. In other programs, it is business as usual.

However, for this generation, at this school, it is unacceptable.

You might even say humiliating.

The University of Florida Gators are as helpless, and hopeless, as any time in the past two decades. Their talent level is low, their coaching is suspect and their future is indistinct.

You can measure it any way you like, and the result will still be disturbing.

After Saturday's 24-20 loss to Georgia, the Gators have lost four in a row for the first time since 1988. And there is a real possibility they will lose to Georgia and FSU in the same season for the first time since 1989. And, unless they win two in a row, they will finish with a losing record in the SEC for the first time since 1986.

In other words, there are grown men and women sitting stone-faced in their orange-and-blue pajamas this morning who are completely unfamiliar with this kind of depression.

"It's disappointing. I believe there's no one more disappointed or impatient than I am," first-year coach Will Muschamp said. "We've got to evaluate ourselves, starting with me, and then we work from there."

Muschamp is right about that much. It does start with him. As a lifelong assistant in his first job as a head coach, the doubts show up at his door more quickly than others. And having endured the Zook years so recently, you can be pretty sure UF administrators are not going to allow this kind of meandering to go on for too long.

But it must be pointed out, and understood, that this is not entirely Muschamp's fault.

This slide began with Urban Meyer. In retrospect, it is even permissible to wonder if Meyer knew this was coming when he bailed after last season.

For this team has not been among the elite for two years now. The Gators have lost eight consecutive games to ranked opponents. They've lost at home, on the road and now at a neutral site.

The last time UF beat a quality team, Tim Tebow was still the quarterback.

"We're really beating ourselves with these penalties and these foolish turnovers and these other things we're doing, myself included," nose tackle Omar Hunter said. "It's time to grow up."

If you're looking for a single explanation, there is one readily available: The Gators have no running game, and that's not a figure of speech.

They have no clue how to run, no formations designed to run, and seemingly no desire to run. Half the time, they don't even have running backs on the field.

Again, this is not all on Muschamp. Meyer never had much of a running game either, and he clearly did not recruit players tailored for such a foreign concept.

So much of the team is mismatched. It is a spread offense without a spread quarterback. That's a bad combination. Because the offensive linemen weren't recruited to run-block, and the running backs weren't recruited to go up the middle.

Still, it's hard to justify getting to the eighth game of the season and not being able to run off tackle. Or around end. Or simply from here to there.

In a nine-minute postgame news conference, Muschamp mentioned the need for a running game at least eight times. And he alluded to Meyer's recruiting, or lack thereof.

"We've got to build our numbers back, and I think we've got to get better on the line of scrimmage," Muschamp said. "It's very difficult to run a power running game … with who we have."

Since Steve Spurrier's return in 1990, the Gators have been near the top of college football's toughest conference, and they have brought home three national championships.

Today, that thought can be both a comfort and a torment.

For you know what is possible, and you know what is expected. You know this program is capable of remarkable heights.

And, unfortunately, you also know how far the Gators have fallen.

Florida Gators' embarrassment a few years in the making 10/29/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 29, 2011 10:59pm]
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