Loss to Mississippi St. is death knell for Zook
Posted: Saturday October 23, 2004 4:53PM; Updated: Saturday October 23, 2004 5:52PM
Mississippi State's victory over 20th-ranked Florida -- easily the biggest upset of the 2004 season -- signaled the beginning of a bright future for first-year Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom and the beginning of the end for third-year Gators head man Ron Zook.
Let's be honest. State had no business winning this game.
This is a team that lost by 18 to Vanderbilt, 51 to LSU and 9-7 to Maine. This is a team that entered Saturday's game 117th out of 117 nationally in scoring offense (12.5 points per game), 114th in total offense (280.5 yards). This was, quite simply, one of the worst teams in the country.
Against Florida, however, they were an efficient, productive offense, totaling 38 points and 409 yards. They made big plays, most notabaly Jerious Norwood's game-winning 37-yard touchdown run, but also the three turnovers they produced on defense, including Jeramie Johnson's interception of Chris Leak to set up the game-winning drive.
Despite having every reason to throw in the towel, the Bulldogs played inspired, responding four times with a go-ahead score after Florida had come back to tie. When that happens, you've got to give credit to the coaching.
By the same token, there's no one else to blame but the coach when a team as talented as Florida plays so listlessly against such an inferior opponent. And it's not like this is the first time.
Until now, the rumblings surrounding Zook's job security were merely that. But with his team falling to an all-new low -- and at a time when it should finally be progressing -- it's now only a matter of when, not if, the embattled coach gets his pink slip.
There's still a lot of season to go, but AD Jeremy Foley has to decide whether to stop the bleeding now or go through the formality of dragging things out. Clearly, Zook's hiring was a colossal mistake, and it's time for Foley to both take responsibility and take action.
Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com.