Gators forced to discovery mode

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks throws during the first half of the LSU game earlier this month at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Whether it’s a last-second touchdown pass for a victory or a missed extra point that leads to a loss, every game is revealing, every game is a learning experience.

So, where do the Florida Gators go from here, coming off a tough one-point loss at home to LSU and now facing maybe an even tougher opponent in The Swamp on Saturday in Texas A&M?

“You’ve got to do a really good job. We’re going to find out a lot about leadership as to where we go,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “We need to come back, have a good week, get ready to put this one to bed and get ready to play our next opponent. Another talented group coming in again.

“There’s going to be good things in every game, whether it’s a win or loss. There’s always things to build on, there’s always things to work on. It’s tough. It is what it is. Not real happy about it obviously and neither are our guys. But we’re also going to find out about this team a little bit, too.”

The young Gators discovered how quickly and dramatically momentum can change in the 17-16 loss to LSU. UF had all the momentum after back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, but then lost it when Eddy Pineiro’s extra-point attempted sailed wide left after the potential game-tying touchdown late in the third quarter.

From that point on, the Tigers dominated the game and prevented the Gators, who fell out of the college football rankings Sunday, from making even a threat of a comeback. In the fourth quarter, LSU’s offense controlled the ball and the Florida offense could muster only one first down and 37 total yards.

The disappointing loss puts the Gators in a precarious position in the SEC East race heading into the heart of the schedule. After Texas A&M on Saturday, UF faces division leader and undefeated Georgia in Jacksonville two weeks later.

This two-game stretch is crucial, and could define the Gators’ season.

“The leaders that we have, we’re going to keep everybody together,” junior defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. “We got to keep each other motivated, not have our heads down about this loss because we still have a whole season left to go.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks was not hanging his head after Saturday’s loss, even though it was another tough day for him and the offense. Franks threw for only 108 yards, was sacked five times and had poor time management on UF’s last drive, which started with 4:01 remaining.

The Gators made only one first down on the drive and turned the ball back over with only 1:39 to play when Franks’ fourth-down pass from the UF 25 was tipped and fell incomplete.

“Coach Nuss (offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier) and them tell me there’s going to be ups and there’s going to be downs, and it’s just how you respond when you’re down,” Franks said. “There are so many things that you can say that, ‘You could have done this, you could have won that game, you could have made that pass.’

“That’s the game of football. Quarterbacks make mistakes. People make mistakes. That’s OK. You learn from them. God has a plan for every game we play, every practice we play, and you just go out there and have fun. He already has it planned out and that was His plan for tonight. We’re going to go back out there, this coming up week and prepare for the Aggies.”

The Gators will have some injury issues to deal with this week. Starting left guard Brett Heggie will be under concussion protocol after sustaining a concussion in the first half.

Several other players were injured in the game and their status for this week is uncertain.

Safety Chauncey Gardner and linebacker Jeremiah Moon have ankle injuries, safety Nick Washington is dealing with a chronic shoulder injury and slot receiver/wildcat quarterback Kadarius Toney has an injured shoulder and shin.

“This will be interesting because after a loss, you know, little nicks, injuries, things like that, some things take longer to heal, and we don’t have the time to let it heal,” McElwain said. “If we’ve got guys that can go, they’ve got to go. We’ll have a good week of practice, and come back and play A&M.”

The Gators lost their serve at home to the Tigers. Now, they will be trying to get it back against a team that competed evenly at times with No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night in a 27-19 loss in College Station.

“We’ve got a long season ahead of us and we’re going to prepare for the Aggies this week and get ready to have some fun on Saturday,” Franks said. “(The LSU game) is a stepping stone. Just get it smoothed out and come out ready this week.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.


Up next

Who: Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1) vs. Florida (3-2, 3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


41 COMMENTS

  1. One thing we learned after the loss last night, Malik Zaire is not a good teammate or a leader on this team. He is, however, a divisive element on it. He needs to be suspended for the rest of the season. And I am sure his attitude is why the ND coaches did not want him anymore.

  2. Soft paradigm in my opinion…Go Gators!

    “We’ve got a long season ahead of us and we’re going to prepare for the Aggies this week and get ready to have some fun on Saturday,” Franks said. “(The LSU game) is a stepping stone. Just get it smoothed out and come out ready this week.”

  3. Also, watch the replay of the game. Franks is not entirely the problem in the passing game. Coaching clearly is. And part of that problem is that the Florida receivers, when covered up by DBs, often give up and do not continue to work back to the QB to get separation and help out their QB. Watch the last Florida passing play. That lack of effort, or poor knowledge from poor coaching, was clearly evident on that play. They run their patterns and do not get separation and give Franks little option. But, if Franks had noticed as Del Rio had in the Kentucky game, Thompson was left uncovered and he could have checked the play down to him for an easy first down. The problem is with coaching (and particularly with Nussmeier), but it is far more complex than just that. Florida simply has to upgrade their WR corp. Hammonds and Swain are not that upgrade, clearly. And get a big tight end that can get open over the middle and win a fight for the ball with a DB or LB, please. We did hear about a fantastic freshman TE this summer who also played well in the spring game. But, he like Massey and others, has just disappeared from any playing time. Why, when the play of the TE is so limited in the passing game? So many questions and so little answers now halfway into McElwain’s third year. This cannot continue if McElwain is going to have a 5th year. He will get a 4th year. But I sure hope Nussmeier does not. Go Gators.

    • Rick, I believe you are referring to Kenmore Gamble, who was on the injury report for several weeks with a foot problem…Looks like they are now going to red shirt him. Previously Mac had said he WAS going to play this year.. A big TE, Kyle Pitts according to Rivals, is the eighth ranked TE in the country and is committed to Florida. I agree with your assessment on Mac..Obviously, Franks just is not “seeing,” the field…and Mac won’t get a 5th year if his offense continues down this path…

    • Frank. You would start Zaire after what he posted last night after the game? I believe in next man up, but Zaire is not that in my opinion. And probably the coaching staff as well. You do not do that to your team if you are still on the roster. I doubt his teammates, who laid gave their all on the field even if the coaches did not, will be supportive of him becoming the starting QB now.

  4. Apparently Mac is coaching Franks on how to give interviews. The poor kid has the “inane platitudes” part of football down cold. It would be cruel for the media to seek any more quotes from this poor kid.

    This really does feel like the Zook/Muschamp part of the year where the head coach “really likes this team”, notes that “we have a long season ahead of us,” says “we’re going to find out about this team”, and assured us “we’re going to get it fixed.”

    My idea of a (modified) great season would be for our interim head coach to beat the Noles in our last game.

  5. Well finally! A quarterback with a credible explanation for the lousy coaching, uninspired play, and stupid mistakes – God planned it that way! Whew! What a relief. For a few games I have been concerned that the team was not very good, with little chance of being coached to get better. Now, at least, I can relax and enjoy the train wreck of Gator football knowing that God has planned it that way. Lucky for Franks that this is the case, otherwise some might think he has little chance to succeed in the SEC with his talent and coaching. The HBC used to say that “God smiled on the Gators today!” I guess we have lost favor in heaven. Given the level of our coaching and playing, I can understand why.

      • Love it!…… I think people need to chill out and just enjoy the ride, we knew this wasnt a championship team, what we didnt know was that Shannon’s defense was a step down from the past decade of DC’s. Thats why we arent competing even though our offense is a little better than past years. Remember One stupid pass interference penalty kept the drive alive and gave LSU a touchdown. Also remember one bogus pass interference call set LSU up for another score.

  6. I see a lack of energy from the coaches and it is beginning to show up in our players. There are coaching issues with receiving, quarterbacking, general offensive play calling, and general defensive play calling. As bad as the offense has been, the slide on the defense is getting overlooked. The fact that we cannot adjust to a jet sweep, something this team did well last year, and the fact that we can’t seem to have more than two linebackers ready to play is startling. I didn’t like the hire of Randy Shannon and now that the defense is his alone, we have gone backwards. If the defense can no longer carry an offense that is badly coached, we are in trouble not only the rest of the season, but next year as well. Simply recruiting great talent will not fix the problems. You have to develop players and call great plays. Otherwise Ron Zook would still be coach.

  7. What happened to in game adjustments, what happened to half-time adjustments? I don’t for the life of me understand what the game plan is for this offense. Can’t hit a post play, fade ,screen to a back, pick play… nothing. I fear the a&m game is going to truly expose this poorly coached team for what it is, poorly coached. I truly feel for the kids because the offense brings no hope. I just wish we had a coach who could draw a play in the dirt when we need it. Always a Gator no matter what…

    • Oh man, Tommy, this is spot on and what I’ve been saying for weeks. What IS the game plan for this offense?! Do they even have one? We have no identity.

      Also, if God is dictating how things turn out, he’s either a lousy coach or he hates the Gators.

  8. I wonder if Saban would put up with McElwain as OC if the Bama offense performed like this when McElwain was there. I do know for a fact that he did not put up with Nussmeier. Fired him after one year. So did Michigan. Now, he is in year three at Florida and nothing seems to be getting better under Nussmeier. Maybe time to fire him, coach Mac. You think? Or is it time to consider firing you because you do not fire Nussmeier? I am convinced it will eventually become one or the other. Simply put, the nonsense on offense (especially with the way the offensive line is now playing so much better) has to stop. But I doubt it will with Nussmeier as the OC. Ever. But I guess McElwain is seeing Nussmeier differently than Saban and Harbaugh did. Have no clue why?

  9. I’m just wondering what Nussmeier has to do to actually get fired? I mean this is the most pathetic offense we’ve seen and that’s saying something! LSU is a bad team folks. Miss St completely dominated them. We missed that xp pt and lsu quit throwing the ball, they knew we couldn’t score again. I’ll keep watching because I love my gators but it’s getting harder and harder.

  10. I looked up the recruiting stats for Washington State in the 247Sports recruiting site and they pretty consistently ranked in the neighborhood of about 45th. We have been about 10th plus or minus. Leach hasn’t been there very long and look what he is doing. Has to be coaching. Frustrated out here.

  11. Coaching at Florida SUCKS. If Mac and Cheese did all these great things at Bama, does he have dementia and forgot how to run an offense? Eddie missed his extra point in the 3rd Qtr, not with time running out. And what a sorry play to call on 4th and 3 to go to throw into traffic. Poor play calling, poor clock management, poor coaching. Time to bring back the Ole Ball Coach. McElwain makes $11,500 PER DAY. Not worth it.

    • Eric…the play call wasn’t to throw into traffic, that was all on Franks. 24 was wide ass open on the left flat. Not only a 1st down but many yards to boot. And I said it before and I’ll say it again…I think my wife could coach Bama when you’ve got 5 star players 2 and 3 deep on your roster year after year.

  12. Franks says it was Gods plan to lose the game. I guess as a learning experience? Says God has every game planned out and his job is to just go out there and have fun. Huh? Not sure how to take that. It’s great to have God in your heart and live Gods way but if he thinks every game is already predetermined and he’s just gonna go through the motions and have some fun out there, don’t know if he has the right mindset to play SEC football. Just sayin’.

  13. Not to insult any pious Tebow fans out there, but Frank’s “God has a plan” comments worry me even more. No one more religiously motivated than Tebow, but when Tim lost, he took all the blame and made “The Promise”. He did not shrug it off on a diety like it wasn’t his fault. I think this kid is clueless. Don’t know if Zaire would be better, but could he be worse? Zaire’s tweet is not so horrible. At least he feels he could do better. That’s more inspired than our head coach.

  14. Going to the game & talking to Gators, clearing a coaching loss here. Felipe is a true frosh QB, not his fault. Eddie is going to miss a PAT in his career & here it was. We should be able to overcome a missed PAT. Decent adjustments at half time & better play in the 2nd half. Why NOTHING in the first half? Play calling was very very vanilla. No absolutely NO return game. Why don’t we return punts any more? Love Brandon Powell but he’s very hesitant. Time for a change there imo. No time out on the interception turned LSU catch? That should have been reviewed. We have the ball with 8 & 4 mins left in the 4th quarter & got nothing. With 8 mins left we should have marched down the field & won it. Very mediocre offensive coaching – guess I’ve been spoiled with SOS & Meyer. Go Gators!

  15. with nuss struggling, I don’t see the logic of not playing a top talent like kadarius toney at qb. if the reason is he doesn’t know the offense, isn’t that a nothingburger, there seems like nothing to know!
    the firing the coach, well, some of it as all a fan can talk about, but the best hope is for a captain to step up, make plays, set up his teammates, really do the things tebow would do for his teams. arguing with the coach is fine, I’m not mad at zaire. success has to come from the kids figuring it out themselves, Robbie is right.

  16. I don’t think Franks has the smarts (similar to Driskel) and seems quite immature to run this ship. Yes, he’s only 19 or 20, but so are half of the other college players, including quite a few freshman QB’s and they are doing very well. If he keeps thinking that God is going to win for him, Zaire should be given a chance.

  17. hey Gators you have to remember that we had 14 players out that’s a team by itself . The the starter running back and the two starting receivers who are some of the best in the SEC. The rest are starters and backups
    we need for depth.
    I am depressed and sad but you cannot blame a coach when all these players are out.
    I am talking about Coach Mclain and not Nussmier he has to go.
    The gators were heading towards the right direction especially this year but I guess we are just not lucky at this time.

  18. First thing on the discovery mode is to not play teams like Michigan to open the season. You play the SEC and FSU. There are ranked teams out there now who play nobody in their non-conference schedule.
    That would have been a growth week to discover who you are. A cupcake would have helped Franks tremendously.

    • That’s what my ol’ man used to say…” I aint gotta apologize to nobody. We play in the SEC and FSU and Miama too!” Of course that was when we opened with Mimami every year. He liked playing Miama first “to see what we got.” But these are different times. Playing too many cupcakes will burn you at seasons end when the ‘committee’ gathers to vote on the final four. Not sure when we’ll ever be in that discussion any time soon though. Plus, losing early is better than losing late if you are in the running. Watch tOSU run the table and glide right into the playoffs like Oklahoma never happened.

  19. it appears Franks is missing the check downs and reads and plays without fire, maybe this year will help teach him, but I am a bit surprised he is not learning at least the fire part by now. I think its pretty simple, look how Del Rio moved the team, play hard the rest of the year dont lose half team of starters before kickoff next season and lets see then. Shannon not the same DC we have had for a while though. After seeing Del Rio move the team I am not sure Nussmeier is the problem either. Clock management and fire in the players bellies has to be on Mac. That is a sincere problem needing immediate attention. Also I am not sure Zaire is someone we need around, just a feeling but noticed him and Lemmons on sidelines during Vandy – something just didnt look right then