Hali McKinley Lester
Freshman, International Studies major
After an incredibly disappointing football season last year, Gator fans were looking for big changes and improvements for the 2014 season. It initially seemed like our team would be much more successful, as we crushed Eastern Michigan 65-0 in the first game of the season. Yet, a week later, the team struggled against Kentucky, barely pulling out a win in the third overtime.
The next week, we watched an expected loss against Alabama, but after a win on the road against Tennessee, fans were ready for a successful game back in the Swamp against LSU. Despite early successes, fans were shocked as they watched an easily catchable ball dropped in the end zone in the final seconds. After this critical error, what should have been a UF victory
turned into an LSU overtime win. Hoping for redemption, the team seemed to be fired up for the homecoming game against Missouri. However, right from the beginning the game was wrought with mistakes and Missouri crushed Florida 42-13.
Following the embarrassing Missouri game, Gator fans were disappointed and outraged, demanding Muschamp’s dismissal. Meanwhile, the Gators tried to get over their defeat and prepare for the game against Georgia. Like many Florida fans, I decided there was no way I would pay $60 to watch us get slaughtered by Georgia. But contrary to most predictions, the
Gators pulled off an amazing upset, destroying Georgia and buoying the spirits of Gator fans everywhere. I grew up devoting my fall Saturdays to watching Florida football with my dad, and I vividly remember waking up at 5 a.m. to finish watching Tim Tebow lead the Gators to National Champions in 2008. These experiences in part led me to pose this question: what happened to the team that, when playing against Missouri, couldn’t seem to complete any plays or even hold onto the ball? According to many, the answer can be found in true freshman Treon Harris. As Driskel’s role as quarterback seemed to worsen throughout the season, fans increasingly called for Harris to be put in the game. Finally, against Georgia, Muschamp decided it was time for a change, and Harris started as quarterback. Although quarterback, Harris rarely threw the ball during game, instead relying on the electrifying plays of running backs Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor. This new energized and driven offense, harkening back to Gator greats of the past, also promoted the team’s erstwhile fans to reemerge.
As I watched from the game comfort of the Hume common room, I was in shock. Was this really our team? Yes it was; it was the Gator football team we’d waited for. Another victory against Vanderbilt buoyed spirits going into the South Carolina game. However, the Gators presented us with disappointing defeat after both a blocked field goal and blocked punt. Though two such
errors on special teams is almost unheard of, it almost seemed fitting for the tumultuous season for the Gators. After this incredibly disappointing game, Florida dismissed Muschamp. He would coach the last two games of the regular season before forever leaving his position as Florida head coach.
After the drama of Muschamp’s imminent departure, the team prepared for his final game in the Swamp, where the Gators had a resounding victory against Eastern Kentucky. Following this, the Gators regular season ended in the annual rivalry game at FSU. Surprisingly enough considering the circumstances, early in the game, it looked like Florida might pull out a victory, as FSU quarterback Jameis Winston had four turnovers. Despite FSU errors, once again, the Florida offense couldn’t seem to make plays happen. After several missed opportunities to score, the Gators lost to FSU 19-24, finishing the regular season with a record of 6-5. After the end of the regular season, the Gators prepared for the Birmingham Bowl under the coaching of defensive coordinator DJ Durkin. Led by defensive end Dante Fowler and running back Adam Lane, the Gators earned a 28-20 victory over East Carolina to finish the season with a 7-5 record.
After Muschamp’s departure, the Gators hired Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. McElwain led CSU to a 10-2 record this past season and has had success as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in the past. McElwain recently finished selecting his new staff, featuring Mississippi State assistant coach Geoff Collins as defensive coordinator and Michigan’s Doug Nussmeier as the new offensive coordinator. Following the tumultuous 2014 season, Gator fans eagerly anticipate electric changes for success in the 2015 season.