Zeroth and goal at the Miami 3. That's what ESPN's play-by-play lists for the first entry of this game, a kick return Devin Hester took back for 97 yards and a touchdown. It's nonsense, of course, but it's accurate nonsense. Everything in this game did, in fact, happen, but it happened in an alternate universe that doesn't exist.
(what the fucking fuck. why am i reliving this fucking nightmare of a game. what does this even say about my sense of self worth that i would bother to talk about this misery buffet.)
Back up for a minute. Before he was waterski-mastering, fraternity-fighting, Illinois-departing [COACH REDACTED], Ron Zook was...well, it wasn't necessarily clear. Year One hadn't been great, with two home losses by more than 25, an ugly collapse in Oxford, and whatever sodium-potassium pump misfire led to the last offensive snap of the year being called for Vernell Brown. Now take away Rex Grossman, Earnest Graham, and Taylor Jacobs.
So you take that team, and you put them on the road against Sean Taylor. There were others - Vilma, Williams, Wilfork - but Taylor was enough to give you plenty of pause. Larry Coker wasn't a walking corpse. Kellen Winslow wasn't a soldier. We spent well over a billion dollars on tickets to Matrix sequels. Things were just different.
(like what was the damned point of this exercise in futility anyways. the orange bowl already looks like it's on the set of both escape from new york and a feed the children commercial. just forfeit and fucking stay home.)
Right. After zeroth and goal becomes Hurricanes 7, Gators 0, Zook decides the man to lead this raid is...Ingle Martin. As in "eventual Furman Paladins record-holder Ingle Martin." He leads Florida to the Miami 4 before taking a sack on third down. It's now 7-3, and Zook would do well to kick away from Hester.
And that's what happens, as Sean Taylor racks up 67 yards of kick return before being stopped. In trots Brock Berlin, the prodigal son who never came home. He doesn't look great, going 2 of 5 for 15 yards and only getting Miami a field goal out of this great field position. Maybe he's jittery. His first start, nine days prior against Louisiana Tech, had been decidedly mixed. Everyone knows he's not Ken Dorsey. The hope is that he's also not Kenny Kelly.
(i would much rather talk about that fucking dumb ass florida state loss where the refs bungled like 19 calls and yeah chris rix won but whatever everyone still hates him)
The Gator offense comes back out and runs. Runs again. Runs a third time. Then a fourth, so you're not paying close attention when Ingle Martin finds Carlos Perez completely uncovered on the right sideline for a fifty yard touchdown pass. That one pass is 6 percent of Martin's entire passing yardage in his Florida career.
Punts are exchanged. The first quarter ends in a tie. Suddenly, Miami's dam starts to spring a leak when a fumble is recovered by Keiwan Ratliff and returned for a Florida. 16-10 Gators after a tremendously stupid 2-point conversion attempt fails. Like an engine that runs on unleaded gasoline accidentally filled with diesel, the Hurricanes sputter and cough. Fumble. Punt. Punt. Kneeldown. That's all they manage for the rest of the half - not that Florida manages to take much advantage, only adding another field goal to the lead.
(hey self you know who should take over for our beloved college football team no self who well self how about the defensive coordinator from an nfl team that gave up over four hundred fucking points hmm self i don't know has he ever been a head coach at any level oh self that's not important you're right self it's a deal)
Presumably, something is said in the Miami locker room at halftime, but it might as well have been a reading of Lean Pockets cooking instructions based on the beginning of the third quarter. DeShawn Wynn, not even courteous enough to let most of the fans in attendance settle back into their seats, runs for an 86 yard score on the first offensive play after intermission. Berlin responds by throwing a pick. When that doesn't lead to points for Florida, Berlin throws another.
The box score says UF's next touchdown is a Ran Carthon run, but the drive really belongs to one of my favorite phrases, "Chris Leak to Ben Troupe." It's 33-10, with twenty minutes to go. Home fans are leaving the Orange Bowl in droves. Bolder - and by that I mean stupider - Gator fans are jingling keys, despite the fact that it makes no sense because theirs is the team that will have to start up the bus to leave. That's kind of how away games work.
(you can just stop writing here, pretend florida won and ron zook has a statue at the oaks mall and if you put a quarter in its mouth it poops out a coupon for a free appetizer at panda express. nobody has to know the truth, dammit.)
Brock Berlin's passing line at this point in the game is as follows: 9/20 for 71 yards, sacked once, intercepted twice.
Brock Berlin's passing numbers over the next quarter and a half: 18/21, 269 yards, two touchdowns.
Zook simply didn't know what to do with this lead. On a 3rd and 1, Florida called a bubble screen that lost four yards. When Florida's lead shrank to but a point, he put in Gavin Dickey, a redshirt freshman quarterback taking his first snaps at the college level. At night. In the Orange Bowl.
It was technically first down when a desperate Chris Leak threw an interception on Florida's last-chance drive to seal the loss. But it might as well have been zeroth.
CRYTERION FINAL GRADE: F. As in, "Fuck You, Ron Zook, you don't even know how to lose right."