Tuesday, November 29, 2016

UF Football: #14 FSU Defeats #15 Florida for Fourth Straight Year

For the fourth and final time as an undergraduate student at the University of Florida, I am writing about a Florida loss to Florida State. This past weekend in Tallahassee, the then No. 15 ranked Gators (8-3) could not mount any offensive attack whatsoever as the formerly No. 14 ranked Seminoles (9-3) blasted them 31-13. This victory now makes Florida State's senior class 8-0 against in-state rivals Florida and Miami.

I don't even know why I'm addressing this section of the article. Last week was the WORST I have seen Florida's offense all season! For the second time this year, the Gators failed to score an offensive touchdown.

Quarterback Austin Appleby ran for his life against Florida State. The graduate transfer was sacked six times for a total loss of 45 yards while also fumbling once. Two of these sacks came from defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who looked like a first rounder against Florida's battered offensive line.

When he was able to throw the ball, Appleby completed 19 of 35 passes for 149 yards. This was by far his worst game of the season.

On the ground, sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett could not get anything going. He carried the ball 14 times for 53 yards. Florida State's defense would not budge as the Gators only ran for 58 yards in the game.

In the receiving corps, sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway had his second-highest catch total of the season as he nabbed six balls for 58 yards. He also ran the ball once for a 24-yard gain on the the third play of the game. If anything, Callaway's performance should be the most positive takeaway from Florida's dismal offensive performance last Saturday.

The offense mustered just 207 yards while averaging 2.0 yards per rush and 4.3 yards per pass attempted. The Gators went 0-12 on third down conversions in the game, replacing the 1980 Louisville Cardinals as the latest team to not convert any third down against Florida State in a game.

Florida reached the red zone once all game. On their first possession, they drove all the way to the Florida State two-yard line before going for it and failing to convert on fourth down and goal. I thought not kicking would hurt Florida in the long run, but an 18-point loss put all of those thoughts to bed.

For the second straight year, Dalvin Cook ran all over a depleted Gator defense. The junior out of Miami rushed for 153 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown in what many presumed to be his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The defense allotted 387 yards and was unable to touch quarterback Deondre Francois. The redshirt freshman showed much poise against the Gators as he both threw and ran for a touchdown. It's hard to think he was feeling any pressure with a running back as good as Cook, a healthy offensive line, and almost 80,000 fans behind him.

The Gators leading tackler was Marcell Harris, who was a big bright spot for the defense. The redshirt junior received the start at safety for the second consecutive week and notched a game-high 11 tackles (nine of which were solo).

He was there to recover a fumble that Chris Thompson forced on a punt near the beginning of the fourth quarter. Not only did he recover it though, he took it in for his first collegiate score. This would be Florida's lone touchdown of the night.

Harris would not be done with fumbles though. With a little over six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, he blasted Francois on a quarterback keeper to force a fumble with the Gators down 24-13.

A few notches behind Harris, true freshman Chauncey Gardner recorded six tackles as he made his college debut as starting safety. He also obtained his first collegiate interception after picking off Francois in the early stages of the third quarter. He returned it 15 yards before being tackled at the Florida State 27-yard line.

Four other Gator defenders worth mentioning are Kylan Johnson, David Reese, Caleb Brantley, and Joey Ivie. Holding down the linebacking core, Johnson broke up a pass and also had a tackle for loss while Reese had five tackles. On the defensive line, Brantley had five wrap ups (two TFL) while Ivie blocked Florida State's first field goal attempt in the first quarter.

In the secondary, both of Florida's lockdown cornerbacks balled. Jalen "Teez" Tabor and Quincy Wilson broke up three passes a piece and Tabor was there to recover the Francois fumble in the fourth quarter.

Special Teams
In the special teams unit, the road environment somewhat got to kicker Eddy Pineiro. He was perfect on his field goal attempts, as he nailed both a 38-yarder in the second quarter and a 41-yarder in the third quarter. He also converted his lone extra point attempt following the scoop and score touchdown in the fourth quarter.

On kickoffs, however, he looked human for the first time all season. Of his four kicks, half of them went out of bounds with only one being a touchback. Considering how consistent Pineiro has been all season though, it can be safe to say this game was probably just an outlier.

In the punting sphere, Johnny Townsend (who I still can't believe isn't a Ray Guy finalist) continued to do his job well. The redshirt junior sent off six punts and averaged 47.2 yards per punt. He pinned Florida State inside their own 20-yard line twice and had two punts go over 50 yards. His longest punt of the night was a 55-yarder in the second quarter.

In the return game, Antonio Callaway returned one punt for two yards. For kickoff duties, senior Chris Thompson took back two kicks for a total of 29 yards.

Final Takeaway
I'd be lying if I said it doesn't hurt. To see the Gators play one competitive game against the 'Noles in my four years here is quite disheartening to say the least. It feels as if the tail end of 2015 is repeating itself all over again.

Florida State dominates Florida, then the Gators have to turnaround and play an insanely good Alabama team in the SEC Championship the following week. If history repeats itself (which it most likely will), the Gators will get smoked in Atlanta and most likely return to the Citrus Bowl to play a team like Louisville (9-3).

I don't like to even say this, but I give the Gators absolutely zero chance to win on Saturday. I love this team and my school, but the facts are there in front of everyone to see. Please just take a look at the Gator injury report below.

Alex Anzalone (Arm) - Linebacker
Bryan Cox Jr. (Ankle) - Defensive Lineman
Cam Dillard (Knee) - Center
Marcus Maye (Arm) - Safety
Jordan Sherit (Knee) - Defensive Lineman
Nick Washington (Ankle) - Safety

Jarrad Davis (Ankle) - Linebacker
Luke Del Rio (Shoulder) - Quarterback

Duke Dawson (TBA) - Cornerback
Martez Ivey (Leg) - Left Guard

Even with a healthy team, No. 1 Alabama (12-0) would be difficult to beat. This is by far one of the best teams Nick Saban has ever assembled and almost looks like a shoo-in to win back-to-back National Championships. In terms of a score, I see Alabama winning 49-6.

The SEC Championship between the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 15 Florida Gators will kickoff at 4 p.m. this Saturday on CBS. It can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. I am praying for a competitive game, but I honestly do not believe we are going to get one.

As for No. 12 Florida State, they finish the season at 9-3 and third overall in the ACC Atlantic division. They will await for their postseason fate to be announced on Sunday, December 4th. With wins over Florida and Miami along with a chance to win at least 10 games for the fifth straight season, it has yet again been another successful year for the Florida State Seminoles football program.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
**Gator injury report accredited to 247 Sports



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