First, let's begin by saying that the difference between total brain death and survival in incidents of oxygen deprivation is just that of a few minutes. Or that the top five Olympic sprinters in any given race differ in their time by mere fractions of seconds. Or that glaciers plow solid rock into dust at the rate of a foot a year. Or that in any given system with people competing with equal resources, the decisions and outcomes made on the margins will add up to seemingly huge differences in the long run.
Margins: unsexy. Potentially fatal.
So when you have played at the margins as this Florida team has, mistakes at the perceived margins of the game will end your streak of marginal victories. Auburn's coaching staff grabbed this concept by the balls on Saturday night; seemingly unconcerned with scoring, the Tigers won at the margins, a concept no Auburn fan reading this should interpret as demeaning or dismissive; in fact, it's the highest compliment given the Auburn game plan. Their offense may not have scored touchdowns, but they got something; their defense may not have prevented Florida from gaining yards, but they prevented the fatal go-ahead score. And in between the box score events most assume to be the key events of the game, they did what was most crucial of all: they made anyone wearing a Florida jersey irrelevant by squatting on the ball and by playing shutdown defense when it counted. Negation, frustration, and ultimately victory by a thousand paper cuts: margins that added up.
In our notes from the Arkansas/Auburn game last week is the following phrase: "Auburn are TOP gangsters." They wore the pinkie ring of TOP mafiosi again this week, an indicator of how Auburn hogged the play total: 72 total plays for Auburn, 48 for Florida. Their defense flashed in the first half--the safety in the endzone being the single flash--and burst into flaming demons in the second behind Quentin Groves' relentless bossing of Leak and Trey Blackmon's smashing debut, forcing. Leak into a fumble ***Stranko's 2 cents...that was no fumble... Corso summed it up when he said the replay at Jordon Hare is a "sham"... But the pick was the real reason for the loss***, part one of Chris Leak's two-part tragedy that signed the death certificate for the Gators.
So all due credit to an Auburn team that won like a Shug Jordan classic edition: defense, tons o' field goals, and a general guerilla warrior tendency to short circuit everything the opponent wanted to do for three quarters and wait for the desperation of the fourth quarter to take hold on their home field. It did, and that's where the pain begins for us, because two marginal factors for Florida disintegrated Florida's chance at remaining undefeated.
Primero: Eric Wilbur. His flubbed punt flipped the field, the score, and the momentum.
Segundo. Chris Leak. Rather than reach in our private bag of perjoratives, let's toss out a few quotes about last night's game from people who had something to do with the outcome:
"We noticed that he tends to lock on one guy. He also has trouble making multiple reads...if you pressure him, he makes mistakes...How does a senior quarterback, a three-year starter, throw the ball into the middle of the field like that?"
That was Auburn LB coach James Willis after the game last night talking about Leak. Here's another guy talking about Leak's fumble/pump fake disaster:
"What do you say to a senior who ... should know better than that?"
That's Urban Meyer on Leak.Actually, it's not. That's a reporter's question to Meyer, not Meyer himself. A bad error on our part.
He's not that good. Mike Freeman and every other hack columnist may opine away about what a raw deal Leak gets as a starter, but Florida fans, like most fans, just rely on evidence and experience to judge how they'll feel about him as a quarterback. And last night he was deplorable--nothing short of deplorable, a ticking time bomb of poor decision-making waiting to happen. For the first time in our history as a Gator fan, we completely pussed out and left the stadium before the gun sounded. We didn't even do that after the Fiesta Bowl in 1996 or after 31-3 in Tuscaloosa last week.
Why? Because there was no possible way Chris Leak was going to win that game for Florida. None. He's not that good, and never will be. There's no anger in saying that, no resentment, and no bitterness. It's just what he is, a statement made free of predjudice, irrational reasoning, and malice. Off the field, he's everything you'd want a player to be: polite, a good citizen, and a dedicated member of the community. On the field, he's Doug Johnson with slightly better wheels, and there's three and a half years of game tape to prove it.