Honest confession: I just finished watching this game. I followed it through halftime and the first TD of the third quarter thanks to the miracle of Twitter, and then spent five hours cooped up in a 777 with no in-flight wifi, sucking down $10 pre-bottled Mai Tais and hoping against hope we wouldn't find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But that's not how we do things anymore.
Seriously, the numbers are staggering. Not one player on the field Saturday was alive the last time we beat Florida in pigskin. Hell, I'm willing to bet none of their parents were alive when last we beat Florida in their own state (1945 in Gainesville, 1949 in Jacksonville). And ultimately that's why I don't take seriously those who say that this was entirely a product of Florida's ill health and the coaching ennui of the Muschamp regime. Yes, the Florida offense is a patchwork of backups. So is ours. We dressed four wide receivers, two caught passes, and only one had more than one. Hell, our starting quarterback was a redshirt freshman who's never yet started a game at home.
But more to the point: that never made a difference. Good year, bad year, in sickness and health, through thick and through thin, nary an upset to be had: twenty-two meetings in twenty-five years and every year since 1992, and no matter the circumstances, Florida could rely on a win in a way no other SEC East team could. We've beaten every other team in the division twice since 2005, but we hadn't laid a finger on Florida. Could have in 2011, should have in 2005, but there was always something, and that something as often as not rhymed with Thin Pagers.
Not even the living embodiment of the SEC Officiating Random Event Generator could make a difference yesterday. Coach Donovan did what many have clamored for since Ole Miss: pound the ball on the ground in a power wildcat. It was the perfect way to grind clock and take pressure off a young QB on the road, and it worked a treat. Not least because Coach Shoop looked at a Florida defense riddled with injury and starting its own backup QB, and elected to go with a freewheeling blitz-happy package that borrowed heavily from the Gospel According To Al Davis: the quarterback must go down and he must go down hard. Yes, the Gators threw for over 300 yards, but they ran for less than 40, mainly because they spent the whole game playing from behind.
Read that sentence again.
Blitz Murphy. Force mistakes. Then capitalize on those mistakes. Jerron Seymour carried the ball 24 times for a whopping 62 yards and three touchdowns because we kept getting turnovers that set us up in the red zone. Our first three touchdown drives were a combined seven plays.
Read that sentence again.
Two teams of walking wounded. And we outscrapped, outschemed and outshone the SEC East's flagship program this last quarter-century. On their own turf. We looked with dread at this stretch before the season started - UGA, Aggie and GATA in a four-week span, and we took two of three against teams that have been our insurmountable obstacle for years. We took advantage of our circumstances, and we changed them.
Muschamp's head will almost surely go on the wall of the trophy room at the Anchor of Gold Command Center and Stonecutter Lodge (who robs cavefish of their sight?) next to those of Chizik and Dooley and the Joker (who has to be really sick of black and gold by now). Because that tends to be what happens in this league: lost to Vandy? Lose your job. But that's going to get to be a very expensive proposition. Because if you're looking for Same Old Vandy, it's buried under the turf at Florida Field with the imprint of Carey Spear's face mask in its chest, probably.
Welcome, as they say, to the new age.