JACKSONVILLE — It’s never fun to lose to a rival, but UF’s 24-17 loss to Georgia on Saturday stings a little extra:
A shot at the College Football Playoff out the window. Dreams of a conference championship all but dead. Three-straight losses to the Bulldogs for the first time since 1989.
Unfortunately for the Gators, their ugliest performance of the season — from the head coach on down — came at the worst possible time.
“I'm frustrated because, like I said, there's all little things you can point out,” coach Dan Mullen said.
If somebody would’ve told you before the game that Florida’s defense held D’Andre Swift, the SEC’s leading rusher, under 100 yards, you probably would’ve liked UF’s chances.
That’s about where the positives end, however.
Let’s start with Mullen, whose play-calling was certainly questionable.
On the game’s first drive, he elected to throw the ball on fourth and 1. The pass was incomplete. Three dynamic players — quarterback Emory Jones, receiver Kadarius Toney and running back Lamical Perine — were underutilized in the contest. The Gators’ final drive of the game, with the team down 14, took an eternity at 6 minutes and 50 seconds and featured several time-consuming run plays.
Perhaps even more damning for the coaching staff, however, was how unprepared Florida looked. Its opening drive, for example, featured two unnecessary timeouts. There were penalties for illegal substitutions, false starts and a delay of game. There were blown coverages (notably when Lawrence Cager was left uncovered on a 52-yard score in the fourth quarter) and dropped passes.
To be fair, the poor performance wasn’t all on the coaches. The defense simply didn’t execute, especially when it mattered most — Georgia was 12 for 18 on third down (and 8 for 11 in the first half). A big part of that success came down to the lack of pressure on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. Though the defensive line contained the run, UF didn’t sack Fromm once and hurried him just twice.
The result? Fromm, who threw for just 35 yards in Georgia’s last game against Kentucky, exploded for 279 and two touchdowns today.
To make matters worse, the Gators failed to force a turnover for the second time in three games.
The offense didn’t fare much better, especially in the first three quarters. During that time, the Gators managed just three points and were 0 for 5 on third down. They turned it around with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter but finished the game with just 21 rushing yards.
Florida’s performance against Georgia, from top to bottom, didn’t cut it. It’s a performance that will remain on the minds of fans and players alike if (when?) Georgia plays in Atlanta on Dec. 7.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
UF coach Dan Mullen was forced to burn two timeouts on his team's opening drive.