When I was in college, the fair and famous police of Birmingham, Ala., pulled me over twice in one day. It’s true. I had to move to Miami to be considered a good driver.
The second traffic violation of that boneheaded brace was for rolling through a stop sign late at night after putting the student newspaper to bed. As the cop ripped the ticket off his yellow pad, he said, “You’ll probably get another one. These things come in threes.”
It’s the first time I had ever heard that expression. You know the one. It’s the old adage that things of ill fate come in triplicate. Since that day, I’ve always recalled those words every time some sort of misfortune befalls the unlucky two or three times over.
Such was the case Wednesday when I heard the news that Gators defensive end Dominique Easley had torn the ACL in his right knee. The Gators’ best defensive player turned his knee sour in the rain during practice. Losing a player such as Easley is bad enough, but that was actually only Part 2 of the Gators’ plight.
Only a few days before Easley’s season-ending injury, the Gators’ starting quarterback broke his leg against Tennessee.
In other words, the Gators lost their best player on defense four days after losing arguably their best player on offense. That Jeff Driskel was the best player on the Gators’ offense is debatable, but what’s not up for discussion is the fact that Driskel’s backup, Tyler Murphy, probably never was going to play a meaningful down in college had Driskel remained healthy.
Murphy is a fourth-year junior from Connecticut who was offered a scholarship in 2010 as a last resort. Urban Meyer already had locked up the No. 1 recruiting class in the country that cycle, and he let former offensive coordinator Steve Addazio (now at Boston College) further his recruiting inroads in the Northeast by giving Murphy the surprise of his life. He had already committed to Temple coach Al Golden.
Point being, the guy is a footnote in a media guide come to life and now starting in the Southeastern Conference. He was never supposed to play. The one player UF couldn’t afford to lose to injury was Driskel, and now he’s gone.
Although Driskel was a steady player at an important position, Easley was a wild man and athletic freak who typified the Gators’ bloodthirsty defense. Just last Saturday, I was watching Easley spin into position on the defensive line against the Volunteers and thinking he might be better than Jadeveon Clowney.
Now Easley and Driskel are done for the season.
In quite possibly the most depressing news release ever disseminated from the University of Florida’s athletic offices, coach Will Muschamp confirmed that Easley had torn another ACL, this time the one in his right knee. He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011 against Florida State. Easley also tore his medial meniscus on Tuesday.
“Watching any of your players go through this is one of the hardest things about being a coach,” Muschamp said in the statement. “Obviously, it is hardest on Dominique. We are disappointed for him, but we will be there for him every step of the way through his surgery and rehab process.”
But it was the final paragraph of the news release that made an already sunken heart break:
“In other injury news: QB Jeff Driskel underwent successful surgery this afternoon. Driskel had a plate and screws inserted for the fibula fracture. The doctors also repaired his medial ligaments and put two screws across his ankle joint.”
Double cops, I thought. Double cops.
“You’ll probably get another one,” the patrolman was saying in my ear. “These things come in threes.”
Losing to Kentucky on Saturday for the first time since 1986 would complete the Gators’ bad-luck trident, of course. Florida has won 26 in a row against Kentucky, and I don’t expect the Gators’ streak to end anytime soon, but that’s going to be the national peg for UF at Kentucky.
Here’s what probably is not going to be talked about: Muschamp is just the leader to persevere through any and all bad luck that could hit the Gators, including a loss to Kentucky. There was a coach at Florida who walked out on the program when things got bad, you might recall. He’s now at Ohio State and playing in a conference a little more … what’s the right phrase? … suited for his delicate nature.
Muschamp is suited for this, chewing through nails in the SEC to get through the lowest of lows. Florida is lucky to have him right now, because it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.