Outcomes of football games often swing based on a player’s action, coaching decision or officiating call, but the Florida Gators on Saturday seemed to waste more than the normal amount of opportunities before eventually falling 23-20 to the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.
Opportunity: Establish momentum at the start of the game with a scoring drive.
Result: Georgia leads 7-0 after a seven-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 2:45
Breakdown: Florida won the coin toss, and head coach Will Muschamp deferred possession until the second half for the third-straight game. For the second consecutive game, UF’s opponent took that opportunity to march right down the field and score a touchdown. Though the Gators’ defense has played its worst at the start of games all season – and the team is just 8-7 under Muschamp when an opponent scores first – Florida still gave its opponent the chance to establish momentum rather than keeping that team’s strength off the field to start the game.
Opportunity: Negate UGA’s touchdown by answering immediately after reaching the red zone following an 83-yard completion from redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy to redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar – UF’s longest offensive play since 2011.
Result: Florida does not score
Breakdown: Down at the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line, the Gators ran the ball, threw incomplete on a short pass and ran the option on 3rd-and-Goal from the 10 instead of at least trying to throw into the end zone. At the end of the failed option run, which only gained two yards, redshirt senior WR Solomon Patton picked up a personal foul that pushed Florida back to the Georgia 23. A more manageable 25-yard field goal became a 40-yard try that redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Velez shanked right.
Opportunity: Score before the end of the first half OR pin the Bulldogs’ back near the goal line and go into the half trailing by 17
Result: Georgia moves 42 yards in seven plays, picking up a conversion on 3rd-and-22 in the process, and tacks on a field goal to lead 23-3
Breakdown: On UGA’s 40-yard line after driving 49 yards in 12 plays, Muschamp forced Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt to burn his final timeout by lining up to go for it on 4th-and-10. After the timeout, Muschamp went for it anyway, but Murphy threw a dump-off pass to Dunbar that became a three-yard loss. The Gators could have thrown deep – at worst, a long interception would have had the same as a short punt – or punted and entered the half down 20. Instead, Florida turned the ball over on downs and allowed Georgia to move right down the short field and hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired.
Quote from Muschamp: “If they had timeouts, I probably would have [punted] … We want to play aggressive. I told the players coming into the game we’re going to play an aggressive style. … We got exactly what we wanted coverage-wise. We just got to run through the catch and we got to convert that situation. We got man coverage, exactly what we drew up and exactly what we wanted. We just got to convert it. … I felt like we needed to call the game aggressively, let our players play aggressive.”
Opportunity: Starting the second half with the ball, cut into the Bulldogs’ lead
Result: The Gators do not score
Breakdown: Florida moved the ball well at the start of the half, gaining positive yardage on seven of its first 10 plays. UF even converted a 4th-and-5 as Murphy completed an 11-yard pass to Patton down to UGA’s 22-yard line. Once again in makeable field goal range, the Gators offense fell apart. Murphy was sacked for an eight-yard loss on the next play. On second down, the Gators ran a broken pass play (trying but failing to emulate a play the Indianapolis Colts ran this season). On 3rd-and-18, Murphy ran for a one-yard loss. Redshirt freshman Austin Hardin then kicked the ball straight on a 47-yard field goal attempt…but it fell a few yards short of the uprights.
Opportunity: With momentum on its side following a fumble recovery turned into a touchdown and a subsequent three-and-out by the defense, Florida was back in Georgia territory with a chance to score again while trailing 23-10.
Result: UF does not score
Breakdown: A seven-yard rush by freshman running back Kelvin Taylor and 15-yard penalty on Bulldogs linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons had the Gators on the opposite 40. After failing to move the ball on first and second down, each of Florida’s starting offensive tackles committed a five-yard penalty – false start and illegal formation – pushing the Gators back to midfield with a 3rd-and-20 that was ultimately not converted. On the play with the illegal formation penalty, Murphy had hit senior WR Trey Burton for a big-gain to pick up the 15-yard first down, a conversion that was all for naught.
Opportunity: Down three with 11:20 left in the game, Florida stops Georgia RB Todd Gurley on 3rd-and-3 and then 4th-and-1 deep in UGA territory at its own 39.
Result: The Gators start the subsequent offensive drive in their own territory.
Breakdown: Though he made a terrific defensive play, redshirt junior LB Neiron Ball removed his helmet after stopping Gurley, and Florida was called for a 15-yard personal foul penalty for a player taking off his helmet on the field. Rather than starting rather close to field goal range, the Gators took over at their own 46-yard line.
Muschamp Quote: “That’s all a judgment call. Whatever they call, they call.”
Ball Quote: “My helmet, it was on my nose in a very uncomfortable position. The only thing I did was take it off. I didn’t take it off intentionally. It’s definitely a tough call. Nobody wants to be called for a 15-yard penalty.”
Opportunity: On the UF offensive drive started by Ball’s penalty, the Bulldogs commit an illegal substitution foul on 4th-and-2 while the ball is on their own 46-yard line. The Gators is in enemy territory with a first down at the 41-yard line.
Result: Florida does not score
Breakdown: Momentum was still firmly in UF’s grasp as UGA committed a boneheaded penalty coming out of a timeout. The Gators, however, wasted yet another opportunity with a couple of questionable play calls including a drive-stalling “Wildcat” play with Burton running the option with Patton for a two-yard loss. Murphy was also sacked for a 14-yard loss on 3rd-and-12. Florida had no choice but to punt.
Opportunity: Stop Georgia on its next drive and get the ball back down three with plenty of time remaining in the game
Result: The Bulldogs put together a 15-play, 67-yard game-ending drive that includes four third-down conversions (the last of which came via penalty).
Breakdown: Known as a fourth-quarter team in 2012, one that got off the field on third down defensively and could control the ball to end games, the Gators got a taste of their own medicine. Georgia converted a 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2 and 3rd-and-7, forcing Florida to start calling timeouts with two minutes on the clock and UGA down inside UF’s 30-yard line. The Gators had one final chance to get the ball back and might have received it down six (following a field goal) with about 40 seconds remaining by stopping the Bulldogs on 3rd-and-5 at the 25-yard line. However, a personal foul for illegal hands to the face was called on junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings, giving Georgia a first down and ending the game.
Muschamp Quote (on penalties): “It’s hard to see some of that, you know. Whatever they call, they call. In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we’ve led the SEC in penalties 20 out of 24 – either first or second. That’s long before I got here, so it’s interesting, but it is what it is.”
Georgia running back Todd Gurley throwing a punch on Saturday
Animated GIF Credit: Bleacher Report