UF can't overcome mistakes
Published: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 6:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 8:38 p.m.
MIAMI GARDENS — After a loss, coaches usually like to get back in the film room and break things down before determining how and why it happened. Sometimes, it can be complicated, requiring lots of hours and analysis.
1. Just like they did in their only loss in the regular season a year ago, the Gators killed their chances of winning Saturday with turnovers and red-zone failures.
2. UF turned the ball over five times, including two Jeff Driskel interceptions deep in the red zone, and also failed to convert a fourth-and-1 that killed another scoring opportunity.
3. The Florida defense shut down the Hurricanes for most of the last three quarters, but gave up some big plays in the first quarter that gave Miami much-needed momentum and the early lead.
-- Robbie Andreu
Not this time. In fact, coach Will Muschamp doesn't need to watch any tape to know why the No. 12 Gators lost to Miami on Saturday. The reasons and answers spilled out right in front of him (and everyone else) in Florida's 21-16 loss to the Hurricanes before a sellout crowd of 76,869 at Sun Life Stadium.
“You can't turn it over five times and go 1-for-6 in the red zone scoring touchdowns (and expect to win),” Muschamp said. “We moved the ball for over 400 yards and mixed the run and the pass well. The bottom line is you cannot continue to shoot yourself in the foot and give someone else an opportunity, especially on the road.
“And we certainly did that. We gave them way too much momentum early in the game defensively, and you're not going to win any games turning it over five times, especially in the red zone. Just killer turnovers.”
The biggest killers came from junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who threw away two scoring chances with interceptions deep in the red zone — one in the second quarter and another in the fourth when the Gators (1-1) were desperately trying to come back.
Driskel also lost one of UF's three lost fumbles in what turned into a turnover fest for the Gators.
Driskel's last two turnovers were deadly. With UF driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown with less than seven minutes remaining in the game, Driskel rolled right on a third-and-3 play from the UM 17 and threw the ball toward two covered receivers. Cornerback Tracy Howard stepped in front of the throw for the interception.
On the Gators' next possession, Driskel fumbled as he was being sacked and UM recovered on the UF 4-yard line. Three plays later, tailback Duke Johnson scored from two yards out to give the 'Canes a 21-9 lead with only 3:29 to play.
Driskel threw a 21-yard TD pass to Solomon Patton with 2:08 to play, but too little too late for the Gators, who are 3-12 in their last 15 games against Miami.
“It's awful,” Driskel said of the turnovers and red-zone failures. “We were moving the ball all game long. We got in the red zone and penalties and turnovers really killed us. We stress it in the offseason, and it killed us today.”
Driskel said his fourth-quarter red-zone interception was a “dumb” decision on his part.
“We've got to be smarter in the red zone,” he said. “That was just a bad call on my part. (Trey Burton) was covered. You either throw the ball away or pick up the first down with your feet.
“It starts with me being careless with the ball. (The turnovers) were costly. We're going to have to recover from this and not hang our heads.”
Driskel and the offense produced some positive results at times in the loss. Driskel threw for 291 yards and a touchdown, the Gators rolled up 413 total yards and Patton had a career day, catching six passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Florida outgained the 'Canes (2-0) by 201 yards, but …
“That doesn't win you any games (when you turn the ball over five times),” Muschamp said.
At times Saturday, it appeared the Gators seemed like they were much better physically than the Hurricanes. They moved the ball up and down the field offensively and defensively dominated the game after the first quarter.
But every time it looked like the Gators were going to turn the game around with a scoring drive, they turned the ball over or failed to convert for a first down. The biggest failed conversion came in the second quarter when Driskel was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 sneak from the UM 16-yard line.
It was one of many red-zone failures that cost the Gators a chance to win the game.
The defense, despite shutting down Johnson and dominating for most of the game, also shares blame in the defeat. The defense got off to a shaky start, giving up two touchdown passes in the first quarter, the second coming on a 52-yard bomb from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett.
Muschamp said the early momentum the 'Canes gained in that first quarter was a huge factor in the game.
“We gave them what they needed early in the game,” Muschamp said. “That's on the defense.”
The rest of the momentum — and the game itself — was passed (and fumbled) to the Hurricanes by the Florida offense.
The final count in the red zone: two interceptions, a fumble and a turnover on downs.
It was a crushing loss for the Gators, and perhaps a defining victory for coach Al Golden and the Hurricanes.
“We've been through so much,” Golden said. “It was almost cathartic, to be honest with you. It was 26 months (involving an NCAA investigation) just unleashed there in the last four or five seconds. I'm proud of these guys. You guys watched us grow.
“I'm real proud of the way the guys fought. There was nothing easy on that field for either team. It was a good hard-nosed football game.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.