Today's storylines: UF-Ga. Southern
Published: Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 1:08 a.m.
Echoes in The Swamp?
Even though less than 6,000 tickets remain unsold for today's game, many, including some Florida players, are wondering just how many fans are going to show up in The Swamp today. The Gators are on a five-game losing streak, the offense is struggling and the opponent is Georgia Southern. It adds up to possibly a lot of empty seats in the stadium today. One player, defensive tackle Leon Orr, is asking the fans to show up today. “I mean, I would ask everybody to come. I expect our Gators to always come out there and support us. I never really expect anything less than the best because we are Florida Gators and they do support us like they do,” Orr said.
Memories of Furman
If the Gators take the Eagles lightly today, they could find themselves in a lot of trouble — just like they did in 2011 against Furman. In a game the Gators needed to win to become bowl eligible, UF came out sleepwalking and nearly got embarrassed by the Paladins, who ran a triple-option offense similar to Georgia Southern's. In a shocking opening to the game, the Gators found themselves behind 22-7 at the end of the first quarter and looking at one of the biggest upset losses in school history. UF managed to take command in the second quarter and win going away, 54-32. The lesson is: Don't take anyone lightly, even Furman or Georgia Southern, especially when you're 4-6.
No lineup is the same
Here's a good indication of how the multiple injuries have disrupted Florida's offense this season: The Gators have had a different starting offensive lineup in all 10 games in 2013. UF has had only three offensive players start every game — center Jonotthan Harrison, offensive guard/tackle Max Garcia and wide receiver Quinton Dunbar. The Gators have had even fewer 10-game starters on defense. Just two — safety Cody Riggs and defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. This may help explain why the Gators have had a problem developing a strong chemistry on the field.
Opening up the playbook
After taking the ultra-conservative route on offense last week at South Carolina, the Gators are expected to open their playbook this week for whoever starts at quarterback — junior Tyler Murphy or redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg. UF was so afraid of disastrous negative plays starting Mornhinweg last week that he spent most of the game handing off. Now that he has some playing experience, and the Gators are at home against a heavy underdog, the Gators plan to expand their game plan and take some shots down the field in the passing game.
The last time the Gators won a game was on Oct. 5 at home against Arkansas. Since then, they have lost five games in five different cities and seen numerous season-ending injuries. This team isn't the same as the one that took the field for Florida's last win 49 days ago, but with the emergence of players like freshman running back Kelvin Taylor (pictured), a victory seems close. Today will be UF's best chance.
Last season, Florida beat FCS opponent Jacksonville State with an untested starting quarterback (Jacoby Brissett) and a conservative offensive gameplan and a dominating defense. The Gators beat the Gamecocks 23-0, scoring one touchdown on offense, one on defense and not turning the ball over. That gameplan worked a season ago, but if Georgia Southern gets its triple-option offense going, Florida might need more than 23 points.
What a rush
Georgia Southern has played a highly ranked SEC team in each of the past two seasons — No. 3 Alabama in 2011 and No. 5 Georgia in 2012. While the overmatched Eagles lost both games decisively, their ground game gave those high-caliber defenses fits, amassing 302 rushing yards in each of the two games. Alabama and Georgia each scored 45 points to put Georgia Southern away.
Can't look ahead
The Gators face a juggernaut in rival FSU next week in The Swamp, but must put all of their focus on getting past the Eagles today. Players have been saying all the right things this week, but with such a monumental matchup, it may be hard not to let it creep into their minds. Florida needs a win and a confidence boost in the worst way, and today's game could net the Gators both provided they can put aside all of the distractions (past and future) and impose their will on a seemingly overmatched Georgia Southern team.