41-15 Peach Bowl victory over favored Michigan! Last year at this time, we were all sitting in the seat occupied by F$U this year, fresh off a 4-8 collapse engineered by famed offensive mind Captain Jim McElwain who staged his own death (so to speak) and left First Mate Randy Shannon to guide the SS Foley to the college football equivalent of Davy Jones' locker. Then came the hire of the less than ballyhooed Dan Mullen to raise the good ship and to meet expectations to not just raise the good ship, but to guide it to the forefront of the conference and perhaps all of college football at a speed likely faster than his inherited crew was capable. Yet here we find our ship closer to the CFB flagship than probably imagined. Instead of the garbage scow we'd become, we at least look like a sturdy destroyer if not a cruiser (not quite a battleship...yet). Pretty good finish after getting torpedoed by three Eastern Division foes and being led into battle by a QB who at one point looked more like Captain Bly than John Paul Jones! Alright, enough naval references (you've got to forgive me as I watched In Harms Way a few nights back and it was still fresh on my mind - hey, the Duke was in it). But I think most get the picture. We've made a statement this season under Mullen that we're on the rise...not quite "there" just yet, but pointed in the right direction. We made it to a good bowl for the first time in a while, won it and in doing so beat a nemesis of sorts. And I'd be remiss not to remind you that we defeated the Nole$ and broke a five game losing streak (so what if they were coached by Taggert ). The good created, while not yet great, gives hope and high expectations. The offseason has to be better than the last several and it's good to feel some of the confidence that once shown in Gator football make a return. Now, for our date with the Wolverines in ATL... *A tale of two halves. Though we didn't play terribly early on, we experienced some problems with UM's defense and failed to take advantage of a couple of TD opportunities in the red zone. Franks was looking more like his earlier version that couldn't connect on the long passes and who had no peripheral vision when flushed. We also seemed to be having our problems defensively both containing their ground game and generating consistent pressure on the QB, thanks mostly to the Wolverine OL. And we had a punt blocked! However, things changed in the second half. Michigan fans might tell you that not having their guys that are going pro (antiquated term) was the difference. I believe it was more a matter of Franks settling down and playing like he has lately and our RB's finding their groove (with a little help from the OL). The D got their second wind while UM looked to be spent (or disinterested somewhat) and suddenly our speed and tenacity overcame their strength and reputation. Mullen also deserves some credit for his game plan, adjustments, and setting an example of keeping your cool. All things that have been in short supply for some time. *If I have a criticism of Coah Mullen, it would be for the double pass called. Certainly it might have been a big play if better executed, but the timing of it made me go Fortunately it didn't cost us. Otherwise, I thought what he and the staff put together was pretty good. *Looks like a great swan song for Chauncey, Scarlett, and Perine, should all decide to test the waters of the draft. All have made great strides this year. Especially proud of how far Chauncey has come. When he first got on the field here at UF, he was soft as chewed bubble gum where tackling was concerned. He improved that aspect of his game and added leadership to his resume. Good luck! I'm also sure we'll lose Polite and a couple more on the D side, so the rebuild will continue to a certain degree. I heard Vosean was contemplating entering the draft. He could certainly benefit from another year of coaching. *Michigan's OL wasn't too bad. Big and with a lot of mobility. Hopefully we'll sort of resemble that prototype in a year or so. I thought our OL guys were obviously better in the second half. Even though our rush total was pretty good, I was looking for more misdirection (counters, etc.) as we seem to be more consistent blocking on the move parallel to the LOS than moving laterally in the zone concept. Evidently, we were good enough along with the RBs and Franks (to a degree) running like champions. Looked like this one meant a lot to the big guys and to all the Gators on this day. *Tunnel screen and slants were open with UM's coverage schemes. Good to see us take advantage. Also good to see our receivers getting behind their DBs when coverage tightened, even if we didn't do a great job of getting it to them. *A lot of key moments in the game, but I thought not allowing them to score a TD right before the half preserved a psychological advantage for us. *Looks like the Gator fans showed up. Thanks to all the Chatter members in attendance. All of you made a difference! Maybe not among our greatest of seasons, but certainly one to be remembered. As mentioned, anticipation for what's ahead has got to be higher than what we have been expecting. Hearing the fans loudly chant "It's great...to be...a Florida Gator" as the awards were presented post game made me think of where we were and that it might not be only relegated to history any longer. A lot to be done still, but it's good to expect better than dreading the worst! Have a great off season and Go Gators!