Georgia fans did their best to paint Jacksonville red this past weekend, but ended up leaving town green with envy of the Gator Nation.
Because on Saturday, for the first time in what has felt like an eternity, it was great to be a Florida Gator.
While the 38-20 loss likely cost Georgia its shot at the program’s first national title since 1980, the stakes were embarrassingly low for Florida heading into the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The Gators have fallen on such hard times of late that talk among fans leading up to the game was split between those that just wanted to avoid a Georgia blowout and those hoping to get blown out to expedite the firing of head coach Will Muschamp.
“Let me lift this thing (monkey) off my back,” Muschamp joked after the win. “It’s one less thing for you to write about.”
And although he may be right, as the high wears off from defeating rival Georgia, there’s still plenty to write about. Without a clear-cut favorite to eventually replace Muschamp, a great deal is still unknown about which direction the program is heading. Likewise, freshman Treon Harris attempted just six passes for 27 yards against the Bulldogs in his first career start — not exactly a coming out party.
Muschamp wasn’t going to let any of that rain on his parade though after he picked up his first win in the Florida-Georgia rivalry as either a player (0-4 at Georgia) or a coach (now 1-3 at Florida). “There’s nothing more fun than to be around a victorious locker room,” he said in his post game press conference.
But as I was sitting on a bar stool in Jacksonville after the team’s first notable win since 2012, I begged to differ. There’s a certain feeling that comes with rooting for a winning team. The beer just tastes a little better and the girls look a little prettier. It’s an old, familiar feeling that used to be commonplace for a Florida alum.
Unfortunately, winning has become a foreign concept under Muschamp. Last season was the first time the Gators missed out on the postseason since 1990. Prior to the upset-win, Florida’s 3-10 record over their last 13 games was the worst overall mark of any team in the SEC.
When Vanderbilt is ahead of you in anything football-related, it’s time to panic.
Much to the dismay of the fan base, Florida AD Jeremy Foley hasn’t panicked — he’s showed a great deal of patience by sticking with his coach. Foley is just delaying the inevitable though. It’s hard to justify employing a man who has somehow managed to make the Ron Zook era feel like the glory days by comparison.
With winnable games remaining against Vanderbilt on the road and Eastern Kentucky, and South Carolina at home, Florida is all but assured of a return to a bowl game after last year’s 4-8 debacle. Even going to Tallahassee to take on Florida State suddenly doesn’t make my stomach hurt quite so much.
Walking through Jacksonville International Airport Sunday morning, there was feeling of satisfaction in the air. Gator fans nodded with pride, shouting a supportive “Go Gators!” as they walked past one another.
At least for now, when the present finally feels like the past again, the future can wait. All might not be right just yet for Florida, but for last 24 hours, it has sure felt like it.