Nov. 16, 1999
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When Florida was deconstructed by Shaun Alexander and the Alabama Crimson Tide, was there ever a question that the Gators would be right back in position to thwart any Seminole run to the National Championship?
When UF head coach Steve Spurrier yanked the momentum right out from under senior quarterback Doug Johnson, with two weeks remaining in the season no less, was there ever a question that it may in fact be a diabolically planned out chess move to beleaguer the FSU coaching staff?
The truth is, as long as the visor-toting, fourth-string-punching, evil genius is wearing an orange and blue sweater vest, the Seminoles won?t ever know what to expect from the reptiles to the south of Tallahassee. What FSU can expect though is Florida remaining as an ocean separating Saint Bobby from the Promised Land.
Recent history tells us that. Think back to ?97. For some, it is a hideous nightmare that plays over and over in the form of an ?amateur? Jacquez Green dashing breathlessly towards a Seminole defeat. And for others, ?97 remains as proof, that no matter how poor, or inconsistent, or frustrating Florida plays, when its Florida, in The Swamp, the Gators have a chance.
A chance, mind you, means as much as gum on the tires of the golf cart that Bowden rides around in during Seminole practices. But a chance was also UF?s Noah Brindise or FSU?s Marcus Outzen even dreaming of taking a snap, let alone winning, the nation?s most significant rivalry. A chance is what the Gators have as long as they stand on the field with the big, orange ?F? in the middle.
But last week?s Florida Lottery loser also had a chance. Now all he?s got is a little pink and green souvenir of the dollar he threw away. Chances are like ? oh, wait I think that?s something else.
Indeed, Florida is reeling. The fans are worried, the students are mulling and UF?s boosters, well the Gator boosters are doing what they do best, making idle threats and buying more Yahoo stock.
While Seminole nation wants to believe that Spurrier?s self-inflicted quarterback controversy is covert genius, really it is not that at all. Johnson is inconsistent and worse, arrogant in his inconsistency. Spurrier is looking for any way to spark a languid Gator offense. He won?t find it with the Radio Flyer wagon that was left outside in the rain ? I mean ? Jesse Palmer.
Dueling quarterbacks will not affect the game. Much like it didn?t affect the game in ?97. That ploy did not cost FSU the game two years ago. The shoddy Seminole secondary did. Fans on either side can surmise what they want, but dancing quarterbacks in and out of the game won?t matter. A failure to make a signal-calling decision will eventually just turn out to be just a failure because this year?s Seminole defense, loaded with seniors still aching from ?97?s punch in the stomach, are ready.
No need to make a quarterback decision for FSU, 27-year-old, junior quarterback Chris Weinke is the leader of this team and is armed to take his shots on a young and nameless Gator defense, and Heisman or not, omnipresent receiver Peter Warrick loves playing in the big games.
Seminole fans find it almost necessary to give Spurrier the benefit of the doubt, when in actuality, Spurrier himself is shrouded in it. Doubt and trepidation have seized on Florida. And this time, home-field advantage may not be enough.
The unsettling thing is, that?s what we were all thinking in ?97 as well.