Excuses will run out for the Gators when they face The 12th Man this weekend.
Coming off an undisciplined season opener in which it committed 14 penalties against Bowling Green in The Swamp, Florida travels to College Station, Texas, on Saturday to take on Texas A&M in front of more than 80,000 rabid fans at Kyle Field.
The Aggies will be playing their first Southeastern Conference game in school history, but the Gators said they’ve shaken off the first-game jitters. While Florida played Bowling Green on Saturday, Texas A&M postponed its opener against Louisiana Tech due to Hurricane Isaac.
The Gators took measures to deal with crowd noise and penalties based on their previous outing.
“(We’ve) got to be able to communicate through the crowd noise,” redshirt senior guard James Wilson said. “We’ve got to do away with a lot of the penalties that we had last week.”
Florida finished last year as one of the nation’s 10 most penalized teams on a per-game basis and focused on minimizing the yellow flags in the offseason.
A constant stream of penalties Saturday puzzled coaches and players, including junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins.
“Guys (were) excited, being at the first game in the Swamp,” Jenkins said. “I mean a lot of things carries into it. … We worked on it in practice and just didn’t show up.”
Six came from the offensive side, including an illegal cut block from Wilson in the second quarter that left the Gators in a second-and-25. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said the three false starts were critical, but viewed the team’s two late-hit (Andre Debose and Lerentee McCray) and one illegal block (Wilson) penalties as a larger problem.
“We’ve got to understand to be cleaner with their hands or cleaner with their blocks and do that,” Pease said. “We’ll get better at those. You go back and look at it. I don’t think the management of things or time (are) issues. I don’t see us having any of that. We had a good tempo and all of that.”
The defense didn’t fare much better, drawing five flags for 26 yards. Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins and senior safety Josh Evans said the issue isn’t anything the coaches can’t fix.
“We got a couple penalties where we were too aggressive,” Evans said. “There’s nothing wrong with aggression. That’s easily corrected.”
Both the offensive and defensive groups have taken their own measures to deal with the recurring problem, with Muschamp saying he has exhausted every measure he knows.
“I know when we go offside on defense, we personally come straight out of the game,” Evans said. “Obviously that affects the person.
“(It) lets him know that he has to get his stuff together or he won’t play.”
Florida committed 16 penalties at home against Tennessee last season in its first SEC game and racked up 32 in a three-game conference stretch on the road in October.
“Obviously coach addressed it,” Watkins said. “You know we don’t want to go back out on the road like we did last year with penalties and we had a hundred yards in penalties that led to a few scores too.”
Contact Adam Pincus at [email protected].