At some point in the game on Saturday night, I had a sobering realization. I didn’t really want to be in the Swamp. For the first time in my almost 53 years, I didn’t want to be at a football game. I think some of that had to do with the fact that I hadn’t seen my grandson all week and knew that I wouldn’t get to on Sunday either due to other commitments I had made. But the primary reason was the fact that I can’t stand the way this staff coaches.
I know that some will say I am a poor loser and that is true. I hate losing more than I like winning. 30 years later and I can still name you the losses that kept our High School baseball team from competing in our state tournaments during my Junior and Senior years. I have few memories of the wins for sure, maybe because there were so many more of them than losses. But the angst goes much deeper than that. For the first time in the 28 years that I have been a fan of the Gators as my adopted team when the Lord led us to Gainesville, I just don’t believe that this team can win a game against an equally or more talented opponent. I didn’t expect them to win and even when we were ahead, I never really thought they could hold on and defeat maybe the worst LSU team since Nick Saban became their head coach. Yeah I know Les Miles is the coach now so you go back and find when Saban took over at LSU and you will know I mean for a long time!
I will not criticize players who are only kids doing the best they can to compete. I know they should catch the ball. I know they should block better. I know they should be able to throw it better. I know they should be able to cover better. I know, I know, I know. But I also know that they are still learning. They have to get to class, maintain a gpa that keeps them on the team, try to have a social life, and just be a nearly normal college student too. Not a single one of them who played for the Gators wanted to lose that game. Their effort was good for the most part even if the outcome on every play wasn’t. I have worked with enough athletes to know the pressure they place on themselves is greater than any pressure applied by fans and a crowd. They are human. They make mistakes.
I have come to the point where I do not believe this coaching staff can get them ready to play each week. We had a two week period to get ready for the Vols and we looked like we hadn’t practiced at all during that period. We won that game because the Vols are in worse shape than we are but that still doesn’t fix the fact that we didn’t look prepared to play. We had no emotion, no juice as they like to say now. This was a game that the Gators had to win and they looked flatter than a pancake pantry flapjack!
Saturday night in the Swamp, the place was rocking like the old days. In spite of the fact that there were still empty seats to be found in almost every section, it was a great atmosphere. The LSU faithful didn’t travel like they usually do either so some of those seats belonged to the Tigers I am sure, but most of them should have been filled with Gator fans for the best home game on the schedule this year. And even with the first appearance of a tandem Ms. Two Bits by former Gator pitchers Stacy Nelson and Hannah Rogers, I just couldn’t shake the fact that I would watch a team play scared, not be prepared, and lack leadership, as has been the case for much of the last two years.
After the game I couldn’t understand why our QB ran the ball 21 times. Then today I came across this quote from an article online at Gatorsports.com. This is from our head coach.
“They were doing some things as far as outnumbering us in the box,” Muschamp said. “We needed to establish the run. We used the quarterback, which really creates an extra gap for you in the run game.”
This is why I have no faith in our coaching staff! Your solution to getting LSU to stop loading the box is to run the ball more and use your QB who is a good but not great runner to do so? How many times did you think to go back to that post pattern from the slot receiver that would have been open every time you wanted to throw it when they had a zero safety coverage? Instead of only throwing go routes on the outside, utilizing the deeper routes over the middle to force the safeties to drop out of the box might be a way to get them out of loading the box. There are lots of ways to get a defense to stop loading the box but I don’t think I have ever heard a coach say the way to do it is by running the QB off tackle. We didn’t do that with Tebow. We just said they could load the box and still not stop Tim.
But the really revealing events that confirmed my feelings happened late in the game. After the interception, I didn’t care that we were about to lose the game. I was so floored by the events that happened after Pittman was injured that I could barely contain myself. Our head coach took forever to even go check on his condition. Even Les Miles, who I have no positive regard for as a coach, came all the way across the field to check on his player who also went down. Our coach was too busy trying to coach up the defense to get a miracle stop to win the game while one of the young men he’s responsible for lay on the field being held in place by trainers and being strapped to a backboard. This from the staff that usually doesn’t coach our players during time outs. They seem to prefer to let the players dance to the hype music. And when he did go over, he was there less than 10 seconds. I am sure a scared and hurting Pittman appreciated the support. Again from the Gatorsports report these where his comments post game:
“Our reports are Latroy is going to be fine,” Muschamp said. “He had movement in everything. It's always scary in a situation where a young man is put in that situation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him right now. I think everything is going to be fine.”
Maybe he said he was going to go check on him and that didn’t get reported by Robbie Andreu. Maybe he just didn’t get asked the right question. But given the fact that he barely came over to check on the kid, I suspect that he spent more time working on his coaches show post game than he did at the hospital. You have a Defensive Coordinator who could have been working on what you wanted to do next on the field while you take care of your players. Most folks would have given a pass if Will had said that he didn’t have a lot to add to the coaches show since he was with Latroy and his family and maybe he was.
But the most telling point of that whole scary scenario was the fact that the LSU players were seen on a knee with some praying while too many of our guys were huddled around the coaches working out what we needed to do next on defense. Our guys didn’t even rally around Pittman until after a number of the LSU players came to speak to him before he was carted off the field after being placed on the backboard. This is a team that does not appear to be together. They don’t look or act like they are close at all. And that is a direct result of the way they are coached.
And that is why I don’t have a lot of faith that this team can rally to make this season more than another mediocre one. Perhaps homecoming will renew in me a passion for this team. I want to believe in them, I really do, but this staff just makes it so dang hard to do so!