Florida's collapse brings out ugly side of college football fandom

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (“Bring Back The Pirate” shirts sold separately in Lubbock, where Kliff Kingsbury is now 14-28 in Big 12 play at Texas Tech):

More Forde-Yard Dash: 10 teams in CFP hunt | Urban failure | COY candidates

FANS: TRY TO LOCATE YOUR HUMANITY

When the Jim McElwain (31) Era at Florida abruptly ended in a blaze of discord late last month, one of the lingering questions was exactly how ugly things had gotten with fans of the Gators. McElwain surely shortened his tenure with his unexplained comment about “death threats,” but it made The Dash wonder what level of anger there is out there in the feral corners of social media — not just for the coach, but for his players.

That led to perusing the Instagram account of freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks (32). A one-word summation of some of the commentary to be found there: Disgusting.

Former Florida coach Jim McElwain talks with quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) on the sideline during a game. (AP)

To be sure, there are more supportive comments than negative directed at Franks from self-described Florida fans, even in a season that has fallen apart. But there is no shortage of hateful vitriol to be found, either. Among the posts during this football season (edited for taste, not grammar or spelling):

“If i was your coach I would pay them to hurt you.”

“F— you I hope you die b—-.”

“Can you please just leave the program, you’re aids.”

“HOW THE F— DO YOU SMILE 35-0 DOWN?!?! YOU’RE THE BARACK OBAMA OF QBS!! YOU HAVE ZERO PRIDE, AND YOU ARE DISGRACE TO THE ORANGE AND BLUE!”

“I WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN.”

“Your f—ing garbage.”

“Do us all a favor as gator fans and quit.”

“I pray to god [Matt] Corral comes to Gainesville because you stink like rotten s—.”

“U are the worst damn quarter back in gator history.”

“Maybe Felipe will get deported and Malik can get some more playing time in blow outs and can watch the playoffs on the couch.” (That one was posted on the Instagram account of Malik Zaire (33), who replaced Franks as starter last Saturday against Missouri. He didn’t fare too well, either.)

Do other fan bases hurl similar garbage at players? Certainly. All of them have their lunatic fringe. But that excuses none of it. If you spend your time abusing college athletes (or officials) on social media, you are an unfathomable loser.

It’s easy to tell athletes to just stay off social media, especially during the season. But the reality is this: that’s where people college age hang out; it’s what they do; it’s an ingrained part of their lives. Should they have to abandon that just to avoid hearing from “fans” who hope they die? If so, that’s pretty sad.

DASH STAT OF THE WEEK

Memphis (34) is billing its program as “Weeknight Warriors,” and with good reason. The Tigers are 14-0 in non-Saturday games over the past three-plus seasons, including a 4-0 record in those games in 2017. Last Friday they added to that winning streak with a 41-14 romp at Tulsa. Memphis (8-1) has played only one Saturday game since September, and the last three all have been either on Thursday or Friday.

The school notes that weeknight football has been good for some other striver programs — most recently Boise State, and prior to that Louisville and Virginia Tech. Getting out from under the Saturday clutter, where fans and recruits can see your product, can be helpful. (It also has helped second-year head coach Mike Norvell (35) make a name for himself — something the school might not have factored into the equation. His name will be mentioned for Power Five jobs in the coming weeks.)

Memphis does close with consecutive Saturday games, at home against SMU and East Carolina. A victory over the Mustangs would clinch the division for the Tigers and put them in the American Athletic Conference title game — which will be played on a Saturday.

TURNOVERS MATTER

If you needed more proof of the importance of turnover margin, just look at these two programs experiencing utterly divergent seasons:

Florida (36) opponents have fumbled the ball only three times, and recovered them all. The disappointing Gators are minus-five turnovers on the season, 12th in the SEC.

Meanwhile, surprising Iowa State (37) has yet to lose a fumble. The Cyclones have put the ball on the ground five times, and recovered them all.

(There are no words for what San Jose State is doing with the ball on a weekly basis. The 1-9 Spartans have turned it over 34 times, losing a staggering 19 fumbles and throwing 15 interceptions. While San Jose State is on pace for the first 40-turnover season in many years, it would have to really screw up to come close to the NCAA record. That is 61, by North Texas in 1971 and Tulsa in 1976.)

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Count The Dash among the many who applauded Penn State’s James Franklin (38) for running down his players and sending them back to shake hands with the Michigan State Spartans after losing in East Lansing.

It was a bitter defeat that all but ended Penn State’s playoff hopes, but Franklin wasn’t going to use that as an excuse to abdicate postgame sportsmanship. There is still something to be admirable about losing with class, and Franklin made sure his team did just that Saturday. A lot of coaches would not have in that setting.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Lovie Smith (39), Illinois. The Illini now have gone more than one calendar year, and 12 straight games, without scoring more than 24 points. Their 16.7 points per game is the lowest among Power Five teams, which is a pretty big reason why Illinois is 2-7 overall and winless in the Big Ten. And yet, it could be worse. Illinois has fumbled 20 times and only lost four, according to cfbstats.com. That’s a lot of good fortune, or the Illini’s record might actually be worse.

POINT AFTER

When hungry and thirsty in downtown St. Louis, The Dash recommends dinner at Lucas Park Grille. Order the ribeye and have a Big Tree IPA (40) from Bur Oak Brewing Company in Columbia. They will have games on the big screens, but you may have to battle some Blues fans for college football’s right to coexist with hockey. Thank The Dash later.


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