UF can't find end zone

Auburn Tigers running back Onterio McCalebb (23) runs past Florida Gators defenders Jelani Jenkins (3) and Matt Elam (22) for a 14-yard touchdown during the second half at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. The Tigers defeated the Gators 17-6.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.

AUBURN, Ala. — Just when it seemed that things couldn't possibly get any worse for the Florida Gators, they slipped ever deeper into their offensive funk Saturday night.


Three things

1. The Gators lost two muffed punts that set up Auburn's first touchdown and led to the Tigers' clinching field goal with only 35 seconds to go in the game.
2. UF played both true freshmen quarterbacks — Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel — but the results were the same. The Gators could not sustain drives and failed to score a touchdown.
3. During their three-game losing streak, the Gators have combined to score only 27 points.

How inept have the Gators become?

Well, in their 17-6 loss before 87,451 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Gators made No. 24 Auburn's defense, the worst in the SEC, look like Alabama's defense, the best in the SEC.

Hard to do, but the Gators managed.

UF threw both of its true freshmen quarterbacks — Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel — at the porous Tigers, but the results were basically the same for both, who are gaining experience the hard way.

“Both guys didn't do anything that really killed us,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “But they didn't do enough to help our football team. We need to put those guys in a position where they can be successful.”

The Gators failed to find the end zone, failed to sustain drives, failed to make any big plays — and have now scored a meager 27 points in their last three games.

The only thing worse than the offense, was UF's inability to field punts. The Gators lost two muffed punts and had three others they managed to fall on.

The first lost muff, by Chris Rainey, led to Auburn's first touchdown. The second, by Robert Clark, prevented UF from having a chance to possibly put together a game-tying drive in the final five minutes and led to a clinching Auburn field goal with 35 seconds to play.

Florida is now on a full-fledged losing streak, dropping its third consecutive SEC game to fall to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in league play. Auburn improves to 5-2 and 3-1.

“It was a tough, hard-fought game,” Muschamp said. “Obviously, three turnovers led to 10 points. It's tough to win the game (when you do that). And for the third game in a row, we got no turnovers (on defense).

“We've got to create some positive momentum for our football team and our offense. It's something we've got to be able to do.”

The Gators have no momentum heading into a bye week.

While the UF defense showed up for the first time in three weeks, limiting Auburn to basically one touchdown and only 278 total yards, the Gator offense continued to stumble around in a fog.

The Gators had no running game to speak of (66 yards), gave up four sacks and managed to produce a mere 194 yards of total offense against an AU defense that was giving up 439.5 a game, worst in the SEC.

Florida's offense consisted of junior place-kicker Caleb Sturgis, who made field goals of 47 and 25 yards, both in the second quarter.

“That was a great win, a great all-around team win,” AU coach Gene Chizik said. “Every phase of our football team contributed. That was a very talented football team we beat tonight. No question.

“I think our defense is getting better every week. That is one of our goals. The kicking game was off the charts. That was the difference in the ball game. That was a great win for Auburn.”

Despite UF's offensive ineptitude, the Gators were still very much in the game late in the fourth quarter. After forcing the Tigers to punt from their own end zone, the Gators had a chance to get the ball back near midfield with a little more than three minutes to play in a one-score game.

But Clark, the No. 2 punt returner, dropped Steve Clark's towering punt and AU defensive back Ikeem Means recovered the loose ball on the UF 47. The Tigers iced the game a few minutes later on a 42-yard field goal by Cody Parkey.

“Turnovers killed us,” Muschamp said. “Turnovers led to 10 points and that really cost us the football game.

“I told them that losing is hard, losing is tough. It's not fun. But we're going to stay the course here. The guys fought and competed hard in the game. I saw some things we need to do as a program to take steps forward.”

Brissett started the game and played the first half, completing five of 10 passes for 45 yards, with one interception. He was sacked twice.

Muschamp made the decision to turn the game over to Driskel in the second half.

“We had only six points at the half,” he said. “We needed to do something.”

Driskel completed eight of 18 passes for 75 yards and was sacked twice.

While most will judge Saturday night's game to be another meltdown by the young Florida offense, Chizik took a different view of it.

“It's was a dominant performance by our defense,” he said.

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