Five things we learned: Florida Gators outmanned, outclassed as FSU wins fourth straight

By Adam Silverstein
November 27, 2016
Five things we learned: Florida Gators outmanned, outclassed as FSU wins fourth straight

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The Florida Gators were brought back down to Earth after a thrilling road win at LSU last week as the Florida State Seminoles manhandled their in-state rivals on the way to a 31-13 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.

The win was the Noles’ fourth straight and sixth in the last seven games against the Gators. As FSU held UF’s offense to six points in the contest, it has now only allowed Florida to score six offensive points in the last four halves and seven offensive points or fewer in five of the teams’ last seven meetings.

The Gators (8-3) will still move on to the 2016 SEC Championship Game next week where they will face the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, which have been decimating opponents all season.

Here are five things we learned from the Gators’ win on Saturday.

1. Florida cannot match up to Florida State: Forget the injuries for a moment (we’ll get to that later). The Gators are still far behind the Noles in the talent department, and it was quite obvious on both offense and defense in the contest. Whereas Florida State’s porous defense improved as the season went on, Florida’s offense is simply unable to take a consistent step forward. The Gators gained 207 yards of total offense in the game, 41 in garbage time and 99 mroe after driving for 67 on the game’s opening series and winding up with no points for their efforts. The talent disparity over years of bad offensive recruiting remained glaring, and one must wonder whether it will swing in Florida’s direction anytime soon with head coach Jimbo Fisher continuing to do a great job recruiting such talent at FSU and Mark Richt now at Miami.

2. Inconsistent offensive philosophy apparent: Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has received a lot of just criticism for his playcalling this season and that heat will only intensify this week after the Gators chose to give up on the running game early and have graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby throw the ball. Florida ran just 14 times with sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett compared to throwing the ball 35 times, this despite Scarlett gaining a perfectly fine 3.8 yards per carry. No, it was not a great game for Scarlett when he was touching it, and the offensive line played horribly, but it was effecitve enough to continue pounding away in order to help open up the passing game, which suffered even more from the line’s lack of protection. Appleby had absolutely no time in the pocket and fumbled the ball twice on sacks, but a few more breakway runs from Scarlett may have taken some of the pressure off.

3. Sometimes injuries cannot be overcome: In a game like this against a Florida State team with one of the most explosive playmakers in the country (RB Dalvin Cook) and a variety of other talent on offense, it would be difficult for a team to defend with one player injured, let alone six. Florida entered Saturday’s contest without its top three leading tacklers and two starters lost at each of the three levels of defense. During the game, the Gators lost two more starting defenders in redshirt junior defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee) and junior defensive back Duke Dawson (ankle). Junior cornerback Quincy Wilson also missed the end of the game, but there was so little time left whether he was “out” or not is tough to determine. UF was so thin defensively that it played entire series with a base 4-3 defense, meaning it had three linebackers on the field when it almost always prefers playing nickel. With an offense unable to move the ball and a defense down so many players, it’s a surprise Florida was able to keep it as close as it did on Saturday. That’s a testiment to the effort given by the Gators, particularly on defense and special teams.

4. Questionable coaching decisions continue: In addition to Nussmeier’s offensive issues, it’s apparent that Florida has regressed significantly on special teams. Forget that the Gators blocked a kick or punt for the first time in 46 games on Saturday, Florida never goes all out for punt block and blocks terribly in coverage on kickoff and punt returns. As much as there may be calls to replace Nussmeier, special teams coordinator Greg Nord has been the weakest part of UF’s coaching staff to this point. Moving off special teams, head coach Jim McElwain decided not to kick a field goal on the opening series of the game — giving him points and an early lead — that weighed heavily on the team through the first three quarters. The Gators are playing a different game if they had those points on the board, and as was apparent early in the game, Florida needed every point it could get on Saturday.

5. It’s not all on the coaches: Keep tweeting me “fire McElwain” all you want. It’s not happening this year. Next year? That’s another topic to discuss another time. For now, it’s important to remember that coaches can only do so much. Players have to take responsibility, too. The Gators offensive line played so poorly on Saturday that Appleby, who looked to be making some improvement week-to-week, had little to no time to do anything in the pocket. He fumbled twice and was hit numerous other times with seemingly little effort to block for him. Senior wide receiver Chris Thompson fumbled a kickoff and Florida started a drive at the eight. Redshirt junior punter Johnny Townsend, the model of consistency, hit a 38-yard punt while backed up when the Gators needed a rocket. Junior cornerback Jalen Tabor dropped an easy interception in the end zone. Redshirt sophomore kicker Eddy Pineiro put two kickoffs out of bounds. A stupid roughing the passer penalty on sophomore defensive end CeCe Jefferson negated a big tackle for loss. Oh, and the Gators as a whole went 0-for-12 on third down.

Look, there’s a lot to blame McElwain for, and he’ll get his just due, but sometimes guys just need to step up and make plays. One week after Florida did just that on the road at LSU, it completely failed to live up to its billing against Florida State.


  1. SW FL Joe says:

    This was a display of FSU out recruiting UF year after year after year. There wasn’t a single position on the field that FSU didn’t have the better player except maybe punter. The FSU seniors have never lost to UF or Miami. Stricklin needs to upgrade the facilities starting now. Mac needs to hit the recruiting trail hard. If UF has assistant coaches that don’t like to recruit then they need to take their talents elsewhere.

    • Gatorcove says:

      UF’s talent is better at CB and kicker. Equal to FSU in a lot of areas. It is our depth that is hurting us. We are 1 and 1.5 deep in most areas. Need to be 2 and 3 deep. Let’s see what happens next year then we can debate.
      But I will agree that Mac’s casual demeanor doesn’t play well when we are getting the crap beat out of us and our offense is not improving.

  2. Michael Jones says:

    Probably one of your best treatments of a game yet, Adam.

    The headline says it all, as does the rest of the article.

    We HAVE to start recruiting better on the O-line. Our poor right tackle looked like his feet were stuck in concrete. When a guy is getting abused that badly on just about every play, how do you not give him help, keep a tight end or RB in to help him block?

    Speaking of RB’s blocking, how hard is it to coach Jordan Scarlett on how to pick up the blitz? I love the kid, but this is the second week in a row I’ve watched him wander up into the offensive line on pass protection, oblivious to who he’s supposed to block as blitzing linebackers and cornerbacks go blowing by him to smoke our QB. Seriously? It cost us at least one TD (4th and goal on the opening drive).

    Speaking of blitzes, why do we never do it? When Dawson went down and FSU had third and long, we dropped freshmen linebackers into coverage instead of bringing pressure, Francois had all day, and predictably we got burned.

    Appleby’s lack of any foot speed in the pocket, his body language, checking down too quickly and giving up on open guys on deeper routes was painful to watch. Never missed Will Grier as much as I missed him last night.

    How can our offensive scheme and playcalling be so unimaginative? Are we not allowed to run draws or screens? Do we have no hot routes to counter constant blitzing? And why are our running plays so slow to develop? Was Muschamp in two places at once last night?

    Finally, I still think all the calls to “fire McElwain” are way premature. WAY premature. Our injury situation, starting with the first game of the season, was horrific this year. Like Adam said, a coach can only do so much. McElwain needs and deserves a couple more years. But it’s clear that he’s still learning too and was a little shell shocked himself last night.

    Go Gators!!!

    • Flynn Dedrick says:

      This may be too deep for some of you to understand but the injury situation of a football team is a function of the collective state of mind of the players which is cultivated, nurtured, and maintained by the head coach and the culture which he has created. The same thing happened when Muschamp was HC, and the same excuses were made. How come Bama doesn’t have an extensive amount of injuries? They play just as hard or even harder than Florida and they win. This coach has created a loser mentality on this football team and it’s manifesting itself in injuries and losses.

  3. Michael Jones says:

    P.S. Winning the SEC East is nothing to crow about. It is pathetic. In fact, so is the SEC as a whole, not counting Alabama. The ACC manhandled the SEC yesterday, going 3-1 with only a last minute UK field goal against Louisville preventing a shutout. We are now like the old ACC: Bama and the 13 dwarfs. A sad state of affairs, lol.

  4. Tommy says:

    To me it’s all about recruiting. He’s a arrogant guy and I think that turns players and Parents off. Florida has a long way to go especially with this guy coaching.

  5. Alex says:

    Aww shucks, we got blown out again, but wasn’t that a cool experience? I didn’t watch McElwain’s press conference but I wonder if he took another shot at us fans that “don’t think the gators are any good”?

    This is groundhog’s day and we are reliving the end of the season nightmare that was 2015

    Blowout loss to FSU, blow out loss to Bama and a blow out loss to whatever Big Ten school gets selected to come down and hang 40 points on us.

    SEC East title is fools good folks.

    • Matt says:

      Ha..Absolutely Alex…I don’t think any of us mind the W-L record, Gator fans have been demanding in the past, but I have never been dissatisfied with any Florida Head Coach. This guy is the first one since 1985 that I frankly don’t want to have as head coach. I didn’t want Muschamp fired but I understood it, this guy is not a likable person. He is patronizing, arrogant, and he comes across as fake, insincere. He doesnt offer solutions, doesn’t offer explanations,doesn’t accept responsibility, doesn’t offer anything but attitude when questioned by the media. It’s hard to support the guy, because we don’t like him. He isn’t likable, Will was, sure Will had crappy offenses but the guy could recruit defensive players and he freaking cared and he was very likable. I personally supported him, this guy, nah, it’s tough… Not to mention he told the best offensive player we have seen in seven years that he would be better elsewhere.. Grier was a Florida Gator QB not a Mcelwain QB, he was recruited by Will..Brilliant move Mcelwain, Will Grier should be starting against Alabama on Saturday but Mcelwain told him he wasn’t wanted, that a change in scenery would be good…Maybe Mcelwain is the one who could use a change in scenery…

  6. JamesInFWB says:

    Adam, great write up. Agree the defense played fairly well for all the missing starters and injuries in this games. One note your opening paragraph doesn’t reflect the final TD run at the end of the game, final score 13-31. Hoping Big Mac can right the woes this offseason…

  7. Alex says:

    Clarabelle has been on the sidelines for two seasons; do you think Mac will let her start next week vs Bama?

    She couldn’t be any worse than what we have now.

    As somebody stated earlier, winning the SEC easy doesn’t mean a damn thing, it is the worst division of the major conferences.

    Mac is in trouble, no QB next year and all of these NFL studs on our defense will be gone. It could get ugly early next year. He better pray to the football gods that we don’t get matched up with Miami in a bowl game because after they drop 40+ on us his seat is going to be on fire.

    • G2 says:

      Thats right, its going to be worse next year without all the defensive studs we got from Muschamp. Having no QB is a disgrace, two redshirt freshman who haven’t played a down and Del Rio…wow, that sounds explosive. Bet he’s sorry he ran off Grier about now.
      Hoping we don’t get Miami also, no question they would hang at least 30 on us, our offense might put up 14 on a good day.

  8. Mike says:

    What coach would want a coaching job where people call for your head after 2-3 loss seasons and back to back division titles? Time for a reality check. Ride it out.

    Having said that, I don’t understand why we didn’t grind it out on the ground. Nor why we didn’t blitz more. Sometimes it looks like we are unable to adapt.

    • JamesInFWB says:

      I’m thinking a lot of coaches would, especially all the coaches who are doing more with less, less talent and less pay. Nobody is compaining about 2 and 3 loss seasons, it’s the way we lose, and the way we barely win.

      I was riding the Big Mac train last season when Grier was improving every week, our offense hadn’t looked like that in a long time, but since losing him, we’ve lost big and won small. The writing is on the wall if we can’t recruit the talent that a program like UF should have.

      The same questions are posed every week, why didn’t we run more, why are we not letting backs settle in, why didn’t we give a freshman a go.

      We will ride it out, but the fear is it may get uglier

  9. M. Palmer says:

    Great Article Adam !!! Spot On !!! We hired an ” offensive genius” who said he could win with his dog. So what’s the problem….Maybe Franks should have been inserted once Del Rio got injured…Its embarrassing to Gator Nation that other teams are progressing with freshmen quarterbacks, including south carolina & in year 2 we still have no offense. Last season Mac recognized we needed a kicker so he went out & got us a great one. Why not a quarterback…..Mac do you job maybe take over the play calling something needs to change. Defense can’t do it all !!!! Mac you’re being paid big bucks so do your job !!!! Coach em up… Go Gators !!!!

  10. MAR says:

    I honestly thought this team and coaches would learn from the Arky game and would come to play every game the rest of this year. Man was I wrong. They may be more talented, but we had WAAAAAAAAY more to play for and should have at least competed. I’m done with Nuss. I’ve never seen a worse play caller when backs are against the wall. I don’t care what happens in the last 2 games. The season was summed up for me by how we failed to even put up a challenge yesterday. We played them better last year, and that is sad. Coach Mac better make some improvements this winter or Harbaugh, once again, will show Coach Mac
    how you motivate a team hurting with talent and depth to step up to the plate and play like men. They both took over damaged programs at the same time, and so far, Harbaugh owns Mac, it’s not even close.

  11. R. Gitano says:

    That final score would be 31–13, not 24–13.

  12. Deez says:

    Everyone’s bitches but no one supply’s any answers. Who is going to Coach this team what magical solutions are out there? All the arm chair AD’s

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