FLORIDA FOOTBALL

Gators have so much to fix, so little time


UF coach Will Muschamp walks off the field after a timeout during Florida's 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern on Saturday. The loss was UF's first to an FCS team and it extended the Gators' losing streak to six games, ensuring the school's first losing season since 1979.

Elizabeth Hamilton / Correspondent
Published: Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.

The Florida Gators have been fed a steady diet of adversity this long, losing season. Injuries every week. Some heartbreaking losses. A nasty losing streak.

Facts

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Who: No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7)
When: Noon Saturday
TV/Radio: ESPN/WRUF

Now, something new and even more depressing to stomach: one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.

That's certainly what Saturday's 26-20 failure against Georgia Southern has to be considered. It was UF's first loss to a FCS team and it extended the Gators' losing streak to six games, ensuring the school's first losing season since 1979.

As low as the Gators (4-7) and their fans feel now, the freefall likely is not over with No. 2 Florida State (11-0) coming to The Swamp on Saturday. The way both teams are playing at the moment, more misery (and another unprecedented low) likely could be headed the Gators' way.

“Everybody, they've really got to dig deep down inside for this week,” senior offensive guard Jon Halapio said. “A team is coming in here this week that could potentially play in the national championship game. We've just go fix everything starting off on Monday.”

But there is so much to fix, and so little time.

The offense, playing with third-team quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, is having trouble stringing together first downs, much less sustaining scoring drives. And the defense continues to falter in critical situations. The Gators were helpless to stop Georgia Southern's triple-option attack, giving up 429 yards rushing.

Muschamp said after Saturday's defeat that the myriad problems with the offense are infecting the entire team.

“Where do you start?” Muschamp said. “From a protection standpoint, in the running game, being able to consistently run the ball and move the front. It's a combination of things, and it's just hard right now. As many moving parts as we've had (due to injuries), it's difficult.

“It becomes infectious. It's hard. When you give up 17 points, you hope you can score 17. That's hard right now. And you can look at where we've rolled since about the middle of the season to this point, that's what has happened to us.”

The Gators will go into Saturday's game knowing they're going to need to score a whole lot more than 17 points if they hope to even keep it close with the Seminoles, who have won their 11 games by an average of almost 44 points.

FSU is averaging 55.2 points a game and is coming off an 80-point performance against Idaho on Saturday. The Seminoles figure to be a three or four-touchdown favorite — and the Gators haven't shown the ability to score that many points.

“We haven't scored 20 points since the (Oct. 5) Arkansas game, and that's a problem,” Muschamp said on his television show Sunday.

Muschamp said Saturday night that he would not rule out injured quarterback Tyler Murphy for the Florida State game, but Murphy has been experiencing pain in his sprained right shoulder and has not been able to throw the ball the past two weeks in practice.

The Gators also have some new injuries to deal with. Starting middle linebacker Michael Taylor sprained his knee in Saturday's loss and likely will not play against the Seminoles. True freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone also is probably out after dislocating his shoulder Saturday.

“I'm not sure if Mike will be able to play this week,” Muschamp said. “We also lost Alex Anzalone. We're a little down at linebacker.

“David Campbell, a walk-on, came in and played and actually did a good job for us. That is what it is. We had to shuffle some guys to different spots.”

Saturday's loss also broke UF's 22-year bowl streak.

Halapio said the Gators will make the FSU game their bowl game.

“Very disappointed (that we're not going to a bowl game),” Halapio said. “We definitely wanted to go to a bowl game. We've got FSU coming up, so we've got to treat this like our bowl game. It really is our bowl game.”

Muschamp said the Gators will do all they can to get ready and compete Saturday.

“Our guys understand the importance of this game,” he said. “We'll work hard and we'll have a great crowd just like we did this past Saturday to support our guys.

“(It's) one of the great rivalries in all of college football. Florida State's got a good football team. They're having a great year. It would help us a lot to go get a win.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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