7:02 PM EST, November 9, 2013
GAINESVILLE — This was absolutely Zookian in nature.
Actually, this was worse than any loss Ron Zook ever endured.
Much, much worse.
It was homecoming, but it may well have been a coach going.
Can Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp survive getting hammered in a bumbling, stumbling 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt — the first defeat to the Commodores in 25 years? Can he survive what is almost sure to be the Gators' first losing season in 34 years? Can he survive what will be a massive home beat-down from powerhouse Florida State to end the most miserable season in the modern history of the program he grew up idolizing?
But there was some good news: Vandy just saved the Gators a trip to Shreveport.
I have written that Muschamp, who won 11 games last year, should get another year to try to get his program back on track, but losing to Vandy might well have turned his coaching hot seat into a scorching chair. To save his own job, Muschamp needs to fire offensive coordinator Brent Pease by the time he holds his weekly news conference Monday.
"I'm a lot harder on myself than y'all or anyone else in Gator Nation is going to be," Muschamp said when questioned about his job security and fan unrest. "I know what I need to do to be better, and I don't need to hear any fan from the outside telling me what we need to do with this football team. I can assure you of that. … I'm a competitor. I don't like losing. I certainly don't like the product we are putting on the field, and that's my responsibility.
"I'm not asking for anybody to be happy. I'm not asking anybody to give us a pass. This is the real deal. This is the University of Florida. I'll guarantee you my expectation is as high or higher than anyone sitting in those stands."
Painted on the wall behind in the team meeting room where Muschamp spoke was the motivational message: "Create An Edge. Be The Edge."
On Saturday, the Gators fell off the edge.
And Gator fans are ready to jump off the ledge.
Muschamp better quickly do something to appease the fractured fan base. If he survives, he should go hire former UF quarterback Kerwin Bell — the passing-game guru and head coach at Jacksonville University — to be his offensive coordinator. Bell has the nation's No. 9-ranked FCS offense — and he's at a non-scholarship program.
Or instead of an Honorary Mr. Two Bits at every game, maybe the Gators should have an Honorary Offensive Coordinator. This year, Florida's offense is ranked 110th in the country. Injuries or no injuries, that's inexcusable. Committing four turnovers and scoring only two touchdowns on Vanderbilt's pitiful defense is equally unacceptable.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has said Muschamp's job is safe, but that was a couple of weeks ago. That was before the Gators lost to Vanderbilt at home for the first time since 1945.
That's right, 1945 … when Jackie Robinson was still in the minors, Fidel Castro was studying law at Havana University, U.S. Marines secured Iwo Jima, 10-year-old Elvis Presley finished fifth in a singing contest at a county fair in Mississippi and Steve Spurrier was six months old, throwing his pacifier across his playpen and completing passes to his teddy bear.
Even at that age, Spurrier could coordinate an offense more complex than Florida's rudimentary attack of today. When Spurrier coached the Gators, the offense was called the Fun 'N Gun. Now it's called, The Fun Is Done.
Spurrier named the Swamp, and Vanderbilt drained it.
Or should we say Home Leaving?
Fans were booing and leaving the stadium at the outset of the fourth quarter with Vandy leading 31-10. This Gator offense has it backward. It is supposed to take the road crowd out of the game; not the home crowd.
After losing to Georgia last week, Muschamp got into a verbal altercation with a UF fan as he left the field. After losing to Vandy, he said fans have a right to say whatever they want.
And are they ever.
Said Chris Andres, a Gator fan from Deltona as he filed out of the stadium Saturday:
"When I get home, I'm going to start up a website — BringBackZook.com."
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