The Florida Gators came up just short in their upset bid of undefeated #3 Florida State as they lost a tough one 24-19 in Tallahassee. The Gators squandered so many opportunities to win this game as they missed two field goals and threw a pick six in the red zone. This loss appropriately ends the Muschamp Era at Florida and I am happy he will not be coaching the bowl game.
I figured that Florida would go with a heavy run game as this strategy nearly worked for Boston College the week before against FSU. Unfortunately, Florida could never get its run game going as running backs Kelvin Taylor (37) and Matt Jones (29) combined for just 66 yards. The leading rusher was quarterback Treon Harris with 41 yards on nine rushes.
With the run game not working, the Gators had to go to the air. Treon completed 13 of his 32 passes for just 141 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Out of those two interceptions, the one that really hurt was the pick six thrown from Harris on the FSU 14-yard line in the first quarter. This completely changed the momentum of the game and was just one of many mistakes that cost the Gators the game. I will elaborate more on this interception later in the article.
In the receiving core, senior tight end Clay Burton caught the only Gator touchdown pass of the day on his lone 15-yard reception. Sophomore Demarcus Robinson led all receivers with four receptions for 71 yards. Robinson also dropped a critical pass on fourth down late in the game to essential secure the loss for Florida. I did not want to blame Treon because I thought the ball hit Robinson's hands. After looking at the play again though, I saw that Robinson only got his right hand on the ball. It was unfortunately a miscommunication between quarterback and receiver.
Now on to that pick-six. The only reason it happened was because Tevin Westbrook, a senior tight end, could not catch an easy pass thrown to him. The ball deflected off his hands right to FSU's Terrence Brooks who then proceeded to take it to the house. This single play resulted in Westbrook being benched for Burton. Westbrook already held a special place in our hearts for his touchdown drop against LSU, now we can make room for yet another gaffe that only came in the biggest game of the year.
I am not going to solely blame Demarcus Robinson's or Tevin Westbrook's drops for the loss. It would be ignorant of me to blame an entire game's outcome on just two dropped passes. However, I will say that these mistakes can be grouped in with the various factors I mentioned earlier that did cost the Gators the game.
The last thing I'll say about the offense is that it was still terrible. Muschamp was lucky that Austin Hardin (sort of) showed up or it would not have even been close. I believe that the last offensive series for the Gators was Will Muschamp spiting the whole university for firing him. Now this is just my OPINION and may not even be true, but let me elaborate.
After getting bailed out by a pass interference penalty on fourth down, the Gators had the ball at midfield with 2:11 left in the game. Muschamp then proceeded to call a deep pass on both first and second down. This made no sense to me. The run game might not have been working at all up to that point, but there was no reason to at least not give it another shot instead of having to solely rely on the arm of a true freshman quarterback in crunch time.
Even if Muschamp would have preferred to keep it in the air, he did not need to go all or nothing with deep passes. It would have been more efficient to just chip away at FSU's defense with short passes and let the receivers make plays with their legs. Regardless, Muschamp's offensive play calling at the end of this game showed me a lot about him. To me, it looked like he was just throwing the ball downfield in search of a miraculous touchdown instead of trying to systematically move the ball. The only reason that I personally think a coach would do this would be to stick it to a university that fired him.
Again, this is my opinion and it is most likely that Will Muschamp was not trying to spite UF. Still, he will always be remembered as the WORST head football coach in Florida Gators' history and this Gator fan right here will not miss him. He is better off not even coming back to Gainesville and, like I said in the opening paragraph, I'm happy he is not coaching the bowl game! I say that simply because he is just not a good head coach. As a person he is a great man, but great character cannot serve as a substitute for actually winning football games.
As the offense continued to play poorly, the defense played exceptionally well. They picked off Jameis Winston four times today and held him to just 125 passing yards. The Gators responsible for the four interceptions tonight were junior Brian Poole with two, senior Jabari Gorman, and freshman Quincy Wilson. In addition to his interception, Jabari Gorman led the team with nine tackles (one tackle for loss).
Redshirt senior Michael Taylor, junior Jonathan Bullard, redshirt sophomore Marcus Maye, and junior Antonio Morrison all combined for 16 tackles. Taylor had seven (two tackles for loss), Bullard had six (two tackles for loss), Maye had five (one tackle for loss), and Morrison had five (one tackle for loss). Junior Dante Fowler recorded the Gators' only sack of the night and had four tackles (one tackle for loss) in his final regular season game as a Florida Gator.
The defense shut down FSU's run game even though the Seminoles rushed for 181 yards. Both of FSU's offensive touchdowns came through the air on mismatches with senior tight end Nick O'Leary. Apart from that, Vernon Hargreaves III's secondary was on point as they recorded the four interceptions, broke up four passes, and blew no coverages.
In special teams, redshirt sophomore Austin Hardin could have been a hero today. He made four kicks with the longest being a new career-long of 52 yards. After making his first four, however, Hardin failed to make his next two kicks with the Gators down by just two points.
Even though he left six points on the board, Hardin should not be completely blamed for the loss either as the offense should have cashed in touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. Still, it is gut-wrenching to think of what could have been had Hardin made all his kicks tonight.
In his last regular season game, senior Kyle Christy punted three balls for 139 yards. His longest punt was 53 yards and he landed one inside the 20 yard-line. He averaged 46.3 yards per punt.
The Gators now fall to 6-5 after being unable to defeat FSU for the second straight year. The Seminoles were not the better team as evidenced by the poor play of their "great" quarterback. This was a typical Florida Gator game. The offense did virtually nothing all game and the defense, as usual, had to carry the burden to keep the Gators in the game. Special teams somewhat showed up, but choked when it actually needed to make a play.
With Muschamp officially gone from the Gator sideline now, we can all be thankful that the style of play I mentioned above will no longer be a part of Gator football. The Gators will now await to see what bowl game they will be playing in. Some bowl games I think would be suitable are the: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the Belk Bowl, or the Texas Bowl.
Looking at the bright side, we will at least get to see the Gators play one more time. Hopefully the team will show up and bring UF its first bowl victory since 2011. After the bowl game, Florida should soon name its new head football coach. A bowl win and a decent head coach would be a great way to cap of what has been once again another mediocre football season for the Gators.
As Florida lies in mediocrity, FSU keeps on trucking toward the College Football Playoff. After surviving for the EIGTH time this season, #3 Florida State remains undefeated at 12-0 and their 28 game-win streak remains intact. The will face #16 Georgia Tech (10-2) for the ACC Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week on December 6th. Kickoff time is yet to be determined.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com
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