Resilient Gators fall short against Bulldogs; Georgia wins third-straight over Florida 23-20

The Florida Gators nearly fought all the way back following their worst half of the season but fell just short of a come-from-behind victory on Saturday with the Georgia Bulldogs pulling off a 23-20 victory at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL.

Florida (4-4, 3-3 SEC) has now been defeated by Georgia (5-3, 4-2 SEC) in three-straight seasons for the first time since 1987-89. Gators head coach Will Muschamp fell to 0-7 all time in the Florida-Georgia series, losing thrice as a coach and four times as a former Bulldogs player.

After allowing Georgia to score the first 20 points of the game, Florida buckled down and outscored its rival 17-0 in the second half via a mixture of impressive defensive plays and effective offense. Unfortunately for UF, many mistakes were made in both halves and it was too much of a burden for it to overcome.

The Bulldogs bit the Gators early after Florida won the toss and deferred to the second half. Georgia put together a seven-play, 75-yard drive out of the gate including a 25-yard rush and five-yard touchdown run by running back Todd Gurley.

It looked like the Gators were primed to answer back immediately as redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy hit redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar for a 83-yard reception on UF’s second play. However, Florida stalled and was pushed back on 3rd-and-Goal from the UGA eight after senior WR Solomon Patton committed a personal foul.

The Gators were forced to settle for a 40-yard field goal, but kicker Frankie Velez missed his attempt wide right.

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Friday Final: Changes coming for Gators, Florida player updates heading into Georgia game

Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s neural-site contest against the Georgia Bulldogs scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. from EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that either broke towards the end of the week or fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: Will Muschamp previews Georgia, updates injuries, talks new starters
Tuesday: Brent Pease talks changes to the offensive line and overall scheme
Wednesday: LT D.J. Humphries out 2-4 weeks, Florida-Georgia updates
Thursday: Overcoming embarrassment, can Gators’ defense return to form?

NEW LEADER IN THE BACKFIELD

Muschamp confirmed on Thursday during his weekly radio appearance that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor will be Florida’s starter on Saturday. “He’s earned the opportunity,” he said. “He’s really done a good job in the opportunities he’s had as the season has evolved.”

MORE CHANGES AT TACKLE

Though the Gators experimented with redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia at left tackle during the off week, he will remain in his current role. Unfortunately, sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphires going down with a sprained MCL on Monday means that redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore, who was actually benched as the starting right tackle in favor of junior Trenton Brown, will be back in the lineup.

“We were going to give Trenton Brown an opportunity to start at right tackle,” Muschamp explained. “Unfortunately, D.J. Humphries sprained his MCL Monday in practice and he’ll probably miss 2-3 weeks. We hope to get him back before then. But Tyler Moore will bump over to left tackle.

“Max has been playing inside and playing very well inside at left guard. We didn’t feel like it was good to move him and possibly create another void at the left guard position.”

BURNING REDSHIRTS

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10/28: Taylor to start for Florida vs. Georgia, injury statuses, offensive line updates and more

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss progress made during the off week and the upcoming World’s Largest Cocktail Party showdown against the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 2. The contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.

IT’S (“PROBABLY”) TAYLOR TIME

Though Muschamp was quite clear that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor would be getting more work than usual on Saturday against Georgia, he stopped just short of declaring him the unquestioned starter. “Well, we’re working through the week and that’s probably what we’ll end up doing, he said.

Muschamp did, however, offer up a fair amount of praise for Taylor. “He’s continued to improve throughout the season, week-to-week. He’s always been a very instinctive natural runner. It’s very obviously. But again, with assignments and different things, I think he’s done a nice job and he deserves the opportunity,” he said.

Those are sentiments shared by redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy.

“He’s shown that he can do a lot of good things with the ball in his hands. I think the coaches, as well as myself, have to do a good job of finding ways to get him the ball so he can create big plays for us,” Murphy explained. “Like I said, we’re going to need some explosive plays and he has the ability to do that. We’re just going to have to find ways to continue to give him the ball and eventually he’s going to break. He’s very talented, very elusive player. Looking forward to seeing him this week and what role he’ll have.”

ALL HEALED UP

Muschamp did not list Murphy on Florida’s injury report two weeks ago, but he was nevertheless a game-time decision when UF took on Missouri. Murphy played with what was revealed Monday to be a sprained AC joint and put together his worst performance of the season as he was inaccurate with the ball throughout the contest.

“It didn’t bother me at all. I think maybe just not practicing or not throwing a little bit kind of hurt me a little bit. Other than that, I felt fine. It wasn’t bothering me or anything,” he said. “I had that overthrow to Trey [Burton] which hurt us in the beginning. I kind of couldn’t help but laugh because he was so wide open. You gotta hit him.”

Murphy did not throw during the off week – redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg took all the snaps – but should be back in action on Monday and completely cleared to take first-team snaps by Tuesday.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) missed Saturday’s game against Mizzou but “ran well” during the off week and even got in some change of direction work on Sunday. Muschamp said he expects Powell back in action on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest “if he were to play in the game.” He admitted: “[It is] still kind of up in the air whether that will happen or not.”

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) is set to return to practice on Tuesday and is listed as probable, while senior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) are both doubtful.

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10/19: Florida at Missouri post-game report

The No. 22/22 Florida Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) were embarrassed by the explosive No. 14/14 Missouri Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC), falling 36-17 on the road at Farout Field in Columbia, MO. After the tough loss, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on his team and its defeat.

OPENING STATEMENT

“We’re just not a very good football team. Certainly not today. It falls on my shoulders. We’re inept offensively. We have a hard time running it and certainly can’t protect very well. It obviously showed today against the front we played against. Just very disappointed that we haven’t made more positive strides offensively this season, just regressed again from last week. We’re going to go back and work extremely hard to get those things corrected. Defensively, [we allowed] too many big plays. …

“As a football team, we didn’t do enough good things out there, and that falls on my shoulders. We just need to get better and that’s what we’re going to do. Disappointed with the way we played. We need to improve and get better. We got an off week to get it turned around.”

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Missouri improved to 2-1 all-time against Florida, winning the first and only game the two teams have ever played in Columbia.
» The Gators are now 1-5 in their last six games against ranked opponents, beating Florida State in 2012 but falling to Georgia, Louisville, Miami, LSU and Mizzou all since Oct. 27, 2012.
» Florida fell to 7-11 under Muschamp when rushing for fewer than 150 yards and 4-10 when tied or trailing at the half.
» The Tigers posted 500 yards of offense against the Gators’ top-ranked defense, the most UF has allowed in a single game since the 2008 Capitol One Bowl against Michigan.
» Florida gained just 151 yards of offense, the fewest in a single game since the 1999 SEC Championship against Alabama.
» UF went 3-for-15 on first down, averaged 1.9 yards per rush and 6.1 yards per completion. Mizzou averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 16.4 yards per catch.
» The Gators’ defense had allowed just one play longer than 40 yards all season but coughed up three on Saturday.
» Florida failed to hold an SEC opponent under 20 points for the first time in 14 opportunities.
» UF forced at least one turnover in 17-straight games.
» The Gators went 109:01 of game time dating back to Oct. 5 without scoring an offensive touchdown until crossing the goal line in the fourth quarter.
» Florida lost the time of possession battle (29:18-30:42) for the first time this season.
» The Gators did not sack the opposing quarterback once for the second-straight week.
» Florida’s porous offensive line allowed six sacks on the afternoon.
» The Gators committed at least eight penalties in a game for the fifth time this season. Three of those five contests ended as losses.
» UF was held to 2.8 yards per carry and under 150 team rushing yards for the second-straight game and third time overall this season (two losses).
» Florida registered a season-high eight pass defenses.

» Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor registered career-highs of 12 carries and 74 yards – and scored his first career rushing touchdown – during Saturday’s game. He has combined for 22 carries and 126 yards over the last two weeks.
» Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton returned a kickoff for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, catching the ball five yards into the end zone and bringing it back the length of the field. It was his first career return touchdown.
» Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole registered an interception, two tackles for loss and a pass defense. He nearly had a second interception, too.
» Redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Valez kicked a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter and is now 3-for-3 on his career.
» Freshman punter Johnny Townsend made his first start and booted the ball eight times for 365 yards, averaging 45.6 yards per punt with a long of 61 and two touchbacks.

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Missouri Tigers maul Florida Gators 36-17

An unrelenting offensive attack from the No. 14/14 Missouri Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) dominated an injured No. 22/22 Florida Gators (4-3, 3-2 SEC) defense, picking up a 36-17 victory on Saturday afternoon at in Columbia, MO.

The Gators allowed the Tigers to rack up 500 yards of offense, the most given up by Florida in 2013, as Missouri became the first Southeastern Conference team in 14 tries to post more than 20 points in a single game against UF’s stout defense.

The visitors were outmatched all afternoon as the Gators struggled on the way to gaining just 151 yards of offense. Florida was 3-for-15 on third down as the Gators’ offensive line allowed six sacks and failed to adequately protect the quarterback throughout the contest or open up holes in the running game most of the afternoon.

After Florida deferred until the second half, Missouri started on offense and got on the board in just 22 seconds.

Quarterback Maty Mauk completed a 41-yard pass on the first play of the game to wide receiver L’Damian Washington, and the Tigers gained 15 additional yards on the play after a targeting penalty was called against Gators redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs. He was subsequently ejected from the game. On the very next play, Mauk hit WR Bud Sasser for a 20-yard touchdown.

Florida went three-and-out on its first possession, running the ball three-straight times, but lucked out on the ensuing punt, which was muffed and recovered by junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.

Facing first down at Missouri’s 24-yard line, UF gained 17 yards on a rush by freshman running back Kelvin Taylor before stalling and settling for a 23-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker Frankie Velez.

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10/15: Pease talks Taylor, Gators’ pass protection

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively ahead of the seventh game of the season against the Missouri Tigers on Oct. 19.

A CHANGE AT RUNNING BACK

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor has displayed great ability with the ball in his hands during his limited action this season and impressed Pease on Saturday with his poise and flashes of ability. With sophomore Matt Jones now sidelined, Taylor’s role will continue significantly increase going forward.

“I think Kelvin did really well. I mean, he ran the ball hard. You see he made some good vertical cuts and did a good job in space and ran tough,” Pease said. “He did his job. So, I think it’s good experience for him. I think he showed us something. And, you know, he really actually gave us a little spark in running the ball there for a while.”

Pease believes Taylor is ready to handle a large number of carries but said the player has to “zero in” because he’s going to have a lot more pressure on his shoulders and responsibilities other than toting the rock.

“It just can’t be all hand-offs to him. There’s some things that he didn’t do that he needed to do. The expectation on every down,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, the kid is a physical runner. He put it north and south. We missed a couple guys. Just his speed how he hit the holes, he made them miss, especially down in the red zone. And he got good, positive yardage. When we were in that position, we kind of kept going to him a little bit. When he got the ball, he was gaining five, six, seven [yards].”

Though many fans were frustrated that Taylor, outside of the Toledo game, had not seen much action, Pease said Taylor was accepting of his previously limited role.

“The thing about him, leading up to this point and not having so many turns, is that he never complained about it. He never said it’s not fair or this isn’t equal or anything like that. He just continued to work, tried to find some consistency in what he was doing and said when my opportunity comes, I’m gonna do it. Now it’s there. I’m happy for him, and I think he’ll just continue to get better and better.”

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Friday Final: Florida prepares for LSU

No. 17/18 Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s road game against the No. 11/10 LSU Tigers scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA, and air live on CBS.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: WR Solomon Patton: from “jet sweep guy” to game-breaking receiver | Will Muschamp recaps Arkansas, previews LSU
Tuesday: Brent Pease talks RB Kelvin Taylor, quarterbacks and LSU
Wednesday: Muschamp, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier talk Florida-LSU on the SEC teleconference
Thursday: DT Darious Cummings doing his part to replace the irreplaceable
Friday: LB Ronald Powell has payback on his mind for LSU

DANTE FOWLER, JR.: FEROCIOUS TEDDY BEAR

As menacing as sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. is on the field, he’s quite the opposite off the gridiron. That is according to basically every coach and player that was asked about him over the past week – which amounted to every single person who was made available to speak to the media.

“He’s a big kid. He’s tough on the field, but he’s like a little teddy bear off the field,” said senior safety Jaylen Watkins. “He’s funny, jokes around. I’ve never seen him get mad.”

Concurred junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings: “He’s a big kid. He’s very soft spoken. It’s night and day how he is on the field and off the field. That being said, it’s a pleasure to play with him every Saturday.”

Fowler is happy his teammates see him that way and even referred to himself this week as a “big, goofy teddy bear-guy.” But he also doesn’t understand why his laid back personality is such a big deal.

“Look at me, I’m smiling right now. I’m goofy. I like to play around and stuff,” he said. “I just turned 19, so I just try to live life. I’m still a kid. I’m not 21 yet. My mom still washes my clothes … when I go home. Now I have to. It sucks though, man.”

He also explained why he can turn off that personality at a dime as soon as he dons his pads and puts his helmet on.

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Snell’s Slant: Mind the gaps, respect Death Valley

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell joined OnlyGators.com in 2012 as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team. He has returned to continue sharing his musings through the 2013 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 of those contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.

With the team facing so much adversity over the last few weeks, it was pleasing to see the Gators put together such a convincing win over an above average Southeastern Conference opponent (at least as far as physicality is concerned). This was the first week that I thought Florida would truly be tested on both sides of the ball, and for the most part the Gators passed with flying colors. That is not to say everything was perfect; there is plenty of room for opportunity and growth.

Florida finally seems to be finding some chemistry in the passing game, especially between Tyler Murphy and Solomon Patton, but I cannot help but concentrate on the issues in the running game. There is a severe lack of explosive plays on the ground save for Matt Jones’s 67-yard gain at Kentucky, an outlier.

As head coach Will Muschamp indicated after Saturday’s game, the offensive linemen are not getting any movement on their blocks. It is not necessary for these guys to absolutely maul and knock their counterparts flat on their backs every single play (a pancake block) for the running game to be successful.

What Muschamp is referring to is the offensive line struggling to move defenders out of what are supposed to be gaps for the running backs to hit.

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