Notebook: Gators make stand before Bulldogs onslaught

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Florida's defense stuffs Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (7) at the goal line during the second half of last year's game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Despite the eventual 19-point loss to Georgia, the Gators displayed an exemplary stretch of goal-line defense. Following Feleipe Franks’ fumble on the 1-yard line, the Bulldogs seemed poised to punch it in for six and take a double-digit lead. With two running backs that had little trouble carving up the Gators on the afternoon, the UGA offense began to once again pound the rock.

Except the Gators, with the game’s outcome still in flux, had no intention of budging.

Back-to-back runs by Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift resulted in a loss of a yard, although the drive stayed alive on a questionable pass-interference call on C.J. McWilliams. The Dawgs scooted closer to the goal line, mere inches away from a seemingly decisive score.

Yet once again, the Gators held strong backed up into their own end zone, and the Bulldogs had to settle for an 18-yard field goal. The Gators regained momentum momentarily, although they couldn’t turn the tide and pull out a victory. Regardless, the Gators displayed grit and fortitude — two variables the team can carry over into the four games remaining on the schedule.

“That just speaks volumes about my defense, and the will and motor they have to not drop the rope and just draw a line like Coach (Dan) Mullen always preaches. Just go hard every play and take advantage of every opportunity, and I was extremely proud of those guys,” senior defensive end Cece Jefferson said. “’I’m pretty sure they were tired, but you could look at them and they just look like the ‘300’ warriors — ready to play for the next play. So, hats off to my guys for that, and it’s just nice to know that I’ve got guys like that in the trenches with me that are just willing to put their body on the line and not give up the score.”

Defensive backs nowhere to be found

Although, despite Jefferson’s assertion, the Gators didn’t exactly have a full platoon prepared to put their bodies on the line.

Rumors throughout the week surrounded sophomore defensive back Brad Stewart, although Mullen did his best to dispel any speculation about Stewart’s eligibility prior to the contest. Despite making the trip to Jacksonville, Stewart and fellow sophomore defensive back Brian Edwards didn’t see the field Saturday, essentially confirming prior conjecture.

However, Mullen wasn’t quite ready to air the underclassmen’s dirty laundry.

“If guys don’t play, I’ll talk to the coaches about it,” Mullen said. “But if guys don’t play, that’s something we keep internally.”

Gators lose top corner — again

It didn’t take long for UF to sorely miss depth at defensive back. As Edwards and Stewart stood on the sideline, resigned to inactivity, the Gators would lose starting corner C.J. Henderson to a lower back injury in the first quarter. With Henderson out, the Dawgs swiftly drove down the field for the game’s opening score, and UF’s issues didn’t stop there. With Henderson out, reserve defensive back C.J. McWilliams was forced into extended action, and the UGA offense seemed eager to pick on him throughout the remainder of the contest.

Fortunately for Florida, early signs didn’t seem to indicate a long-term injury for the Miami native, although Mullen didn’t mince words when discussing missing the sophomore’s presence.

“I talked to the trainer and I don’t think it’s a structural injury, we’ll have to see. He got hit in the back,” Mullen said. “The way it went, you’re picking on some inexperienced guys.”

Emory Jones provides glimpse of future

With Franks struggling with his ball control, the Gators turned to a quarterback who has received a significant amount of hype despite having yet to throw a pass at the collegiate level.

Freshman Emory Jones, who snubbed Alabama and Ohio State to sign with the Gators in the final hour, entered in relief of Franks after the first play of the fourth quarter.

Jones’ first bit of action resulted in an eight-yard rush into Georgia territory, which drew acclaim from the Florida faithful in attendance. But Jones wanted more.

On the next sequence, Jones dropped back and appeared to have wide receiver Van Jefferson breaking open downfield. Jones delivered a beauty of a throw that looked poised to result in six points for UF, but UGA freshman defensive back Tyson Campbell committed pass interference as Jefferson extended his arms. The play resulted in a 15-yard gain for the Gators, and Franks promptly returned under center. It was a brief glimpse into the likely future at quarterback for the Gators — although it doesn’t mean Mullen intends to alter his plan for the former four-star prospect.

“I guess the talk all week was, you know, one of the freshman quarterbacks was going to be in the game a lot. That was true — it was just our’s,” Mullen said. “We thought he threw a pretty good deep ball in that situation right there, too. Put it on him. We’ll see as the season goes on. I don’t know. I think our plan will probably be to redshirt him still. So, we will see how the rest of the season plays out. You never know.”

9 COMMENTS

  1. Yes… the article says it all. The three Offense turnovers, the most egregious being Scarlet fumble in opening drive and Franks at one yard line. This eventally drains a very thin Defense. Heart and soul can only take you so far. This game was winnable but is on the O…. despite all the magic Mullen could conjure, Franks not the the man and Scarlet fumble cannot be excused. It was huge and put Gators in 10-0 hole early.

  2. Fromm vs. Franks was the difference. And the selfishness of Edwards and Stewart left us with no alternative when Henderson went down, but to play McWilliams, who was beat twice(or maybe three times) for TDs. Thank you, Edwards and Stewart. Let’s hope Gators sign Elam and Steele, then Edwards and Stewart can light up all they want.

    • Fromm vs Franks was a major difference, but the defense getting only one sack and very few hurries coupled with our inexperience and lack of depth in the defensive backs were also significant. The turnovers put us continuously in a hole, but as CDM said, it spoke to our overall lack of execution. Maybe it is time to see if Jones can execute this offense more cleanly, but that would be tantamount to giving up the rest of the season for the sake of getting Jones the experience.

    • At least Mullen has the guts to teach discipline. Let the rest of the team make it crystal clear to those knuckle-heads that there are still goals to achieve. One of those goads is for each player to care about his own personal conduct and to understand the ramifications of poor decisions off the field. No player has the right to play if they break team rules.

  3. The goal line stand was legendary! It should remain in Gator lore. The crooked SEC official earned his bride by making the BS call, but it didn’t matter. The cheating POS failed becaus our defense crushed them!!! I will always remember that stand!

    MCWilliams was out in a tough position. He had good coverage the second time. The receiver just made a better play. I give him credit for getting in there and doing his best. The coaches put him on an island out there, and Georgia went right after him. He played pretty well other than that first one, but Danielson even suggested he might have been expecting safety help.

    As for the other guys, they will soon find out that players who aren’t reliable will find themselves on the bench. Maybe they should ask Ricky Williams how putting pot before football worked out for him?

  4. Well we had our opportunity to win that game, but we just can’t give any other SEC team three turnovers and expect to win. I saw the issues as the t/o’s, some play calling, great athletes with ??? between the ears, poor execution, and a lot of youth. Our O-line played decent, but why aren’t our wr’s getting open? If they are then Franks isn’t seeing them. As far as Jones, I would have loved to see him play more in that game, but I see why CDM wants to redshirt him. It won’t matter which team wins the SEC East as they will be beaten by bama. I hate to admit it, but it is the truth this year. Bama will probably win it all again this year. So saving Jones for the next 4 years only makes good business sense. Hey – we will probably go 10 – 2 this year and go to a good Bowl game. We are better faster than we expected, so enjoy the season. I, myself, had to turn up the volume on my speakers so no neighbors could hear me cursing…LOL. And my nearest neighbor is about 150 feet away. So on to the next game and GO GATORS!!!

  5. I know Franks fans want to lay this at scarlets feet, yes he should have held on and done a better job of ball security but let’s face it FRANK”S is not a good quaterback period and the whisperer and Brian Johnson should know this why are they playing him baffels me geez think by now they would have tried Trask in the game and don’t give me if he was better he would have played him stuff because he said they were the same all three so maybe Trask improves if he’s played as much as Franks is.

  6. The Gators made fun of last year’s predictable offense so I am surprised there has been no comment about Florida running up the middle for little gain on 90% of the first down plays. Florida also appears to have reverted to the unsuccessful East-West passing offense, rarely going vertical throughout the game. When all is said and done however, I am satisfied UF was beaten by a predictably better GA team, but is way ahead of schedule in the rebuilding process. There has been little said on the forum about UF getting crushed last year by the same Missouri team that will be showing up Saturday. Florida’s road to 10-2 faces a big big hurdle this Saturday.