Heading into this weekend, Florida had very little margin for error in its quest to make its 23rd consecutive bowl game. But errors have been the story of the Gators’ season, and the horror show continued on Saturday against Vanderbilt. The Commodores beat Florida 34-17 in a game they controlled from the outset.
The Gators (4-5) have suffered more than their share of injuries to date, with stars like quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, running back Matt Jones and, most recently, offensive tackle Tyler Moore lost for the year. But at some point, injuries can no longer be used as a blanket excuse, especially when the team continues to make the same mistakes time and again, akin to some sort of bizarre unpublished Franz Kafka story.
With the metamorphosis from a top-10 team in 2012 to DEFCON 1 fully complete, natural questions have emerged about the future of third-year head coach Will Muschamp. Muschamp’s philosophy seems so devoid of innovation and explosiveness that it requires disciplined perfection to work. When the Gators haven't executed (and have lost crucial components to fluke scooter incidents), they have appeared overmatched and bewildered.
Sure, the injuries are brutal. They severely hampered Florida's hopes of reaching a second straight BCS bowl. But injuries don’t call option plays on the goal line, punt inside opposing territory, get called for targeting or throw interceptions in the red zone.
The Gators turned the ball over four times and lost by 17 points on Saturday despite outgaining the ‘Dores 344 yards to 183. Florida also committed 10 penalties for 84 yards.
With the loss to Vanderbilt -- the Gators’ first defeat to the Commodores since 1988, and Vandy's first win in Gainesville since 1945 -- Florida now needs to win two of its final three games against South Carolina (Nov. 16), Georgia Southern (Nov. 23) and Florida State (Nov. 30) to even get to 6-6, which seems awfully far-fetched at this point.
Without a bowl berth, the backlash against Muschamp will likely continue to grow, a notion that's a bit stunning considering just how raucous and vitriolic things are getting already.
While it’s never entirely apples to apples when comparing two coaches’ tenures, a look at the records of Ron Zook and Muschamp proves fascinating. In three years with the Gators, Zook was 23-14 (16-8 in SEC play). Muschamp is currently 22-13 (13-10).
The situation might be different if the Gators showed any signs of life down the stretch, but outside of a quarter-plus rally against Georgia last week, they’ve basically been the subjects of a modern-day Howl, crying “Moloch!” and wondering:
water skiingWhat sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!