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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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Gators can still salvage much this season

Posted Oct 31, 2010 by Tom McEwen

Updated Oct 31, 2010 at 10:16 PM

The Florida Gators might want to make an effort to receive every opening kickoff for the rest of this unusual season. They have won every time that they received the opening kick here in 2010. And so it was at Jacksonville Saturday when Florida emerged with a 34-31 overtime win over the Georgia Bulldogs in an exciting, seesaw battle that would have been a mind-blower had the result not been a Florida win.

Usually this world’s largest cocktail party, as it was once known, has a winner destined to advance further into the championship races. Not so this time. The Gators won to emerge 4-3 overall while dropping Georgia to 4-5. Florida could still win the SEC West title, but overall the season for these proud colleges has been lousy.

Clearly, sad to say, Florida really isn’t very good, though so many thought they would be, and neither is Georgia when so many thought that with Tampa’s Aaron Murray at quarterback, they would be. Yet apparently they are not.

Florida clearly now has a chance for an OK season if they lose no more. The losses, at least, have been close and electric. The Gators, somewhat peculiarly, remain in the division race, but they will have to beat Steve Spurrier and South Carolina to get back to Atlanta. It won’t be easy. Spurrier and his team are forever going to be most adversarial for the Gators. For South Carolina, it will be a special game, but for Florida, it will be a bit more than that.

The Gators this year are so close to being special. A breakaway run here or there, one more touchdown here or there, as they managed against Georgia Saturday for a key score, are necessary. That is the way the season has gone and will continue to be. These Gators of John Brantley, of Jeffery Demps, of Chris Rainey and their teammates, seem to me to be getting better because they are having to win with less and almost always in the final minutes of the game. Championship teams are built that way.

It seems to me, and Urban Meyer has said this, that this is a work in progress and the Gators are learning game by game. There seems to be no end to the crisis out there but Florida fans are legendary and growing by the Saturday. My goodness, it has become customary to expect crowds of almost 100,000 at games in Gainesville.

And recently, Florida was mentioned with Michigan as having one of the $100 million budgets for their sports department of men and women. There may be none better anywhere. More people than ever seem to be joining Mr. Two Bits, George Edmondson, in shouting, “Go Gators.”           

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