Work has kept me from re-watching the game, so my comments are going to be more uninformed than they usually are. It took me a long time to figure out what bothered me so much about the Florida game, but I finally was able to put my finger on it. Read this from last week.
I'm going to just come out and say it. We don't need to win this game. A win would be a big boon to the team's psyche. It would put us firmly in the media spotlight and make people talk about us as a true national championship contender, but we in no way, shape, or form need to win this game. Win or lose, we control our destiny in the SEC West race. We will win the West if we win out after Florida, and we probably need to win out regardless of what happens this week. We are generally expected to lose, and our press reports suck out loud already, so unless we get blown out we aren't going to suffer in the media. All that combines to tell me that this is probably the least important game on our schedule.
On the other hand, a win sure would be great. A loss represents only a lost opportunity for a win, rather than a genuinely damaging result for the team. It's rare you can say that about a game, but this is one of those. We can come out and play a game against a good opponent with really no pressure on us to actually win. That's what the win against Georgia did for us. It gave us license to go into the Florida game loose, playing like a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain, because this time it is true.
And therein lies the problem. The team did not play loose. It did not play like a team with nothing to lose. It was, in fight, the tightest I've ever seen our offense play in memory. It was, in fact, a lost opportunity to develop team character, to be a fun and inspiring team to watch.
A team with nothing to lose doesn't leave Russell Shepard on the bench all game. A team with nothing to lose does not abandon the downfield passing game. A team with nothing to lose does not kick a field goal from inside the 1 yard line. A team with nothing to lose puts on a show, and if it must take the loss it does so with style and gusto.
The coaching staff appeared to be playing not to get blown out. It tried nothing innovative. It tried nothing to try to put the Florida defense off-balance, I suppose out of fear of making a big mistake. With Florida being bound and determined to play the game just as conservatively as they could, we had an opportunity to take advantage of their play by trying to pile up points quickly. Sure, it could have backfired and put us out of the game early, but so what? The game did not really matter.
Florida deserves credit for stopping our offense so thoroughly in the second half. It's not like they were passive actors in the game, but in a game where we were (let's face it) starting the race a couple steps behind our opponent, we took a tortoise approach when we should have been the hare. I am fairly disgusted with how that game played out, and it's mostly with the offensive game plan. Individual players did not help matters, but the game plan kept us in handcuffs all night.
We get a bye week now, and then a suspect Auburn team. I want to see this offense take on some life in that Auburn game. It's time it developed a personality, more than anything.