Gators can't overcome mistakes

Vanderbilt Commodores defensive back Andre Hal (23) returns an interception past Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp during the first half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 6:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 6:57 p.m.

A big factor in Florida’s success last season was turnover margin.

Florida finished plus-15 in 2012, with 30 turnovers forced and 15 committed. An opportunistic Florida defense and conservative mistake-free offense helped lead the Gators to an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl berth.

But Florida isn’t playing with close to the same level of discipline or defensive playmaking ability in 2013. Turnovers doomed the Gators in Saturday’s 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt at Florida Field. Florida turned the ball over four times, with Vanderbilt cashing in three of the turnovers for 21 points.

“You can’t turn the ball over four times and spot them the ball on the 10, the 22, the 40 and the 2,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “We’re not good enough to overcome critical mistakes like that.”

On defense, Florida had no turnovers and was unable to rattle redshirt freshman Vanderbilt quarterback Patton Robinette into any mistakes. The Gators had a chance early, but freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III dropped a potential interception for a touchdown when he jumped a route in the first quarter.

“Vernon made a heckuva break on the play and you just have to reel that one in,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes when you are rolling, you get those. Right now, things are bouncing the other way. We’ve got to make them bounce our way.”

Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy accounted for all four of Florida’s turnovers on offense, three coming on interceptions. UF’s fourth turnover came when Murphy lost the ball after getting strip-sacked from behind.

On one of the interceptions, Florida receiver Trey Burton juggled a ball that was behind him. The loose ball fell into the hands of Vanderbilt safety Andrew Williamson, who returned the pick to the Florida 4-yard line.

“The one overthrow on our sideline, the ball came (Murphy’s) of his hand, it sailed on him a little bit,” Muschamp said. “Trey, the ball was a little behind him, but you’ve gotta make that play. He’s a senior. You gotta make that play.”

The four turnovers against Vanderbilt dropped UF’s turnover margin to minus-2 this season. Florida has lost 17 turnovers, while forcing just 15. Florida sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. refused to use the loss of defensive playmakers Matt Elam, Jon Bostic and Josh Evans as an excuse for UF’s defensive woes.

“We’re D-I material,” Fowler said. “We’re at Florida, we’ve got to be some type of good. We just have to do what they did, get the ball out, create more turnovers, get the ball to the offense and things will work out.”

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