The conclusion of the Gators 2019 season was in South Florida Monday night. And there was coach Dan Mullen and team post-game holding up the bowl of oranges trophy for their 36-28 win over Virginia.
It finished a second straight 10 win season and a second straight “New Year’s Six” bowl victory. And, it was the final chapter of a season that began all the way back in August with the first meaningful game of the whole college football slate against the Miami Hurricanes.
And, to be very clear about all of this, the Gators’ game against the Hurricanes in Orlando on August 24th was a lot sloppier and far more ragged than their Orange Bowl win over the Cavaliers.
Let’s get that out of the way.
Let’s not mislead anyone into thinking that late August and late December produced equally flawed performances from Florida. That is not true.
That is not what this piece is trying to say. No game could have been as unwatchable as the Miami opener.
The Orange Bowl on Monday night in Miami Gardens was a masterpiece by comparison.
Yet, on August 24, it is expected that a team will play a messy, erratic, mistake-filled game. Only the most finely-calibrated machine filled with proven veteran players might avoid that particular sand trap in the dog days of summer… and even then, it is hardly a guarantee.
In a bowl game – with four weeks off – one would like to think that a team would be sharpened and polished to the point that every instinct is accurate and every player has a heightened sense of what to do and where to be
At times, Florida looked like that kind of team against Virginia, but there were plenty of other times when the Gators were still disorganized, still caught out of position, still unable to execute plays which should have been made.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (above) was lucky Virginia did a poor job of hanging onto interceptions.
Florida’s secondary was lucky UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins lacked touch on his deep ball, a well-known concern for the Cavaliers heading into the Orange Bowl.
Virginia left a lot of points and opportunities on the field. It is true that Florida was a deserving winner because it pounced on more of its opportunities. It is true that UF converted a risky fourth down in its own half of the field in the fourth quarter, leading to a touchdown and a 33-21 lead. That touchdown represented the winning score in a 36-28 triumph.
Florida earned this win. Yet, it certainly received help in the process of winning by eight points as a two-touchdown favorite.
Imposing? Overwhelming? Dominant? Florida was none of those things.
The Gators were good enough, but not great. They did what they had to, and not much more.
This was the Miami game. This was the Auburn game. This was the identity of the 2019 Gators from start to finish. The awesomely powerful LSU Tigers and the kings of the SEC East, the Georgia Bulldogs, had the answers for Florida this season.
But again on Monday, no one else did.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
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:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
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.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
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.