Just as the horn blower was so deftly delivering “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” there was a pause, and then an intermittent, intrusive “Dah, tatah, dah daduh!”
A clarion call to Florida football fans who know that sound as a prelude for their battle cry. Yet there was no “Go Gators!” that followed because the fans hadn’t yet gathered for the game. It’s a familiar tune in Atlanta.
And then the trumpeter simply picked up with the rest of the melody for “…let nothing you dismay…”
Gator fingerprints are everywhere in Atlanta. Even though they haven’t won an SEC championship game in seven years, the Gators’ orange and blue DNA is all over the place. If you dusted the Georgia Dome, you’d find traces of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. And now, maybe even a little Jim McElwain.
McElwain is no stranger to Atlanta. It’s just that the last time before this, he was coaching under the Crimson flag.
The Gators’ SEC championship game history was not lost on him, though. He pointed out earlier that this was far from Florida’s first rodeo. It’s just that when he looked around the room at his team the week before the game, he realized it was their first rodeo. And they played like it, although a 29-15 loss to the team that might eventually be national champion hardly was disgraceful.
But the question of the moment is about when and if McElwain will be back to Atlanta.
My answer: Probably soon.
The cavalry has arrived, but the conquest is not yet completed.
* * *
The post-mortems of the SEC championship game center on Florida’s offense, or lack thereof. Fifteen points isn’t enough to win any kind of championship that’s not baseball, soccer or hockey. So in honor of that, here are 15 points about the outcome.
* Freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway is a bona-fide star and should be around two more seasons. Perhaps he could learn to both throw the ball and catch it, like that guy on the viral video. He also has leadership qualities. “I was trying to encourage the guys, including Treon (Harris),” Callaway said. “I had to tell him to pick his head up.”
* “The future’s bright. There’s a lot to celebrate. There’s a lot of momentum. And as I go back, what these players have done to band together and do what they did for the Gators, it’s pretty darn cool now.” — McElwain.
* Florida junior linebacker Jarrad Davis, a stalwart of Geoff Collins’ defense, said he is returning for his senior season.
* “I don’t think a lot of people around the country thought we would be in this football game. And they never backed down.” — McElwain.
* Look at it this way: McElwain already is the fourth-most-tenured coach in the SEC East.
Maybe Not So Bright
* We’re not going to throw Harris under the bus, but there is truth in numbers: Harris had his worst pass completion percentage of the season (37.5 percent) and continually missed open receivers.
* More truth in numbers: Florida had 45 offensive plays for 180 yards and one touchdown; Alabama’s Derrick Henry had 44 carries for 189 yards and a TD.
Maybe A Quote That Shouldn’t Have Been
* “Alabama isn’t the best defense we played. They’re not hard to figure out what they are doing. Their up-front guys are very physical and strong. The scheme they run just works well for those guys.” — Treon Harris.
Quarterbacks Who Could Have Helped
* Jacob Eason or Feleipe Franks — if either one were in Gainesville. Also Jeff Driskel or Haywood Sullivan (deceased).
Quotes That May Help
* “As you go through life, there are ups and downs. … This team never backed down. We’re a program on the rise, we’re a program on the build.” — McElwain
* “Wait ’til next year.” — Every Gators fan from 1928-1960
Almost, What If, Glass Half Full
* If ever you dreamed the Gators had a shot: When Alabama quarterback Jake Coker fumbled as he was sacked in the first quarter, the ball — instead of bouncing up toward Jonathan Bullard — careened back in the hands of Coker. It could have been a scoop and score for Florida.
* Let’s stop piling on Harris. Maybe he played the best he could play. And be ashamed, Gators fans, for bellyaching about a team that won 10 games.
* Look at it this way: The next time he goes to Atlanta, which could be sooner than later, McElwain may look around the room and see some cowpokes with recent rodeo experience.
* “In all kinds of weather, we’ll all … ” — ahhh, forget it.