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Monday, May 27, 2024

Success has a way of disguising flaws.

A team’s blemishes vanish from memory almost instantly if it’s a victory when the clock hits zero.

That is, until the winning stops.

When that success fades, those same weaknesses that were previously ignored are forced under a microscope.

Every mistake that marred the Gators in their 38-17 loss to Missouri on Saturday has been evident at one point or another this season.

They were a top-15 team heading into this game -- and top-10 ahead of their matchup with Georgia -- so no one cared to emphasize those seemingly minor shortcomings.

The offensive line has picked which plays to execute on all season, not just in the losses.

Example: Florida’s 37-27 win over Vanderbilt.

One play every guy on the O-Line picks up his blocks and knows where he’s supposed to be. And it yields a 30-yard run from Jordan Scarlett or Lamical Perine. But then another play, one of the tackles gets beat off the ball and is left swiveling as one of Vanderbilt’s pass rushers whirls past him to gift Feleipe Franks with a hefty slam to the ground.

But who cares? They won.

Franks has been just as hit or miss this season, but the criticism had subsided so long as his team continued its success.

The redshirt sophomore had two turnovers against Vanderbilt that somehow weren’t a concern until a week later when he turned the ball over AND the team lost.

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Then on Saturday, Franks looked like every bit of his football acumen had been stolen by the Monstars before he took the field. And those same Florida fans who’d lauded his development during that five-game winning streak booed him more and more viciously with every incompletion.

Coach Dan Mullen described Saturday’s loss as a needed reality check for his guys. One that would drain some air out of their inflated heads.

“We had some success,” he said. “We won some tough games, and all of a sudden you start patting yourself on the back and thinking, ‘Boy, we might have some answers we can go home to.’”

But it was a reality check for fans too.

Amid the cries of what has happened to the Gators during this two-game skid is the reality that the remnants of that team that went 4-7 last year are still there. And they have been all season.

Everyone was just too busy basking in the unexpected triumphs to care.

Follow Alanis Thames on Twitter @alanisthames or contact her at athames@alligator.org.

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