Kicked aside: Gators downed again at The Swamp

Texas A&M wide receiver Damion Ratley gestures after making a large gain for a first down Saturday against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Aggies beat Florida 19-16. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

These were the kind of games the Florida Gators used to somehow find a way to win. They were even doing it earlier this season.

But no more.

That fourth-quarter magic has been rubbed off, and now UF sees its season spiraling downward thanks to narrow back-to-back Swamp losses that have basically eliminated the Gators from the SEC East race.

After taking a 17-10 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter — a 6-yard touchdown run by Dre Massey that was set up by a remarkable 79-yard sprint across Florida Field by quarterback Feleipe Franks — the Gators could not hold on against surging Texas A&M.

The Aggies dominated the rest of the way, driving for three field goals by Daniel LaCamera, the game-winner coming with only 58 seconds remaining from 33 yards out to send the Gators to a 19-17 loss before 86,114 fans in The Swamp.

Any hopes for another last-second comeback ended quickly for the Gators, when Feleipe Franks threw an interception over the middle to A&M linebacker Tyrel Dodson on the first play after LaCamera’s winning kick.

“They played hard,” UF coach Jim McElwain said of his players. “Our guys played hard. We didn’t make a couple of plays down the stretch that we needed to make. They left it all out there.

“I believe in these guys, and I will continue to do that. We’ll continue to push and try to get better. We’ve got a lot of ball left.”

The loss drops the Gators to 3-3 overall, their worst start since 1986, and 3-2 in the SEC. A&M improves to 5-2 and 3-1.

Just like a week ago in the 17-16 loss to LSU, the Gators had nothing left down the stretch in the fourth quarter, with the Aggies dominating on both sides of the ball and outscoring the Gators 9-0 over the game’s final 14:54.

Other than his 79-yard run that set up the Massey touchdown, it was another tough game for the beleaguered  Franks, who threw for only 129 yards, was intercepted twice, sacked five times and had problems converting third downs, especially in the fourth quarter.

“I can do a better job in a lot of aspects,” Franks said. “Ultimately, it’s my job to get the offense moving. There were some series here and there where I didn’t make it happen. Ultimately, it’s on me.

“The plan was there. Just here and there, there were a couple of things we needed to do better. It falls on me. I’ve got to do a better job.”

For the struggling offense, it was a fairly productive overall night, with the Gators out-gaining the Aggies 371 yards to 263. But UF again struggled on third down, converting only four of 15.

“Third downs in the second half, we needed to stay on the field to give us an opportunity to be successful,” McElwain said.

The defense, like the offense, had a difficult fourth quarter. After giving up only 80 yards and two first downs in the first half, the Aggies’ offense got on a roll in the fourth quarter, piling up 127 yards and hurting the Gators with some explosive plays.

The two playmakers the Gators were focused on containing — dual-threat quarterback Kellen Mond and wide receiver/returner Christian Kirk — broke loose in the fourth quarter.

Kirk set up one of the field goals with a 40-yard reception. Then set up the game winner with a 43-yard punt return.

Mond, who threw for 180 yards on only eight completions for the game, killed the Gators with his legs in the second half, setting up his own 9-yard TD run with an 18-yard scramble late in the third quarter, then converting several crucial first downs with his scrambles and quarterback draws in the decisive fourth quarter.

“The defense played great in the first half, but they got a couple of explosives in the second half to flip the field,” McElwain said. “I give (the Aggies) credit. They took advantage of it. The defense did a pretty good job in the red area keeping them out of the end zone. It was a good call by them on the quarterback draw (for the TD in the third quarter).”

McElwain was upset that the Gators gave Kirk a chance to return a punt in the fourth quarter that launched the winning drive. He said earlier in the week that punter Johnny Townsend needed to kick the ball away from Kirk, or out of bounds.

“That’s what was supposed to happen and it didn’t,” McElwain said. “It came back and bit us.”

As for the performance of his quarterback, McElwain said Franks did some good things (obviously, the 79-yard run), but seemed to let the strong A&M pass rush get to him in the second half.

“We knew they were good pass rushers,” he said. “They did a good job rushing the quarterback and harassing us. He got a little jumpy in there at times.

“He made some good throws, knew where he was going with it. But the rush may have gotten to him a little bit.”

The Gators and Aggies are clearly heading in different directions.

Since losing the big lead in the season-opening loss, the Aggies have steadily improved and have won five of their last six games, the only loss coming against No. 1 Alabama a week ago.

“There have been a lot of doubters,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “But we’ve believed in ourselves.”

Up next

Who: Florida vs. Georgia

When: 3:30 p.m. Oct. 28

Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


  1. What did I say would happen? Exactly what did.

    Just some of the most, incompetent, amateurish coaching ive ever watched the last two weeks by the UF coaching staff. Just bumbled us out of two wins over teams we should have beaten.

    Two completely winnable games, lost. Couldn’t even score in the second half tonight, even after our defense put in a tremendous effort but were left hanging by an impotent offense… AGAIN.

    Every loss this season is on these coaches, period.

    Year three and UF is 3 – 3, about to be 3 – 4.

    The McElwain experiment is a failure.

    No more. Enough. UF, eat the buy-out and fire these clowns and hire a REAL coach who knows how to organize a program and win.

      • And because he’s got a ridiculous buyout

        If Mac doesn’t fire Nuss and Nord by Monday, he should be gone. It’s a bye week, no better time to make changes. If he doesn’t, we need some Bull Gators to step in. Stricklin is in a tough spot with all the facility upgrades and really, really can’t afford for big donators step away.

          • George, I’m afraid that by now, you’re exactly right. On the other hand, despite the criticism I’ll get for even mentioning this, I think Les Miles would. He’s got a lot of coaching left in him, and I’ll be the first to admit that the guy is one helluva offensive coach. Go after Chaves too, pay him what it takes to get him out of A&M, put the two of them back together and not only will Top-10 recruiting classes become the norm again, they’ll develop that talent into championship caliber teams. My thoughts only, of course.

    • The longer Mac stays, the longer it will take the program to recover. I’m tired of hearing those who think the solution is to fire Nuss. Mac is fully to blame for this floundering program. And……..let’s not absolve the “do nothing” Stricklin from culpability either!

    • 100% correct. The coaches are clowns. They are a joke. I have never seen a worse group coach at Florida. They are completely out of their league. We have talent, but they don’t know how to coach or what to do with the talent we have. They need to be fired. Look at what they are doing on the field. How much longer do we have to suffer with this garbage? Do something now or you will lose the entire fan base. This is not Florida football.

  2. The offense could have had all their playmakers back tonight including a 100% Tyrie Cleveland and I don’t think that it would have made a difference. The QB still has to get the receivers the ball. The lack of development by Franks is on him. He doesn’t seem to be improving and is not intuitively moving in the pocket. Time to go with Malik Zaire, play out the string and start at a very promising square one in 2018 with Matt Corral. The question who will be his back up? Or who will start the first few games if needed. I think that it will be a senior transfer from another Power 5 conference.

        • I get it, 2 loses -in a row- in THE SWAMP, and on its 25th ANNIVERSARY year, too. I get it! But the so-called savior, the Q.B. high school kid out of California would de-commit if Mac gets shown the door. The Muschamp era is still ”haunting” U.F. But what’s killing U.F. now is the Coach Mac Gators can’t play good football in the 4th qtr.
          ”Just like a week ago in the 17-16 loss to LSU, the Gators had nothing left down the stretch in the fourth quarter…”
          I’d make the entire program run wind-sprints ’till they puked all over that new indoor practice facility turf, and that includes the COACHES, and the NEW A.D. Stricklin is blowing the whistle!!!

  3. Props to the O line. They’ve actually gotten better as the year has progressed. And Franks’ 79 yard run was something to see. Nice cutbacks and broken tackles. Why not let Eddy try a long field goal at the end of the first half? It would have been 60 some yards but he could have made it. And for two weeks in a row, the offense couldn’t even get close enough in th e 4th quarter to even give Eddy a shot at a game winner, no matter how far.

  4. McElwain is getting really good at helping other coaches put out fires under their frying pans, while starting one under his own. And Nussfire is blowing air into that fire to inflame it even more, while McElwain ignores him doing so, thinking he is tossing water instead.

      • That particular athletic department up there is way upside down, even more so than just the coach. If they go out and get a great coach after Jones, I’ll admit to being a suck egg mule and eat crow. Don’t think they’re capable of it…..but we are (for the foreseeable future, anyway).

  5. I actually believe that redshirt Freshman Q.B., Franks, could end up being an amazing Q.B. for U.F. in his 2nd , 3rd, and 4th year in the Orange & Blue. He could be very special one day (see: Danny Wonderful, as he didn’t make it to the National Championship game until his Jr. year vs. Nebraska in ’95, and then Danny won it all (the Heisman and National Championship against F.S.U.) in his Senior year in ’96.
    So, just ”food for thought”, Gator fans! Franks has only been here 2 years, and is -still- growing, game by game. I love the Gators! And I am a lifelong, born and raised Gator fan. And Franks is the Gators best chance for the future at this moment. Time will tell, it always does!
    But if you forgot how bad it was with Q.B.’s Driskel, Treon, and Appleby, well, just watch the tapes!
    And to be honest, Coach Mac won ‘2’ S.E.C. Eastern Division Championships with Coach Muschamp’s defenses, not Coach Mac’s offenses. And any real college football fan, would know that’s not my opinion, that’s straight up truth! I’ll give Coach Mac and Franks another year -2018- before I ask for ”any changes”. The Gators have had some really blessed seasons: 1996, 2006, and 2007 with a Heisman winner: Tebow), and then the 2008 National Championship title. So, let’s count our Gator blessings people, before we declare these Gators are done and stick a fork in them! We may be spoiled, but we were BLESSED, too! Take heart Gator fans, we could be Tennessee or Nebraska! Go Gators! And CHOMP-ON!

      • Florida is not in dire straits like Tennessee. One of the rumors in Knoxville is that if Jones is let go, that many former players are asking that FULMER be named the interim HC.

        One of the above posters suggested that since Spurrier was brought in as an ambassador for Florida, that he ought to take over for Mac.

        Could you imagine if Fulmer and Spurrier became interim HC’s? If that one in a million scenario played out, I would request that both teams cancel the rest of their games and play one another for old times sake!

        I watched most of your game against A&M and thought that Florida played pretty well, but ran out of gas in the 4th quarter.

        Alabama will beat us by 50 points if they choose.

  6. Sumlin said: “We believed in ourselves.”
    McElweird said: “I believe in these guys.”
    BOTH “believed.”
    The difference? — Good coach, bad coach.
    BTW, notice how Sumlin includes himself in his statement (“we”).
    Reason? — He considers himself an Aggie.
    McElweird, however, IS NOT a Gator!
    He’s gotta go.

    • jh, living out here in Texas despite being a life long Gator from Florida, I can tell you two things about Kevin Sumlin. The man is a very good coach, and Aggie fans have wanted his scalp for the last 3 years. They’ll get it, too, one of these days in the not so distant future.

  7. History has shown that some recruits decommit when the coach who recruited them is fired. If Mac and others are fired this season and Matt Corral decides to go elsewhere, we are back in the pickle barrel and square one again looking for a QB prospect.

    I agree with most that the present coaching staff doesn’t have “it”, so I’ll have to hang in for another dreadful year to keep the recruits here.

  8. All Gator fans just need to relax and go for the ride. Unless you have a ton of money and are a bull gator, you have no say in the direction of this program. If Mac continues the AVERAGE recruiting and continues with Nussmeir and the PREDICTABLE offense, then UF will CONTINUE to lose and a CHANGE will be made. I told my wife on the day of his hire that Mac was Muschamp 2.0 and predicted he would last 5yrs (as God as my witness). In years 1-2 most new coaches get a pass and Mac earned goodwill off a garbage SEC East. Year 3, boosters again will give him another pass on excuses( red shirt QB, suspended players, injuries). In year 4, I thinks excuses will be very very thin. And in year 5, there will be no tolerance of excuses and eventual firing will happen. Again, this is assuming, Mac digs his heels in ala Muschamp and makes no changes.

  9. Wow…what a disappointment the last 2 games have been…I remember when losing in the swamp was an anomaly… This game and the LSU game was lost by the QB…period…as much as I like Franks as a young man along with his physical size and big arm…he certainly is not the QB of the future…on two occasions he had receivers wide open for touchdowns…but was so locked in on a particular receiver he failed to see the guys who were completely uncovered and once threw into double coverage in the end zone…if he leaves the pocket he either gets sacked or runs out of bounds for a loss….4 out 15 on third downs will get you beat in most games…for every one play he makes …he has 10-15 bad plays…he just isn’t ready to play…however I must say…I was really hoping he would do well this season….but, that just isn’t going to happen…Part of being a good head coach is you have to make hard decisions and I’m not sure Mac’s make up will allow him to make those decisions…at this point Mac needs to start a new QB…it certainly can’t get any worse than it is now…I would like to see Mac let Nuss go now and ask Spurrier to take over the QB’s and play calling for the rest of the season … I’m sure he would love to coach a Florida – Georgia one more time…after all he loves beating Georgia…UF certainly has the talent on this team to be really good and let him evaluate the QB’s …also bring in Kerwin Bell as the QB coach and offensive coordinator on a permanent basis…
    (after all he was a successful for years as head coach at JU) …this guy really has an offensive mind and is associated with the program ….and where winning at UF means something to him…

  10. God had already predetermined this outcome. (Remember Franks comments after LSU loss)…He’s just out there having some good old fashioned fun. And another thing…where are all you ‘Gator fans’ that had us losing by 4 or 5 touchdowns? Haven’t seen one post yet where someone has had the stones to say ‘wow, I was wrong. We played them a lot closer than I ever thought we would.’ I agree 100% with the coaching and QB assessments but geez, what a Debbie downer reading the venom day after day. I rode the wagon through the 70’s (wait till next year, 0-10-1, try that one time) the 80’s (give ’em hell Pell!), oh and Galen Hall chewing his finger nails off, the 90’s (Spurrier has risen!, SEC championships and NC), the New Millennium, 2000, (Spurrier leaving, Zooker…oh my!, Urban renewal with brief breath of fresh air in Tebow and couple more NC’s), and then the Mus and Mac shows. If you’re a Gator, a real Gator then show some frustration and lets move on. Seriously, I don’t like things right now any more than y’all do, but it’s gotten to be just like me not watching the news much anymore. Just death, destruction and mayhem. Go Gators. GO GATORS!

    A public service announcement from your Narcoossee Gator Club