Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Unfortunately, Marcus Thomas believes in Rocking the Vote

To say today’s been busy would be a bit of an understatement. Actually, this whole week has been busy since I was out of the office for most of last week while attending a conference down in Miami. I really shouldn’t complain though since I spent the time in Miami shacked up in a hotel room with this view:

As for today, it hasn’t been anything other than your normal busy day, save for a couple of items. The first is that my girlfriend got in a car accident right in front of my office on her way in to see me this morning. Fortunately, she seems to be relatively unharmed and there isn’t a ton of damage to her car. She got in a car accident last year (nearly to the day) and ended up needing knee surgery so we’re kind of holding our breath right now because she banged the same knee against her steering wheel (again) during the impact. You see, my girlfriend is very short and tends to fly within the confines of a car when shes in an accident. The second less than pleasant item of the day is something I’ll get into in just a bit.

The time I spent in Miami was nice. My girlfriend and I spent most of the time drinking, hanging out on the beach and, generally, just taking in all that Miami has to offer. Somehow, despite living in Florida for the past 15 of the past 20 years, my girlfriend hadn’t ever been to Miami so it was a nice introduction for her (on the company dime no less). I’ve been to Miami more times than I can count (or care to) but it’s always nice to get away from this podunk town I live in and experience a taste of a more metropolitan city for a few days. I won’t bore any more than I already have with details of the trip other than to mention a couple things that happened and/or we noticed during our brief vacation.

- Actual statement from the gf: “Where are all the beautiful people?” Well, I’m going to assume a lot of them were sleeping, since many of the “beautiful people” who inhabit Miami also have sizeable cocaine habits that allow them to party in the finest clubs until around 7 am. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful people in Miami. It just so happens that there are also plenty of trolls as well. With a population that large, it can’t all be models and porn stars. It’s science.

- If you didn’t know that the gf was new to Miami, it would’ve only taken her reaction to nearly having her purse snatched to clue you in. As we walked down near Calle Ocho one evening (6ish) we passed a young Spaniard (probably Guatemalan actually) wearing some lovely bright pink Chuck Taylors. Once we passed him he began to follow us in a rather brisk fashion. At this point, it was clear to both of us (me and the Guaty) that he intended to snatch her purse. One problem here: As my gf came to this realization, she inexplicably switched her purse to her outside arm and began to walk away from me. Somehow this made sense to her. Of course, I quickly closed the distance between us and ushered my gf into a store where the Guaty would quickly realize that the duffle bag that my gf calls a purse would not be going home with him. I’m really hoping that my gf can figure out some better techniques for urban survival before our next vacation. Fucking Canadians.

I’m sure it will come to the surprise of nobody that the highlight of my weekend came on Saturday night. The annual Florida-Tennessee game is my favorite rivalry game of the Gator season. There’s some genuine hate between both the teams and their fans and this, along with a tugboat full of athletes on each team, usually combine to make for one hell of a college football game. Saturday night was no exception. In fact, it was one of the better games between these two schools in recent memory. I won’t go into the specifics of the game (it IS Wednesday after all) but I couldn’t let such a huge victory pass without dropping a few notes on the game.

- I was hoarse on Sunday. Noticeably so. No, I didn’t watch the game from the stands in Neyland. Nor did I watch it in a crowded bar. Rather, I watched it a Vitas’ house with no more than 6 other people in attendance. I’m a little too attached to the success of Gator football. As if you hadn’t figured that out already.

- Billy Latsko will never get enough credit for being suck an effective blocker and fullback. Jerry mentioned this on Saturday and after reviewing some tape (seriously, I slow down the clips via DVR when I watch the Urban Meyer Show every Sunday morning so that I can try and focus on things that escape my attention during the course of a normal Gator game. Things such as o-line schemes and blocking responsibilities as well as defensive calls and formations in specific down and distance situations. Mmm, film biscuits & gravy, only better).

As mush credit as DeShawn Wynn deserves for his performance in Neyland, none of it would’ve been possible without the yeoman’s effort of Latsko. He consistently took on defensive ends, tackles and linebackers and blew them up while opening holes for Wynn. A perfect example was Wynn’s clinching first down run. Latsko sealed the defensive end, which ended up taking out the middle linebacker, and gave Wynn just enough time (and room) to cut his run to the outside and gain the seven yards needed to seal the Gator victory.

- Brandon James, all 5'5" of him, is already the best return man that the University of Florida has seen since Lito Sheppard's sophomore year. I'll eat my hat if he's not the best that's ever graced the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in four years.

- I’ve already written at length about Reggie Nelson so I’ll try and keep this short. He is, without a doubt, the most talented safety to play for the University of Florida in nearly a decade. His range and closing speed in coverage are breathtaking to behold (How many people initially though Ainge’s first pass of the night was a sure TD?). Furthermore, his athletic ability, overall defensive awareness and knowledge of the scheme allow the Gator defensive staff to take a ton of chances in man coverage with their relatively inexperienced corners that they wouldn’t even consider without RFN playing center field.

- The UF O-line still has plenty of room to improve but they took the first steps toward being a dominant unit on Saturday night. To go into an environment like Neyland Stadium at 8 pm and walk out with not only a victory, but a victory based largely upon your ability to effectively run block and pass protect while only surrendering two false start penalties, (one of which was bogus) is something that no Gator fan would’ve predicted with any measure of confidence at any point in the last two seasons. They have many more tests in front of them, including the lightning fast defenses (is there something faster, b/c lightning seems too slow) of LSU and Auburn in the very near future so there’s plenty of time to regress. However, the season would not feel nearly as promising if UF’s O-line were coming off a performance similar to last year’s win against UT.

- While I'm writing about dominance, I might as well throw a tip of the cap to the Gator defensive line. Their ability to stuff the run and get pressure up the middle completely disrupted Tennessee’s offense and eventually wore down the Volunteer defense in the second half. Marcus Thomas lived up to his All-American billing and Ray McDonald once again looked like Ray McDonald before he tore both his ACLs last season. I’d still like to see more pressure coming from the ends but it’s tough to argue against the most dominating defensive line performance that Florida’s seen in a decade.

- Now, for the aforementioned second item that is ruining my day. I had a feeling that something bad was coming because, well, there was mention of losing a “key player” for an extended period of time on the Gator message boards last night. My first reaction was that the Gators would be without the services of uber-stud Percy Harvin for the next few weeks while he recovered from a high ankle sprain (I’m still pretty worried about this as high ankle sprains don’t generally heal quickly) suffered early on against Tennesee. While that was bad enough to send me into a mini-tailspin, it wasn’t nearly the devastating blow that the news of Marcus Thomas’ 5 game suspension is. Evidently, the most dominating defensive tackle to play at UF since Ed Chester (He was REALLY, REALLY good but shattered his leg against LSU in 1998. I also refuse to consider Gerard “Double Fist” Warren as a dominant tackle while at UF. He should’ve been but, in a sign of things to come, wasn’t due to a vexing combo of lacksadaisical attitude and what I’m guessing were epic hangovers.) decided that he’d rather get high than play football for the Gators while literally earning millions of dollars. Simply put, the Gators now look like they’ll enter their toughest stretch of the season (UK, Bama, Auburn, LSU, UGA) without their most indispensable defensive player. If the lack of pressure that the d-line generated (sans Thomas) against So. Miss. is any indication, the Gators shouldn’t expect to come out of October with anything less than two losses. I’d love to say that I’m being overly apocalyptic here but I really don’t believe that. Well, I guess I can keep my fingers crossed.

Come Sunday morning, I just wanted to sit down and watch a little ManU-Arsenal (which was lovely) and then transition into the Buccaneers’ suddenly very important matchup with Atlanta. I think we all know how that turned out. By the time Chris Simms overthrew a wide open Ike Hilliard in the endzone (from 5 yards out) with seconds left in the first half I decided that I could take no more. Anymore viewing of that rusty coat hanger abortion that Gruden calls an offense would’ve sapped all the joy from the Gator victory directly from my body. With that in mind, I went to my buddy Philly Phil’s house to take advantage of his six TVs, plentiful beer, and breathtaking spread .

As you might guess by his name, Philly Phil is an Eagles fan. He’s also exactly what you’d expect from an Eagles fan. Slovenly, drunk, tasteless, classless and a multiple felon. As you also might guess, Phil was enjoying himself by the time I walked in just after halftime of the Eagles-Giants game, saying things like “Championship!” (think the TJ Who’s Your Mama commercial). Well, we all know what happened from there. Sadly enough, Philly Phil had invited our friends Kurt, Matt and JJ (Giants fans and brothers) over to watch the game as well. By the time the game reached OT, the entire living room had swelled with people (all the people watching other games on the porch were now inside) and Phil was quickly beginning to look like a candidate for domestic abuse. Now, I could care less about the entire NFC East and all its “tradition”. To me it’s just another reason to hate people from the northeast who consider themselves superior to the rest of America. However, I can empathize with a heartbreaking loss, which is exactly what Sunday ended up being for Phil. When Plaxico Burress finally drug Shelden Brown into the endzone and yelled, “Get that shit outta here!!” I glanced back to see Phil close his eyes and drop his head in horror, or shame, or maybe a little of both. Whatever it was, I’ve been there before and seeing it made me all the more thankful that I wasn’t in his place the night before. Football is awesome, there’s no denying that. It also stings like a kick to the taint sometimes too.

Sadly, she's sporting a fresh black eye these days. I blame Plaxico.

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