One main reason for this loss


Florida Gators running back Kelvin Taylor (21) is tackled on a run during the second half of the Gators' 23-20 loss against the Georgia Bulldogs on November 02, 2013 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Fla. (Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 9:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 10:41 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE — They were dead, wearing cement boots and about to be dumped in the St. Johns River when it happened the way it has happened in this series before. One play, one crazy play, and the momentum switched from the team full of life to the zombies.

A lateral that was picked up by Leon Orr set Florida up for a score and before you knew it, this team that had played embarrassing football for a half suddenly looked like it could win this game and shut up everyone who had Twitter screamed for Will Muschamp’s job all day.

The next thing you knew it was 23-20 and momentum had switched sides of the field.

In a game with so many Fourth-and-Dumbs that Doug Dickey must have been smiling somewhere, Florida appeared poised to complete a comeback when Georgia’s fourth-down try went nowhere and Florida took over at the Bulldog 39. You could taste the end of the losing streak.

Of course, there can be no good without bad on this team and Neiron Ball was called for removing his helmet after the play, backing the Gators up to their 46.

“My helmet was in a very uncomfortable position (on his nose) and the only thing I did was take it off,” Ball said.

But that’s not why Florida lost the game.

The offense was awful (again) in the first half of the game. Other than an 83-yard pass to Quinton Dunbar that resulted in no points (only at Florida) and a field-goal drive, the offense was business as usual.

But that’s not why Florida lost the game.

Muschamp made a questionable decision to go for a fourth-and-10 at the Georgia 40 late in the first half. The play was a doozy, a three-yard loss on a pass, and Georgia parlayed the stop into the three points that would eventually win the game.

“We wanted to play aggressively,” Muschamp said. “If they had any timeouts, I probably would have kicked.”

But that’s not why Florida lost the game.

The Gators had their usual array of penalties at the wrong time, their weekly wildcat play that lost yardage and opened up the game by letting Todd Gurley do what he wanted.

But that’s not why Florida lost the game.

Florida lost the game — and this is a recurring theme — because it couldn’t stop Georgia when it absolutely had to stop Georgia. Florida lost the game when its defense had found itself in the second half and then inexplicably lost it over the final 8:17 of the game.

Florida lost the game because Florida is what it is — a challenged offense with struggling kickers and a defense that can’t decide what it wants to be.

“It’s not one thing,” Muschamp said. “We’re certainly inconsistent (defensively). That’s the frustrating thing for me right now.”

There may not be a more frustrated man than Muschamp, who barked back at a fan yelling at the Florida coach as he left the field.

So are the Gator fans who are staring down the embarrassing possibility of having their first losing season since Jimmy Carter was president and their first bowl-less season in 23 years.

“People are down, but we’re not going to quit,” said running back Mack Brown, who scored Florida’s first offensive touchdown against Georgia in 105:05 (the first quarter of the 2011 game).

And that’s the best thing you can say about this team right now — down 23-3, the Gators fought back and had a chance.

“Both sides of the ball played their hearts out,” said receiver Solomon Patton. “They just came out on top.”

It was a game where it looked like the team that made the fewest bone-headed plays would win. That turned out to be Georgia, despite letting the Gators back in the game with the errant lateral pass and a safety.

This frustrating season, one punctuated by injuries and mistakes, isn’t over but it’s over. The SEC East is a pipe dream.

“You rally around the fact that you play at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said.

Right now, that’s about all these guys have.

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

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