1. This is not objective. Please don't pretend it is. There is the thing where you write about someone else's team, and then there is the thing where you write about your team, the one you spend money and time and worst of all emotional energy on because of some loyalty chip soldered long ago into your mainframe.
2. The most horrifying sequence of offensive football I have ever seen in my life happened on Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The box score play-by-play mentions it dispassionately, highlighted in bold like you'd nonchalantly mention "Ferry sinks, 386 lost; Indonesian Navy rescue, 48 recovered."
3. You should know that things were bad before this. Mizzou took the opening kickoff and walked it 96 yards through indifferent coverage on the first play of the game. The rest of the way towards a 20-0 halftime lead for Mizzou could be characterized as Muschamp Syndrome incarnate: superb defense, grit, and peerless effort all done in vain in a losing effort. The basics were all there: turnovers, random strikes of football lightning, and one-third of a football team trying to prop up the ramshackle rest.
4. This was expected, and almost comforting. It's a custom, slow-drip/ slow-pour kind of disaster. At one point in every fan's life there is a team coached by a person who trademarks a specific variation of loss, and then serves it until the Health Department closes it forever for numerous violations of common standards. For Florida, Will Muschamp is the hardworking barista at the local coffee shop who takes your order, brews your coffee without putting the water through any caffeine of any sort, and then pours it into your cup insisting its coffee. When you point it out, he shakes his head, grimaces, and mutters: "We'll get that sorted out. We're trying, and we'll get that fixed." Then he brews and pours another cup of hot water for you wonder why you keep coming to this stupid fucking coffee shop every time.
5. Decaffeinated football couldn't surprise anymore. But the third quarter: ohhh, that was something else, something new, bold, and horrible. First, a punt return TD, which is new. Second, a fumble for TD by Jeff Driskel, brought to the turf so slowly he didn't quite fumble, but instead rolled the ball out like a Rube Goldberg machine part tipping out the ball to a bucket, which then went up and spit the ball out onto a ramp, where it finally wound its way down to a waiting Markus Golden. He trotted that in for a TD, and everyone in the stadium thought we'd seen the last of Jeff Driskel.
6. We need to talk about another syndrome of following a losing team: the exhaustion of reason. For a long time--like, maybe until November of 2013 -- I liked to think about reasonable answers to questions about why things were so bad. Maybe a team was injured; maybe it was a matter of staffing. Maybe the right quarterback, or just a change of attitude would do. Material issues had material answers, and there definitely were answers.
7. And Jeff Driskel still came out for the next series.
8. I read about a woman who went hiking in the Grand Canyon without enough water and without a map. She got lost, disoriented, and ultimately sought shelter in a cave far up in a gully where she had a drip of water to keep her alive, shade, and a space to fill with nothing but her terrified thoughts. She had reasonable thoughts of rangers, rescuers, and a system of civilized measures all certainly working to find her. When she ran out of those, though, she resorted to prayer and wild hallucinations about the spiritual neighborhood and its general attitude towards her.
9. Jeff Driskel then handed off once, completed a three-yard pass, and threw a precise pass directly into the hands of Darvin Ruise for a Mizzou touchdown.
10. And at that point, with the entire stadium's jaw on the concrete floors of the stadium, you were stuck with the kind of answers you get when the reasonable runs out and you begin openly asking baffled questions of the universe, and then offering insane explanations. Will Muschamp must hate Jeff Driskel. He must hate offense so much that he couldn't even support his own team's attack, and chose to play all-time defensive coordinator for both teams like a bored video gamer. You grab for the kind of explanations you normally avoid: this team has given up, this coaching staff has given up, and negative attitude something something something.
11. There's a reason: this kind of failure really is unique and extreme. After the game, ESPN would circulate a factoid about only 149 teams holding the other team to 120 yards of offense in the past ten years in college football. Of those, only two had lost, and both were Will Muschamp football teams. Using really rough math, the probability of that happening in that sample over the grand total of something around seven thousand FBS football games in that span of time? It's around 0.0003%. If you wonder why anyone is still writing about this, that's why.
12. Will Muschamp football is the park ranger that got struck by lightning twice in a day.
13. And after that 22 point quarter happened, and after at least half of the Swamp emptied out (at least half), the remaining fans really couldn't do anything but laugh. When Treon Harris scored his first TD, the few remaining people gave what was, like, only a half-sarcastic ovation to the offense, and they set off the scoreboard fireworks. (Or at worst, only a 60% sarcastic response.) "We Are The Boys" got shockingly loud for the paltry number of people there. Another TD, and another only sort of sarcastic ovation. It wasn't bad.
14. Honestly, in the fourth quarter, will all hope gone and the missile just inches away from making contact with the roof of Chez Muschamp, it felt all right. Without hope, you could just appreciate the intensity of the Red Baron Pizza Challenge on the Jumbotron. Again, that's the nice thing about hitting bottom in a program all too happy to sell out to every last convenience of the 21st century: there's something to watch while everything burns.
15. No, really: they set off the fireworks for both TDs. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen in a football stadium, and I watched John Brantley try to run the zone read once.