Pat Dooley’s Back Nine: February 15

The Back Nine comes at you after a busy sports weekend and I hope you carved out some time for your Valentines. The heart-shaped pancakes were the best part of it for yours truly.

10. There was a lot going on over the weekend (and it continues tonight with a home women’s basketball game) and there will be a lot more going on this weekend. But the one thing that stood out was how Florida pulled out a win over LSU in the No. 1 vs. 2 gymnastics battle Friday night. Certainly, LSU lost it on the final event of the night when freshman Hayleigh Bryant tripped on the mat slightly and couldn’t finish the final pass of the night, instead landing on her rear end. That the mistake happened then should not take away from the fact that Florida and LSU both scored in the 198s, becoming the first teams this year to do it. I watched it all. It was amazing.

11. Especially Trinity Thomas, who recorded the fifth best score in NCAA history. There were a lot of people who were Tweeting that she should have had FOUR perfect scores instead of one (on the floor), but it was great to get the perspective of color announcer Kathy Johnson Clarke, who understands the difference between a 10.0 and a 9.95. All I know is they all looked pretty good to me and kudos to all of the ladies who went on the road and got the job done.

12. I don’t know if we’re ready to call this Florida basketball season to be called a “lost season” yet, but it feels like months since they played a game. It appears they will finally return to action Tuesday night at Arkansas, which will be a game that is important for the resume. Florida dropped a few spots in the NET Rankings to 28, but I may be getting to the point where I need to get over those rankings. Win enough games down the stretch and you’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. Win a lot of games and you will have a respectable seed. And I think that’s where you are as fans. You just want to get into the tournament, have the tournament and watch your team play in the tournament. Florida’s not winning the national title. You just want an opportunity theoretically to have a chance. We already had our miracle this season. His name is Keyontae Johnson.

13. One reason I feel comfortable saying Florida isn’t winning it all is that I spent Saturday really studying the best teams in the country. And they are playing a different game. The older teams are playing like older teams and for all of the hoopla for the freshmen around the country, they still do things that make you think about pulling out what hair remains on your head. Gonzaga is really good, Michigan overcame a three-week pause to look like a contender. I love that Ohio State team and we all know how good Baylor is despite its own pause. Of course, we are all going to be dealing with the strangest of tournaments with it all taking place in Indiana. So, who knows what happens? But we’ve seen the best teams rise to the top since this pandemic started. Alabama, the two LAs, whatever teams Tom Brady plays for.

14. It is kind of amazing how Florida fans have been stuck with bad memories every time there is a pause. Baseball finished last season prematurely with its only loss (to FSU, of all teams), basketball has had three pauses and (in order) they came after blowing a lead to Kentucky, losing to FSU and a miserable loss to South Carolina. And football finished with three straight losses for its fans to chew on until September. (It’s important to note that gymnastics and softball finished the postponed 2020 seasons with wins). The good news is that basketball responded twice, football once and baseball gets its shot Friday afternoon.

15. And a special tip of the visor to J.C. Deacon’s golf team for rallying to win the Gator Invitational with a 15-under par final round in tough conditions. This team has something special. Also, congrats to softball got getting off to a 2-0 start and lacrosse winning its opener. Things are about to get crazy around here sports-wise.

16. Maybe Jordan Spieth can call Deacon for some advice. He just can’t finish. And the thing is, it feels like all of America is rooting for him to get back to where he was. Clearly, he’s close, but if it’s not horseshoes or hand grenades, close is not the goal.

17. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot this. Florida’s loss to LSU in football was devastating and numbing in so many ways. But thanks to the other sports for making up for it so far. Women’s hoops pulled the upset in Baton Rouge, gymnastics won at the PMac as well and men’s basketball won here in Gainesville and the road game was postponed. And golf was six down to second-place LSU heading to the final round Saturday and beat the Tigers by 14. So there.

18. The “Florida Four” today will take us back to an incredible run in Florida football history. In fact, the Gators of Steve Spurrier are the only program to win four straight SEC Championship Games, doing so from 1993-96. Alabama was the victim in three of those games and the Tide does have the edge in overall title game wins with nine to Florida’s seven. The Tide was stopped short by Georgia in 2017 of making it four in a row. The point of this is to remember that it wasn’t just offense for the Gator teams of that era. In those four wins, Florida never allowed a team to gain 300 yards of offense and had seven interceptions. The other three title game winners in 2000, 2006 and 2008 all allowed more than 300 yards. Of course, in last year’s game, each team gained more than 400 yards.

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