Part three of an epic couch-straining weekend of football. We almost died from pleasure. Or gout. Both, actually. Samuel Johnson would have been proud.
--We wrote the words "low wattage" in association with this game last week. A noon kickoff confirmed that for us, a suspicion only increasing as Florida swatted its way through a thicket of false start penalties to hop to a 14-0 lead over a Seminole team still captained by half a coaching staff and an old guy wandering around with an old hat on, wary of the EBay that had scuttled his son's career earlier that month.
--Part of that 14-0 run included a play cribbed straight from Houston Nutt's playbook, a quarterback draw with Percy Harvin under center. If you have not seen Percy Harvin play, it is likely because your eye can't register his movements. A good way to do this is get a fast-motion camera that slows him down enough to see his legs, which are available through fine photgraphy wholesale shops. If you want to attract him, put out trays full of a solution made of 3 parts water to two parts sugar--it's the only fuel that can sustain him calorically. Harvin flew out of the blocks and into the FSU secondary, running past fellow blue-chipper Myron Rolle, who apparently hates Harvin's ass for one reason or another.
Harvin: visible with the right technology. Loves sugar water.
--It was nifty and fleeting revenge, since Harvin got accordioned between two FSU defenders on a hit and left the game on a backboard.
At this point, the game took an eerie turn for Gator fans as similarities from the Auburn defeat began to crop up: an injury to go-go Harvin, an injury to Wynn crippling the run game, and a pair of missed field goals from Chris Hetland, who despite receiving all the sports therapy the University can cram into a single skull missed two field goals of elementary difficulty. The third quarter turned into the same claptrap Florida fell into on the Plains: stuck in their own endzone with out a run game and drowning in a sea of "imposing their will" playcalling. (This is Meyer-speak for "two runs, two yards, and a four yard pass before punting.)
--With the upset/deathscript rolling, the normally amiable Gary Thorne went into full despicable overdrive selling the upset for viewers already nodding their way to sleep. In all fairness, this is the responsibility of the announcer: to make the unpalatable bearable and alluring, even when handed San Jose State/University of Floppytackles on a Tuesday night.
And as a declared fan, sensitivity's always a bias, though more with some fans than others: Stranko will swear up and down that certain camera angles show bias ("LOOK! They're going wide angle again! That makes him look small and ineffectual! They HATE us.")
--Gary Thorne, though, wore out the accepted boundary of upselling a bad product way faster than usual. Every single fart of the Seminoles was greeted with accolades, especially the desperate jumpball Carr pulled down in the endzone for the tying TD, a bad call that just happened to work for the first time in a zillion attempts for FSU "The Seminole crowd's coming to life!!!" hooted Thorne, who failed to note that "coming to life" sounded like sleepy mumbles even through the television.
Desperately seeking tension: Gary Thorne, whose glasses are ugly.
We didn't really get out the bricks until Leak made two brilliant audibles to Dallas Baker for the winning TD, a play which Thorne met with a subdued "touchdown, Florida." By the end of the game we were ready to stuff Paul MacGuire's fuzzy mike cover down Thorne's throat. Add the dated speculation about inserting Tebow into the game and we were feeling an announcing fatwa coming on; fortunately for Thorne, Brent Musberger's legendarily clanky performance in the ND/USC game washed most of the animus away by Monday morning. (More on that later...)
--Reggie Nelson. We just wanted to type his name again. And again: Reggie Nelson. The name of our firstborn is all but secured by Nelson's exuberant, reckless daring on the field Saturday. His leaping pick of Weatherford was dashing enough, but the blazing pickup of Lorenzo Booker on a run to the one yard line was doubly amazing.
Booker split the backers and found a gaping hole in the secondary running free. Booker may be a bust thanks to the ineptitude of this offense's architects, but one thing intact after four squandered years at FSU is his speed. Scorching a path to the endzone, Booker seemed a sure 6er until Nelson--taking a bad angle and hopelessly out of the play--zipped in from the corner of the frame and pushed Booker out at the one. Even on a busted play Nelson astounds. Superlative: he's the best defensive backfielder Florida's ever had. Period. Name better and we'll argue the case. He matters on every single play, makes picks from the safety position with a machinelike frequency, and hits like a linebacker with a fifteen yard running start.
--We could be exasperated by the play-calling and procedure penalties, but that would be repetitive. It's de trop to say how arrhythmic the offense is and how it repeatedly quanders good field position and opportunity with dunderheaded fanciness like the reverse to Andre Caldwell in the third quarter.
Let us now praise famous men---like Chris Leak, who went 11-1 in the regular season as a senior. 11 wins and one loss--the second or third finest season in the history of Gator football, no matter how beastly some of the half-baked victories were or how many last-minute field goal blocks or heroics it took to get there. Chris Leak was manhandled, belittled, called a lady by this blog and others, sacked, terrorized by Quentin Groves, set afire in countless columns, and blamed for everything the expansion of measles in the Sahel thanks to anti-vaccination campaigns to that thing you're concerned about on your leg. (You know, that thing. You really should get it looked at.)
Chris Leak: we love you. Even when we hit you.
And yet...eleven and one, and going to the SEC championship game, and fresh off a victory against a rival who could have easily slimed their slimy, evil way back into the game were it not for his insistence on opening up and passing his way into a lead when circumstances tightened. We thought Chris Leak had plateaued somewhere around the LSU game, but in the fourth quarter he got assertive, called for the ball, and won the game with his arm and his brain.
That he did it against a wounded, beleaguered foe is irrelevant--something changed for him on Saturday, some neurochemical transformation for the better that resulted in a win. For a team beset with suspensions due to marijuana use, this marks the first time this year that a change in brain chemistry has positively affected the Florida Gators. We hope the amateur science being worked on Leak, no matter how late in the game it might be for him, continues.