Back Nine by Pat Dooley (September 12) – ESPN 98.1 FM


The Back Nine comes to you after a Saturday in Rainsville that put a damper on the expectations of Gator fans who were so excited a week earlier. Yet it was a beautiful Sunday.

10. Being out on Sunday allowed my wife and I to meet many people dealing with the loss of Kentucky and they were unanimous in their feeling that they were not shocked by Florida’s loss. They just didn’t see it coming the way he did. We all thought Kentucky could control the line of scrimmage like Utah did or Will Levis would dominate with his passing. This is how Florida could lose. What no one saw coming was a historically poor performance from Anthony Richardson. The stats are for losers and assistant coaches, Steve Spurrier told me, but this one tells the story of the game — Florida averaged 4.3 yards per game against Kentucky.

11. But when Florida went up 16-7, the Gators could have run on every play from that point on and won the game because the Wildcats scored 14 points on basically two interceptions. There was certainly evidence that – although Richardson said “Physically I was fine”, he took a low blow from defensive back Jalen Geiger early in the second quarter and hobbled to the line of scrimmage. It was almost identical to the hit Trey Dean was penalized for, but that’s not about the officials. You have to play with the bad calls or lack thereof (Kentucky had a penalty for five yards). Whether the Florida quarterback hesitated to run because of the ankle or not, the real culprit here was the Kentucky defense.

12. Because the Wildcats had a full game’s worth of tape to watch Richardson in a Billy Napier offense, something Utah didn’t have. That’s why Jordan Wright was in perfect position to intercept the first pass and Keidron Smith was reading the quarterback and letting the receiver run past him on his pick six. There was also a game very late in the game when Florida had a third and a 3 and AR stuck it in Trevor Etienne’s gut and I was like, “Pull it out and run all the way .” But he didn’t and Etienne was drunk.

13. It was the second game in what I think is a long run for Napier and one day we might look back as it was the worst game he has ever called. I’m still waiting for two things:

* Like any kind of gadget game. I know he’s trying to get the team to launch a new attack, but a setback wouldn’t kill him.

* A match with no crucial holding penalty on the kick-off team. Of Florida’s 10 penalties in two games, three were for holding kickoffs by three different players. This one came after Florida went up 16-7 and backed the Gators to the 20-yard line. A better return and no holding should have given Florida an ideal position on the court to go for the jugular.

14. It was a crazy Saturday in college football that saw Bryce Young make a Heisman move and the Sun Belt dominate and Kansas win and the cats and dogs living together. Texas lost and went from unranked to ranked. Alabama won on the road and lost the top spot in the polls. Three Power 5 schools paid Appy State, Georgia Southern and Marshall $4.2 million to be gimmed and all three lost. That’s why we love the game so much.

15. Sure, Georgia Southern beat Nebraska when Clay Helton could finally show people he wasn’t as bad a coach as he showed at USC. It’s interesting that Nebraska chose to release Frost (unlike Florida when Will Muschamp lost to Georgia Southern) when they could have waited a few more weeks and saved $7.5 million. Man, these Big 10 teams have so much money they could pay for it with change in the couch cushions.

16. The first Sunday of the NFL season is always one of my favorite days of the year because we get the Red Zone channel for free and the games are usually pretty good. We were close to having two draws for the first time since 1973 and for a moment it looked like no one could kick. And now Dak Prescott is out for about a month and TJ Watt is out, but at least I got to see them play. I’ll see that – I’m not in a fantasy league this year and enjoyed the games a lot more. But that’s just me.

17. So it was a good day for The Picks even though I missed the Florida game for the second week in a row. After a 4-1 week, Dr. Football is 6-4 for the season against the spread, so we’re making money. Continued from this week:

* Florida gets 24 points as it prepares for a third straight home game. It will be a diluted crowd, but I think Napier will get their attention this week. At the same time, the combination of injuries and Florida’s lack of will so far to go for big plays makes me think the Bulls will cover.

* Georgia is a 24.5-point favorite in South Carolina and the Bulldogs will likely blow away the crowd’s early excitement and show Spencer Rattler what the best team in the SEC looks like up close.

* Penn State is a 3-point favorite at Auburn and I haven’t seen anything from Bryan Harsin that makes me believe he’ll be Auburn’s coach at the end of the year. That’s why I take Auburn and points. College football, man.

* Mississippi State is a 3-point favorite at LSU, which says a lot about LSU. Unless the guy playing quarterback for the Tigers is that fan who walked onto the field DURING THE GAME last game, I think LSU wins outright.

* Texas A&M lost to Appy State last week and is still a 5.5-point favorite at home against Miami. The easiest bet of the week. The Aggies are imposters. Rods are not. Give me Miami and the points all day.

18. I got to the press box for the first time since the Kentucky game in 2020 and it was great to be up there even though I forgot how it could pass for a NASCAR wind tunnel. Here is today’s playlist:

* “Some of us are brave” by Danielle Ponder.

* “It’s So Hard To Hold On” by Trampled By Turtles.

* And for an alumnus, “Along Comes Mary” by the Association.


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