By now you’ve probably already read all of the analysis of the game. Tebow hardly had to do anything. The running backs stole the show. The defense looked good. So on and so forth. Here’s how it went down from where I was sitting.
It was one of the strangest games I’ve ever attended at Florida Field. It began with a quick but persistent and cold rain shower from one of the outer bands of Gustav. That right there negated any and all climatological advantages related heat and humidity associated with Gainesville. From there it was relatively cool and breezy, and it probably felt a lot like how the islands do this time of year.
Because of the rain, the marching band was not allowed on the field. Sometime during the time I was in the band a few years ago, someone in the athletic department decided that marching bands destroy wet turf, and that policy has held ever since. It played only the national anthem, the alma mater, and “Orange and Blue” from the visitor sideline before retreating to the stands. The band also played its halftime show, the music of The Who, from the stands as well.
The first quarter was entirely frustrating. The offense got only one complete possession, and it ended because of the Gators mucking it up more than anything Hawai’i did. Almost the rest of the quarter was taken up by the Warriors controlling the ball and the clock thanks to shovel pass screen plays and Florida’s inability to line up onsides.
By the end of the quarter, a lot of people around me were wondering if this was an “I can’t believe this is happening” game as flashbacks of last year’s defense swirled in everyone’s minds.
Less than four and a half minutes into the second quarter, the Gators were up 14-0 and seemed to be in complete control.
The points kept coming and the offense spent a lot of time off of the field. That’s what an interception return and a punt return will do for you. It wasn’t really even the real offense because it seemed like the coaches were making a point to make it a running-back driven day. Urban Meyer’s comments after the game confirmed that was exactly the plan.
After halftime, it seemed for stretches like the Gators were losing interest. It’s difficult to say that when they posted another four touchdowns, but if you were watching (and especially if you were there) you’d know what I was talking about. By the time it was 48-0, the coaching staff really took its foot off the gas and the team basically coasted from there on out.
As I was talking to friends before the game, I came up with the idea that the biggest statement Florida could make was shutting out Hawai’i. For all intents and purposes they did, with the Warriors’ two scores coming in garbage time with both teams roughly playing street ball.
There was never any real doubt who was the better team, and ultimately this game didn’t prove anything with the score. The most important thing I saw was fundamentally sound one-on-one tackling by the defensive backs. That is something we never saw last season.
I don’t dismiss teams lightly, because if I think there is any chance of UF losing, I don’t want to jinx anything. I know that made some people upset, but we saw on Saturday the size of the gulf between Florida and a WAC team that lost everyone important.
As we now turn to Miami, I feel good about our chances from what I saw. I’m guessing the defense was just eager to make a statement, and hopefully it will not start a trend of racking up tons of flags in first quarters of games.