Gators lose on line of scrimmage


Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) walks off the field after the game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 in Baton Rouge, La. LSU defeated Florida 17-6. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Tyler Murphy played the good soldier, heaping praise on an offensive line that had left him feeling like a pinata by the end of the day. In the cramped and sweaty interview room, he talked about how the loss to LSU was his fault.

Anyone with eyes knew better.

Before Murphy spoke, coach Will Muschamp complained about his defense. You know, the defense that gave up three second-half points and 17 overall to a team averaging 45 points a game.

Linebacker Michael Taylor said the problem against LSU was “we didn’t hold them enough and that’s the bottom line.”

But for this old-school Florida team, the game was lost because of a lot of little things and one great big thing — the Gators didn’t protect Murphy.

Florida lost 17-6 because it couldn’t score touchdowns, and it couldn’t score touchdowns because Murphy was being chased around the backfield like he had the tap for the after-game kegger.

Florida is a team built on a philosophy of toughness, and on Saturday it was soft up front. It lost the lines of scrimmage, and Muschamp has preached that it’s a line-of-scrimmage league. As the rest of college football has evolved into fast-paced offensive ball, Florida has been a throwback team.

And that has worked more times than not. On Saturday, it did not.

LSU threw at the Gators the most athletic defenders Florida has seen. They have struggled this year because of their youth, but it doesn’t take a grown-up to stop an offense like the one that showed up Saturday.

In one stretch, Murphy went 3-for-3 passing. For one yard. Now that’s moving the chains.

“It’s definitely frustrating when guys are down the field and you can’t get it to them,” Murphy said.

Everything had been going so smoothly for the Florida quarterback since he took over for the injured Jeff Driskel. He had been praised by Florida fans so much you wondered if they were going to make room for a fourth statue.

Murphy had made a Florida offense watchable, if not entertaining. But in this game, he was sacked four times and pressured all day. He could have thrown an interception ... or two or three more. But fortunately, LSU’s defenders had the dropsies.

“I never thought of myself as the miracle guy,” Murphy said.

And he took the blame again.

“It’s my fault,” he said.

Murphy wasn’t at his best, but neither was the other quarterback. Zach Mettenberger was pretty average against Florida’s defense. His own coach said as much.

But average was good enough against anemic.

Florida finished the game with 240 offensive yards. Even though the defense gave up 200 yards in the first half and a killer of a drive in the fourth quarter, it played well enough to win.

“It’s not bad, but it was 17-6 so that wasn’t good enough,” said defensive tackle Damien Jacobs.

It’s always easy to blame the coaches after a loss, and certainly there is plenty to go around. In the end, the SEC’s best defense against the run allowed 175 rushing yards. Running backs rarely made the most yardage out of plays that were blocked well. There were too many bad penalties at bad times.

But, as Muschamp said, the season is still there to salvage. The SEC East changed drastically Saturday with Georgia losing, unbeaten Missouri losing its quarterback and South Carolina looking like South Carolina for the first time this season.

But if the Gators are going to continue to play with this run-first, physical style that has a small margin for error, it’d be a good idea to toughen up and quit making mistakes.

A team that takes so few chances shouldn’t have so many negative plays. In the last two games, Florida has had 20 plays that lost yardage, not counting penalties.

“That’s a concern,” Muschamp said.

In the Gator Nation, it’s more than a concern.

It’s a mess.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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