The Florida Gators (4-4, 2-4 SEC) lost yet again on Saturday, dropping a close one to the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (6-2, 5-1 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Florida has now lost four-straight game for the first time since 1988, leaving head coach Will Muschamp with a lot of questions and decisions to answer going forward. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both Muschamp and the players.
MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP
Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.
“We had our opportunities in the game. You have two turnovers inside your 25-yard-line, you give up 14 points on two critical fourth-down plays, the lack of being able to run the football, too many penalties in critical situations. Obviously John [Brantley] went and [it was] a gutsy performance on his part. Very proud of him and his effort. He was a guy who really laid it on the line. We couldn’t get him under center to do some of the things we wanted to do; we knew that going into the game. We felt like we had some things in the throwing game and that’s why we stayed with what we wanted to do in that situations. We got to find some ways to run the football. We cannot be so one-dimensional. That’s something we’ve got to work on. We got a turnover inside the 10, we wind up with two sacks and are out of field goal range. Those are very frustrating to deal with, but we had our opportunities in the last two ball games. We got to close it out and win those games.”
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
Though redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley returned for the Gators, he was severely limited due to his ankle injury and was unable to take snaps from under center. Some other players were held out of the game, while even more were hurt during the contest, further hurting Florida’s already lacking depth going forward.
Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis did not play after straining his leg two weeks ago against Auburn, redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green hurt his ankle Wednesday in practice, and junior running back Mike Gillislee (ankle) dressed but did not play after injuring his ankle two weeks ago.
In the game Saturday, redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray hurt his shoulder, returned to notch a sack but wound up visiting the locker room and did not return for the second half. Sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs injured his wrist during the game and was also forced to leave the field.
PENALTIES, TURNOVERS AND MISCUES
“There’s two different parts as far as penalties are concerned. Some of them are undisciplined and those are the ones that are tough to deal with. I’ve got to do a better job with the others, so I’ll work on it,” Muschamp said.
Perhaps worst of all, many of the Gators’ miscues in this area came at inopportune times. A pass interference call on third down extended a Georgia drive that Florida needed to stop. A personal foul call on Buck linebacker Ronald Powell on special teams pushed the Gators back to the goal line, and multiple delay of game and false start penalties either took Florida out of scoring range or pushed them far enough back where they could not put together a solid drive.
And then there are the turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 14 points off of two UF fumbles near their own red zone. Georgia posted both touchdowns through the air via jump ball passes on fourth down, each of which was converted rather easily.
“We were in position – there were a couple well-thrown balls and well-caught balls,” Muschamp said. “Both touchdowns, they’re in position to make the play and we’re playing the ball and trying to get the ball off the guy and the guy makes a heck of a throw and a heck of a catch. There’s a couple situations. They’re on scholarship too. They made nice plays, but we got to find a way to get them out though.”
INABILITY TO RUN THE FOOTBALL
Florida struggled with their running game for the fourth-straight contest but unlike previous attempts, this time it was because of a lack of trying. Due to Brantley being limited with what he could do on his ankle, the Gators were unable to call plays from under center, which in turn reduced the team’s chances of putting together a consistent power running game.
“No question it affects the run game,” Muschamp said of Brantley’s limitations. “When you’re in the [shot]gun so much and you run the ball so much east and west, you need to be able to run the ball downhill. When you’re in the gun, it’s hard to run the ball consistently downhill. He was limited with his ankle, but we felt like he gave us the best opportunity to be successful in the game, so that’s what we went with. I would do it again. John played well. We just got to figure out how we can run the ball a little bit more effectively.”
One of the other reasons that Florida has struggled running the ball is that their personnel does not fit the type of offense the team wants to run. Muschamp explained that improvement in that area will come with time.
“I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage. It’s very difficult to run a power running game with what we want to do right now with who we have,” he admitted. “I like the guys we got, but the bottom line is looking at the situations of where we are. It doesn’t take anybody real educated to figure it out right now.”
SACK ISSUES MOSTLY – BUT NOT ALL – ON OFFENSIVE LINE
With Brantley seemingly being sacked whenever the Gators were trying to put something together, the offensive line was immediately blamed for letting too many rushers through. While that may be true most of the time, Muschamp was quick to point out after the game that there are other things going on at the same time.
“When you look at a sack, everybody wants to look at the offensive line. Did the quarterback hold the ball too long? I think there were some situations like that. There are some situations where we didn’t get open down the field and had a busted route,” he explained. “There are a lot of situations when you have a sack; it’s not just the offensive line’s fault every time it happens. That’s the easiest thing to say, but that’s not always the offensive line’s fault. If we’re in a one-back protection or two-back protection, did the backs block right? There are a lot of things that happen as far as protection issues, and that’s not always the offensive line.”
That being said, tackles junior Xavier Nixon and redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan each had their share of struggles on the evening. Nixon kept bouncing off the line for false starts and both men struggled blocking the edge rushers. Muschamp said that Florida’s inability to run the ball ensured that the edge rushers did not have to respect that part of the game, making it even tougher on the tackles and blockers.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on the team’s penalties: “I was disappointed with it.”
» Muschamp on not taking advantage of momentum: “It’s disappointing. You felt good about getting the kickoff return, getting some points on the board, getting some momentum for your team. And then we lay it on the ground twice. We only get one turnover defensively, and we just had some critical mistakes at critical times. We got to make those plays. I told them the last two ball games the bottom line was Auburn and Georgia made those plays and we didn’t. We’re going to have our opportunities and when we get in those situations we need to make the plays.”
» Muschamp on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis calling plays from the booth: ”Just to see the game better. We didn’t feel like we were getting the information right and were searching for some answers for this time offensively to figure out what we can do well. That was something we felt like we could benefit from.”
» Muschamp on sophomore Brad Phillips filling in for Sturgis: “Brad was outstanding. Here’s a guy that steps in, missed the first one, came back and hit two more. Kicked off extremely well with a pretty good wind coming from the one side. He kicked one real deep in the end zone when he was with the wind. I was really proud of his efforts; he stepped up when another guy went down.”
» Muschamp on defensive struggles: “We didn’t get lined up a couple times and had some tempo issues there late. That’s something we worked on and prepared for. We got to make some stops in the red zone. You got to force field goals when they’re in those situations. That’s about where it is.”
» Muschamp on now just playing for pride: “That’s the way it is all the time with me. I don’t ever really talk about the SEC race. I talk about what we got to do to get better as a program every day and stay the course of what we’re trying to do. It’s not always just about the SEC race. We don’t always talk about that. We understand our goal at the beginning of the season. We understand our expectation – the University of Florida has to go to Atlanta. Our job as a competitor is to go out every day – whether you’re a coach or a player – is to work hard to get better, work hard to improve yourself. And that’s what we’re going to do. “
» Muschamp on losing four-straight games: “I don’t really think about losing a whole lot, but obviously it’s happened so we got to regroup and reevaluate where we are. We need to move forward. It’s disappointing, and you can believe there is no one more disappointed or impatient than I am. We’ve got to evaluate ourselves first of all starting with me and then we work from there.”
» Muschamp on how he felt during the game: “I felt good the whole game. I felt like we were in a situation to go win the football game. We had the ball late to win the game. That’s what you want to be in these situations. You got to make the plays in those situations to get it done.”
» Muschamp on how far away the team is right now: “This year? We’re not close. No, I don’t. I think we’re close. I think we got to build our numbers back. I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage.”
» Senior RB Jeff Demps on the fourth-straight loss: “Things just didn’t go our way tonight like we wanted it to. We just got to stick together as a team. We have to unite from this and stay together.”
» Demps on his kick return touchdown: “All of the credit goes to those 10 guys that were blocking. They gave me a big hole to run through and made it easy.”
» Brantley said that he was still considered “probable” up until game time. He went out early to test the ankle during warm-ups but went back to the locker room to get a bit more treatment and stay off of it was much as possible until the game began.
» Brantley on the 4th and 10 design: “It was a little bit deeper midfield. I was stepping up and knew I had to get it out – the time clock in my head said I had to get it out.”
» Brantley on Weis calling plays from the booth: “He can see the field better up there. I had the headset on each time and we were communicating just fine. There wasn’t too much of a difference.”