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Confidence gained in Gators wild loss Saturday night

Matt Zemek

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Losing stings, especially in a sport with only 12 precious regular-season games, 12 unique opportunities to prove one’s worth and make a statement of significance. The Florida Gators’ 42-28 loss to the LSU Tigers on Saturday night surely contained its frustrating components for Dan Mullen and his team.

This game didn’t have to end the way it did.

Without a pivotal holding penalty in a 28-28 tie in the third quarter, Florida might have remained in the hunt to the very end, possibly with an outright advantage. The Gators played the Tigers dead-even up to that point, matching LSU’s loaded offense every step of the way.

After roughly 40 minutes of thrillingly close combat, Florida finally made the mistakes which had been commonplace through the previous six weeks of the season, the mistakes which figured to be more prevalent on Saturday night, but had been pushed to the side by an improved Gator offense.

Where was THIS, many Gator fans surely wondered over those first 40 minutes Where was the Kyle Trask who got rid of the ball quickly and yet still managed to throw deep-intermediate passes for surgical 20-yard gains? That guy wasn’t on the field against Auburn, but he was against LSU.

Where were the wide receivers and tight ends before Saturday night in Baton Rouge? They also played their best game of the season on Saturday, finding seams in the LSU back seven and offering yet more evidence of Dan Mullen’s marvelous ability to scheme players open in the structure of his offense.

This offense was so good through two and a half quarters that the Gators began to offer legitimate reason that they could actually win outright as a double-digit underdog in Death Valley. It didn’t seem like wishful thinking. The offense kept proving itself with long touchdown marches. LSU’s defense remained toothless.

The holding penalty which changed the game was so influential because it wiped out a gain of nearly 30 yards by Florida. The UF offense was on the rampage yet again before the music finally stopped and the visitors’ momentum abruptly left Tiger Stadium, a hasty exit which ought to be a source of agony.

Florida didn’t play a complete 60-minute game. Only LSU did. Everyone in the Florida locker room will carry that wound, that failure, into the rest of the season.

Losing is not without consequence or pain. We can acknowledge this.

We can also acknowledge that some losses carry a pain which is more permanent than others. This loss won’t leave a permanent mark on the Gators. It sets the stage for next week’s important test at South Carolina, which upset Georgia on the road. It also leads to the biggest game the Gators will play this year, the Cocktail Party against Georgia in three weeks.

If part of the story of this LSU loss was that the Gators didn’t finish the game, the other part is that Florida gained a lot of belief that it can beat the Dawgs in Jacksonville when that moment arrives.

One day did a lot to change the way the SEC East is viewed.

Sure, it could be the case that Georgia was just “off” against South Carolina, but the Dawgs were 20-point favorites. South Carolina was playing with a quarterback who was No. 2 on the depth chart on opening day, and HE – Ryan Hilinski – got injured. The Gamecocks ultimately beat Georgia in Athens with their third-stringer relative to the start of the season.

Under no circumstances should Georgia lose that game. Given that the Bulldogs failed to trounce Notre Dame (a team which struggled to put away USC on Saturday), and played a sloppy first half at Tennessee a week ago, maybe Kirby Smart’s team isn’t as formidable as many people thought before the season, or even two weeks ago.

Maybe Georgia is not the colossus who towers over the rest of the SEC East.

Florida’s ability to not merely compete with LSU on the road (better than Georgia did at LSU last year, it should be noted), but to display a high-level offensive performance, offers proof that the Gators can truly play with Georgia on even terms.

This hardly guarantees that they will, but one has to admit that if Georgia seemed several tiers above Florida heading into Week 7, these teams seem to be on much more even footing heading into Week 8.

Yes, Florida lost, and the outcome is not free of consequence. The loss shrinks UF’s margins and forces the Gators to take care of business against South Carolina and Missouri. Yet, the quality of the offense and the performance of Kyle Trask in particular give Dan Mullen legitimate reason for optimism when the Gators meet Georgia.

The SEC East title seems more attainable, not less. If a loss can do that, it is clear that as long as the Gators keep improving, this season could still be as successful as the Gator Nation hoped back in late August.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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