Notebook: Homecoming game struggles continue for Florida

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Missouri wide receiver Kam Scott scores a touchdown Saturday against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Lauren Bacho/Staff Photographer]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

Homecoming has not treated the Gators well in recent years.

Florida’s homecoming winning streak was snapped in 2010 when Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State team pulled off a 10-7 upset in The Swamp. Since that night, it’s been a bad stretch for UF.

Missouri’s 38-17 win Saturday is the Gators’ fifth loss in the last nine games, giving them a 4-5 homecoming record for the decade. The Gators also lost to Vanderbilt in 2013, the Tigers in 2014 and LSU last season.

Prior to the 2010 matchup with Mississippi State, Florida had won 21 homecoming games in a row and last loss to Auburn in 1988. The Commodores will be the homecoming opponent next season.

The Gators are also 3-4 in their last seven SEC contests at home. Despite those struggles, Mullen urged the fans to show up for the South Carolina game and continue supporting the team.

“If we want the program back, we need a sold-out stadium next week and unbelievable home-field advantage,” Mullen said after the Missouri loss. “That’s how it works, I’m going to be honest with you. When we sell out the stadium, we’ll win a championship. It doesn’t go the other way.

“It’s not, ‘We win, you sell out.’ You sell out, you win. Go watch teams that have built programs. That’s how it works. I’m going to promise you we’ll give relentless effort for all the fans. We will continue to grind and continue to work.”

Third-down struggles

During the first half of the season, Florida’s third-down defense was stout under new coordinator Todd Grantham. The Gators had a three-game stretch where opponents were just 9 of 41 (21.95 percent) on third downs, moving their ranking up from 103rd to 50th nationally.

However, Florida has dropped the ball with its third-down defense in the last two games. The Georgia Bulldogs moved the chains on eight of 14 third-down attempts, including four conversions on their two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t get better against Missouri, as the Tigers converted 11 of their 18 third-down attempts. Mullen called the effort “horrific” after the game and pointed out the lack of pass rush on quarterback Drew Lock.

“I think we have to play a lot better defense. We’re not getting a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks,” Mullen said. “I mean, they were 24 of 32 passing today. How many sacks did we have? None. The entire time. That’s not really good. So, I think that’s the hardest reality for us as a team.”

Orange end zones

Steve Spurrier-Florida Field had a new look for the homecoming game Saturday.

The Gators painted the end zones orange, switching up from the typical grass backdrop. The field will remain that way for the final two home games of the season.

This isn’t the program’s first time featuring orange end zones on the field. Florida last went with the look in 1989, although the letters were in cursive font.

Steve Spurrier-Field Field hasn’t experienced any permanent changes since 2012. During that season, UF changed its tradition block ‘F’ at midfield to the Gator head logo.

Florida lands 2021 commit

The Gators picked up their first verbal commitment for the Class of 2021 on Saturday. Top-100 recruit Kamar Wilcoxson pulled the trigger while in attendance for the Missouri game Saturday. It was his first time visiting Florida this season.

He chose the Gators over early offers from Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, Penn State and Texas A&M, among others. The four-star athlete from Stephenson High School (Stone Mountain, Ga.) is ranked the nation’s No. 91 overall prospect by 247Sports.

A couple top-100 recruits from the 2019 class were also on hand Saturday, including an official visitor. UF hosted Georgia commit Travon Walker, a five-star defensive tackle from Upson-Lee High School (Thomaston, Ga.).

Walker is the nation’s top-ranked DT and No. 7 overall prospect, according to 247Sports. He has been committed to the in-state Bulldogs since late July, but is still considering other programs such as Clemson and Florida.

The Gators also had top-100 pass rusher Khris Bogle on campus for an unofficial visit. The four-star defensive end from Cardinal Gibbons High School (Fort Lauderdale) is ranked the No. 61 prospect nationally by 247Sports.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I have a idea how to help solve this maybe end all the parades and all the festivities crap because clearly our team hasn’t been taking these games too seriously past decade , end gator growl nuke it it’s over and replaced it game film study every night to get ready for these games thatvare meant to be easy . Get these guys completely focused and to go 110% every damn game regardless of who it is I don’t want them thinking about nothing but winning football games all week long that’s homecoming. This is a train wreck