Gators sink further into losing streak

The loss is an unprecedented low point in the Urban Meyer era.


Published: Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 11:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 11:46 p.m.

On a night when the Florida Gators had a chance to firm up their grip on the SEC's Eastern Division race, they let their season slip a little further away with yet another stunning loss before another disbelieving crowd in The Swamp on Saturday night.

Facts

Three things to know

1. Chas Henry's potential game-tying field goal drifted wide right with only four seconds left in the game, sending the Gators to their third consecutive loss and second home loss in a row.

2. The Gators got off to another awful start, falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, and lost a crucial fumble on the MSU 17-yard line midway through the fourth quarter when it looked like UF was about to take the lead.

3. The UF defense had problems getting the Bulldogs off the field, even though they were one-dimensional — running the football 49 times in 58 plays.

This time it was Mississippi State and former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen leaving everyone feeling like they'd been punched in the gut.

Chas Henry's 42-yard field goal attempt with four seconds remaining in the game sailed wide right — way wide right — to give the underdog Bulldogs a 10-7 victory, sending the reeling Gators (4-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC) to their third consecutive SEC loss and second home loss in as many weeks.

"We're not very good right now," UF coach Urban Meyer said.

He said the same thing two more times during his somber post-game press conference.

The loss is an unprecedented low point in the Meyer era. It's the first time the Gators have lost three in a row under Meyer (and the first time UF has done it since 1999) and the first time UF has lost two in a row at home with Meyer. Also for the first time since Meyer's been here, the Gators will not be ranked in the polls that come out on Sunday.

"We've won a lot of games around here with guys making plays and finding a way to win games," Meyer said. "If you look back at some big-time wins, guys stepped up and made plays. We just have to do that. Right now, we're not."

It's the other teams making the plays now.

While it was a crushing loss for the Gators, it was a potential program-changing victory for the Bulldogs, who last won at Florida Field in 1965.

"I will tell you, that was a great, great team win by a bunch of young men that when I came here two years ago, we said, 'We are going to give you a plan for success,' " Mullen said. "I kept telling our players these are the types of games we need to make plays, and in the end, we made the plays we needed to make."

Despite enduring another disjointed first half that saw the Gators fall behind 10-0, UF had a chance to tie the game or pull out a victory in the closing seconds. But they couldn't find any late magic.

Behind the passing of quarterback John Brantley, the Gators, 94 yards away with 2:00 to play in the game, drove to the MSU 25-yard line. But with only 11 second remaining following a Brantley incompletion, UF had to call on Henry, the UF punter who has had to fill-in for injured place-kicker Caleb Sturgis.

Henry's kick never had a chance, drifting to the right from the start. He also missed a 38-yard attempt in the second quarter.

"Chas is trying," Meyer said.

Said wildcat quarterback Trey Burton: "That's a lot of pressure on Chas. That's not his position."

The Florida offense is trying, too, but getting pretty much the same results. The Gators were shut out in the first half, lost a fumble in the red zone (17-yard line) midway through the fourth quarter and had problems protecting Brantley and generating a ground game.

UF's lone score came on a 5-yard TD run by wide receiver Omarius Hines with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter to make it a 10-7 game.

The Gators two scoring chances in the fourth quarter produced nothing. Jeff Demps lost a fumble on the MSU 17 and Henry missed the potential game-tying kick.

"I don't ever remember losing three games in a row in my life," senior UF center Mike Pouncey said. "This is one of the toughest times in my life. We're just going to stick together and get through this one."

Earlier in the night, South Carolina was upset at Kentucky. A Florida win would have put the Gators in command in the division race.

Still, if they somehow win their remaining three SEC games (Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina), they'll make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

"We still have control of our destiny," senior strong safety Ahmad Black said.

The Gators now head into a bye week before going to Jacksonville to face improving Georgia.

When asked if there might be some major re-hauling of the offense during the off week, Meyer said, "I think so. We have to be able to run the football. The offensive line is getting hammered pretty good, but there is enough blame to go everywhere. We have to have some run game."

As they have done in every game but one this season, the Gators came out of the gate stumbling. After this first-quarter meltdown, Florida found itself down 10-0.

The offense opened the game with a quick three-and-out, and things didn't get much better from there. Among the negative plays was a sack and an interception by MSU cornerback Johnthan Banks on a tipped Brantley pass on a fourth-down play.

The Bulldogs took that turnover and turned it into a 64-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 6-yard run by quarterback Chris Relf that gave MSU a 10-0 lead with 45 seconds left in the quarter.

MSU had taken a 3-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Sean Brauchle just less than seven minutes into the quarter. The scoring drive was launched on the second play with a 30-yard pass from Relf to wide receiver Chad Bumphis.

For the quarter, the Gators managed only 25 yards of total offense compared to 106 for the Bulldogs.

On the season, the Gators have scored only 14 points in the first quarter, all coming in a victory over Kentucky.

As it did in the previous two games, this bad start led to another loss.

The offense, especially the pass protection, was so bad at one point in the first half that Meyer sat down Brantley for a few plays and let Trey Burton take over at quarterback. But the results were pretty much the same regardless of who took the snaps.

The Gators finished the first half with only eight first downs and 17 yards rushing.

It was the first time the Gators were shut out in the first half in The Swamp since 2007 against Auburn.

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