Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hard to Tell If Zook's Gators Are on Their Way or Merely Team Tease

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hard to Tell If Zook's Gators Are on Their Way or Merely Team Tease

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, The Times-Union

GAINESVILLE -- That disgruntled segment of Gator nation still longing for the days of the 'ol ball coach got their wish Saturday.

For one glorious half, it felt like Steve Spurrier had never left. Florida's offense could do no wrong. Arkansas was its play toy. Five consecutive Gator possessions resulted in five touchdowns. So easy did it look that UF needed just a combined 6 minutes, 58 seconds to march 324 yards during that 35-point blitz.

The architect of Florida's offense no longer wears a visor. But a Fedora named Larry was showing promise that he might have the acumen and playbook to resurrect the Spurrier attacks of yesteryear.

And then, the Gators reverted to their Jekyll-and-Hyde personality that has permeated the Ron Zook era. They have to live life on the edge. Wow you with their fabulous potential one minute. Play tentative and struggle the next.

To their credit, the 16th-ranked Gators didn't let a 38-7 lead at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium disintegrate into a full-blown disaster. That would have made the Choke at Doak a decade ago against Florida State look like a minor gag.

Still, the way Florida had to hang on for a 45-30 victory over Arkansas by turning a Channing Crowder interception into a late-game touchdown, it had to be unsettling to the home crowd of 90,014.

They had to wonder if this was a Gator team blossoming into a Southeastern Conference champion. Or if Arkansas' furious rally, eerily reminiscent of last year's belated comeback against UF, was a foreshadowing of another Zook squad that will fade in the homestretch of big games.

"If I had the answer to why we didn't play like we did that first half, I probably wouldn't be coaching," said Zook.

Not to discredit Arkansas' top-scoring SEC offense or quarterback Matt Jones, who merits the accolades that coach Houston Nutt bestows on him. …

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