Our 2010 Gators once again started off the season with a win over Miami of Ohio, albeit not an impressive one - in spite of the margin of victory, the team's performance was marred by mistakes, an obvious lack of cohesiveness and trust on the offensive line, and an overall lack of experience.
<strong>As ugly as this win was, I'll still take it - when all is said and done it's the "W" that really counts.</strong>
Urban Meyer saw the handwriting on the wall well before the opening kickoff, but it seems as though a good portion of Gator Nation didn't see things from that same perspective, based on all the ranting and other silliness I've seen elsewhere. I've seen comments ranging anywhere between sensibility and your basic garden-variety rant to those of gloom and doom from the Negative Nancies, the absurd and the just plain asinine.
Let's face it, as was the case in 2007 we once again have a young team. Based on the number of freshmen and sophomores making up a sizable portion of this roster, the lack of experience speaks for itself. It was a given that naturally some of them were nervous - Johnny Brantley included. There were mistakes made that could have been avoided, such as those that Mike Pouncey made at center, Mike Gillislee's costly fumble, and Caleb Sturgis' missed kicks - but those can be improved on in practice and and avoided in the future. With regards to Mr. Pouncey, I do need to commend him on that fact that he took personal responsibility for his mistakes; that shows a sense of maturity on his part and awareness that as a team leader he's held to a higher degree of accountability.
As far as those fans who still have lofty expectations of this year's Gators and were expecting to see a knock-their-jocks-off, RUTS-style rout of the Redhawks - they could use a serious reality check right now and need to come to their senses. Given the graduation losses and attrition to the NFL of some underclassmen post-2009, there was bound to be a bit of a dropoff from the previous season. We've reloaded our roster, but once again this section of our fanbase needs to realize that they haven't yet had the gametime experience necessary to be major contributors yet. Everything takes time, and eventually this team will once again be a force to be reckoned with.
In spite of the errors made there were some bright spots; Janoris Jenkins' heads-up interception that led to the first touchdown of the year and Jeff Demps' stellar rushing that were huge factors in this win (Demps gets my vote as MVP of the game). Also deserving of commendable mention are Jaye Howard (two sacks to his credit), Trey Burton (scoring his first TD at the college level), Chris Rainey for coming up with that lackadaisical throw from Brantley for a seat-of-the-pants TD catch, Ahmad Black, Matt Elam and Omarius Hines.
I'm no believer in laying the blame solely on the coaches as way too many Gator fans like to do (based on some of their logic, I probably should blame Coach Meyer for my persistent migraines right now); the players themselves must be held responsible for what takes place on the field and also what they fail to do, but given the sub-par performance of our offense on Saturday and the level of responsibility he's been entrusted with I would expect offensive coordinator Steve Addazio to be able to answer for the offensive deficiencies and poor execution, as well as an explanation of how he plans to rectify the mistakes made in the upcoming practice sessions.
All being said though, I haven't lost faith in this Gator team - and neither should you. Issues will be addressed throughout the week concerning performance, leadership, attitude, and expectations the coaching staff has of these players - knowing Coach Meyer over the past six years, mediocrity for him is not an option. If he and his staff also need to deal with some overinflated player egos, those who still seem to think they have a sense of entitlement and others who may be disrupting the harmony of this team, they will. The coaches will dissect Saturday's game, identify crucial areas needing improvement, and have this team ready to go against South Florida this coming Saturday. If any of you recall a scene in the movie "Miracle" about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team where Herb Brooks runs his players through post-game wind sprints on the ice due to the lackluster outcome of a game against Norway, their lack of focus and players having other things on their mind than playing hockey, you can bet that Urban likely put these kids through something along those same lines today, although not as drastic. In one way or another, our Gators will pay the price for not giving 100% of an effort out there against the Redhawks. As Pat Dooley alluded to in his post-game article, not too much weight should put on the first game of the season. If anything, this game should serve as a learning experience for these kids. We will overcome this game and move forward.
Fasten your seat belts, Gator fans - it's gonna be a bumpy ride this season, but don't give up on these kids. Patience is a virtue, and true Gator fans will know enough to cut these guys a little slack right now.
<strong>Keep the faith, Gator Nation.</strong>
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