One of the most anticipated games of the week and the season in college football occurred Saturday with a mild 23-13 result. It was one of my top ten games to watch the entire season. The thought was that Urban Meyer was so infused with wrath that he was going to light up the scoreboard at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium like Bastille Day. So it was a surprise to many that the Vols hung tough with the first-ranked Gators Saturday in Gainsville. For all the warnings about the incoming wrath of Pope Urban and Lord Tebow, Tennessee being out-manned, and the Gator fans screaming for blood, it was a pretty darn well contested match-up.
No one was disregarding Monte Kiffin and his defensive genius, but the popular thought was that Tennessee did not have the personnel to stop the incoming onslaught of Gator offense. However, Kiffin together with defensive line coach Ed Ogeron showed just how well they could put together a gameplan. What really helped the Vols was the play of safety Eric Berry who flew all over the field making tackles and intercepted Tebow. Berry cemented his top ten pick status on the field, but in the end it was not enough to overcome the Gators offense. The 28 and 30 point spreads though, suddenly looked ridiculous.
So it a hard fought game and it appeared after a brush-by handshake by Kiffin and Meyer that everyone could move on with their season. But no, once again the words of the two coaches have sucked everyone into the vortex once again. It was Meyer firing shots at Kiffin first, insinuating that Kiffin was just playing ball control and not trying to win the game.
"When I saw them start handing the ball off, I didn't feel like they were going after the win,"
Why would a two-time national champion even bother to say this after the game was already won? Because this is who Meyer is, bottom line. He is one of the best coaches, if not the best, in the country there is no disputing that but his insistence on embarrassing opponents on the field and thin skin when it comes to his adversaries is getting old for UF detractors.
Kiffin of course refused to hold back and came back with this salvo:
"This offseason the commissioner made a big deal of renewing vows in terms of what we say about other teams, other coaches and other players," Kiffin said. "Obviously Urban feels he doesn't need to follow that. We won't say anything else."
In regards to Meyer playing up the fact that members of his team had flu symptoms before and Saturday's game, Kiffin lofted this grenade:
"I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick."
With the rest of the season to go for the national title, it only plays to this notion that Meyer and the Gators wanted to embarrass Tennessee for them to make such statements after the game was over and won.
My favorite quote out of these shenanigans was from Meyer alluding to the pace of the game:
"The way we lose a game there is throw an interception. Why put yourself in that position? Let's find a way to win the game. We're not trying to impress the pollsters."
So is this really how Meyer feels about Tebow's ability to throw the ball? For all the rebuking about Tebow's lack of passing ability his own head coach said he was hesitant to throw the ball in a contested game because of a possible second interception by the defense. Urban knew where Tebow's strength lies, running the read option and carrying the ball in short yardage for first downs. Tebow ended the day with 24 rushes. This appears to be the same strategy that lead to the Ole Miss loss last year for Florida, and there is no Percy Harvin to turn to this year.
So the Gators were sick and just playing down to their competition on Saturday. They are not trying to impress pollsters, they just want to win big to stick it to their opponents. Perhaps Meyer has that confidence because he knows as long as his team wins the SEC and has no more than 1 loss, the BCS title game is all but guaranteed. In this case, since Florida is scrutinized and receives as much praise as any college team in the country, they should just focus on the task at hand and leave the Volunteers in the dust and out of the papers.
Kiffin rebuffs Meyer's comments [ESPN]