It is a busy time right here at Bottom 10 headquarters. It at all times is. Because, because it says within the Good Book, there is no such thing as a relaxation for dreary … er, weary. And today, because the 2021 college football season trudges towards the oasis that’s December (or extra doubtless a mirage), there’s SO a lot weary, and thus so little relaxation to be discovered.
But for as soon as we aren’t centered on the same old Bottom 10 suspects. You know the categories. Those mid-major groups who battle to carry off smaller, weaker FCS opponents. Or a multi-time Bottom 10 champion resembling Kansas, who was ranked on the prime/backside of our standings one week in the past, largely due to the Jayhawks’ persevering with street struggles, a report of 56 consecutive Big 12 losses away from Lawrence.
Instead, our eyes have been drawn elsewhere as final Saturday unfolded like wax paper origami. First a Florida staff that one yr in the past got here inside 1 / 4 of profitable the SEC championship all of a sudden turned a type of forms of groups we’re so aware of, the sort who cannot cease a run-of-the-mill FCS offense.
Then we noticed the Kansas sport, however we weren’t Kansas. That traditionally terrible street droop all of a sudden resulted in OT, a one-point win celebrated on the turf of the once-proudest of all Big 12 foes, the University of Texas. We have been gazing by way of the Bottom 10 trying glass, watching Dan Mullen and Steve Sarkisian crash by way of that tumbler like Eddie Murphy in “Beverly Hills Cop.”
In case you have been questioning, the Bible verse referred to earlier is from the Book of Lamentations, chapter 5, verse 5: “Our pursuers are upon our necks. We are weary and have no rest.” Lamenting certainly. Misery cloaked in two very totally different shades of orange, from the Day-Glo draping of Florida’s Swamp to the burnt, nay burned out, hues of Texas’ DKR Memorial Stadium.
Florida and Texas have mixed for seven nationwide championships, 40 convention titles, 5 Heisman trophies and practically 1,700 wins, producing practically 100 consensus All-Americans and incomes 103 bowl appearances.
And but this fall, with two weeks remaining within the common season, they’re a mixed September 11, and each will spend their remaining two regular-season video games scrambling to attain the eligibility that will earn them their 104th and one hundred and fifth bowl berths.
Yet by some means final weekend, the Gators discovered themselves in a rope-a-dope scenario towards FCS Samford. The Bulldogs got here to Gainesville with a 4-5 report and ranked fifth within the Southern Conference.
Yet they scored 42 factors within the first half, a report for a Florida opponent. Even within the eventual 70-52 loss, they equaled the report for essentially the most factors scored by an FCS staff towards an FBS squad because the NCAA created the 2 divisions in 1978, to go together with 530 yards of offense, essentially the most pinned to Florida’s defensive stat sheet by an opponent this season.
Following the 70-52 victory over Samford, Florida’s Dan Mullen says the Gators had an important win and will maintain a constructive angle going ahead.
Speaking of defensive, Florida’s Mullen (who, oh by the best way, fired his defensive coordinator the week earlier than Samford) bristled at postgame questions on a disappointing efficiency.
“Calling a win disappointing is disrespectful to the game and our players,” mentioned Mullen, in his fourth season as Florida head coach, persevering with to sharpen the “How dare you?!” professorial tone he has employed with growing frequency as his staff has misplaced eight of its previous 13 video games.
Meanwhile, after Texas fell to 31-point underdog Kansas for the primary time ever in Austin, the Horns’ fifth straight loss, Sarkisian was requested Monday learn how to repair his seemingly rudderless program. While Mullen has began delivering his quotes as in the event that they have been garden darts, Sark’s podium speeches have meandered round like a dart with out feathers.
On Monday, he calmly responded to the “What now?” question in a hushed, punctuation-free tone for a number of minutes, saying someplace in the course of his periphrastic response: “One of the mentors of mine always told me that playing bad and winning is sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you because you don’t address the issues that you have on your team and we unfortunately have lost a lot of close games, so it continues to present issues to us that we have to address.”
The largest of these points to be addressed, for each coaches, is the ever-increasing variety of these points and learn how to tackle all of them.
Every single time Sarkisian has stepped to the rostrum over the previous month and a half, he may as properly have walked onstage with a hearth extinguisher. He is the varsity’s fourth head coach in lower than a decade and has misplaced 5 straight video games. So his postgame press conferences have been spent having to deal with sport losses, switch losses, gamers misplaced to harm (it was introduced Monday that star operating again Bijan Robinson is out for the season) and a reported lack of locker room morale, a difficulty exacerbated by an assistant coach’s Quentin Tarantino-esque f-bomb rant on the staff bus after a type of losses, recorded and posted by a Longhorns participant.
It’s the proper instance of what occurs when a program as excessive profile as Texas loses quite a lot of football video games. Assistant coaches have been chewing out gamers throughout rides residence from defeats since groups have been nonetheless boarding trains and horse-drawn carriages. When all the things is operating easily, it is a shortly forgotten second that the skin world both by no means is aware of about or largely ignores in the event that they do.
But whenever you’re shedding, to borrow a phrase from a pal of mine who lives in a home filled with youngsters, all the things turns into a factor. Rumors of replacements, rumors of looming NFL alternatives, rumors about rumors that somebody mentioned may change into rumors. Everything is a factor.
“The part we forget in these situations is how it affects the players, who are all still kids, by the way,” mentioned Roman Harper, the previous Alabama All-American who performed 11 years within the NFL and is now an analyst with the SEC Network. “So, when things get tough, how your coach handles that is everything.”
Harper should know. During his 4 years with the Tide, he was recruited by head coach Mike DuBose, performed for Dennis Franchione till “Coach Fran” shocked the staff by leaving for Texas A&M after two seasons, served a few months underneath Mike Price, who was fired for utilizing his company bank card for grownup functions earlier than he coached a single sport, then completed out with two seasons underneath Mike Shula, who was fired one season after Harper left for the professionals.
Midseason firings of assistant coaches can work if dealt with accurately, however not if it comes off within the locker room as random, emotional strikes made with no rationalization to the gamers themselves — the individuals who have been recruited by these assistants and additionally work with them in place rooms every day. It’s a a lot tighter relationship than they ever have with the pinnacle coach.
Continued Harper: “That’s when as a teenager who is working at this 24 hours a day, they start asking, ‘Where do I really fit in here?’ It makes it difficult to play as hard as you can for that guy if it doesn’t feel like you’re all really in this together. Like a real team.”
In different phrases, that is a good way to go from practically stopping No. 1 Alabama at residence in Week 3 to turning into a sizzling mess that may’t cease South Carolina or Samford lower than two months later. Or from a 4-1 staff that comes inside a landing of knocking off then-No. 6 Oklahoma in Dallas on Oct. 9 to a staff that hasn’t received a sport since.
Only the folks in these locker rooms in Gainesville and Austin know what that ambiance is de facto like. That’s all about that air that is being blown in and out of that room.
“Coaches in that situation will tell you that the outside noise isn’t a factor. If they do tell you that, then they are not being honest with you,” explains Lou Holtz, who held seven head teaching jobs, six in college. “The best advice I can give them is to go talk to other head coaches who have been in those shoes, guys who have had jobs at the highest profile jobs, guys who lost those jobs and guys who managed to keep the job even after their situations got bleak. You don’t know what you don’t know, and unless you’ve been there, you don’t know.”
Mullen and Sarkisian needn’t look far for many who know learn how to lose and survive. They can begin proper right here with us, we who’ve lengthy lived within the Bottom 10 multiverse. They do not even have to ask for instructions on learn how to get right here. Heck, they’re already knocking on the door.