Turnovers were Gators’ undoing in streak-snapping loss

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Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (23) just misses tackling Georgia running back D'Andre Swift during a scoring run in the fourth quarter Saturday. [Lauren Bacho/Staff photographer]

[Missouri game info updated below] JACKSONVILLE — Inability to take care of the football. Failure to execute.

These are the things that doomed Florida on Saturday against Georgia.

During their five-game winning streak that vaulted them into the Top 10 just last week, the Gators had created a defined and successful identity. They had developed into a team that didn’t turn the ball over, that executed in the clutch, that was resilient, that showed steady improvement from week to week, performance to performance.

On Saturday, for some reason, they forgot who they had become. The result was 36-17 loss to No. 7 Georgia before 84,463 at TIAA Bank Field that basically eliminates the Gators (6-2, 4-2 SEC) in the Eastern Division race.

They were out of character.

They did not make progress. They turned the ball over three times — twice deep inside their own territory — and gave up four touchdowns on third-down plays. This team can’t win that way, and it didn’t.

“I’ve said for the most part, every game we’ve played better from one week to the next,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “I can’t say that today. We need to get that better by next Saturday.”

Saturday’s game pretty much came down to those seven plays — the three turnovers and the four third-down touchdowns. Three of touchdowns came on passes, two of which occurred on blown coverages in an injury-depleted secondary that was missing cornerback CJ Henderson, who injured his back in the first quarter and did not return.

“I don’t think we played very well at all,” Mullen said. “It might have been our worst executing performance of the year, and I’m really disappointed in that. We’ll learn as a team how to play in big-game situations. You’ve got to execute.

“If you’re minus-three in turnover ratio, you’re not going to win many games. Twice inside our own 10-yard line. You can’t do that offensively. And they scored four touchdowns on third down. In situational parts of the game, we can’t do that. Two of them we had blown coverages. Just poor execution.”

Two of the turnovers belonged to quarterback Feleipe Franks. He threw an interception that killed a scoring opportunity in the first half and lost a fumble on his own 1-yard line late in the third quarter that led to a field goal that gave the Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1) a two-score lead, 23-14. The field goal came after the defense made a remarkable six-play goal-line stand.

Franks, who had been showing steady progress since the loss to Kentucky in Week 2, seemed to take a step back Saturday. He had the two turnovers and completed only 13 of 21 passes for just 105 yards.

He did have some encouraging moments — a 1-yard TD in the second quarter and a 36-yard TD strike to wide receiver Freddie Swain on the opening possession of the second half that gave UF its only lead, 14-13.

But the negative outweighed the positive.

“You try to avoid turnovers,” Franks said. “I’ve got to get better at that. We’ve got to keep on grinding, keep on working. Come back Monday and keep on going.

“We’ve got to keep working to get more explosive plays, and not try too hard to make those plays, but for each person just to do their assignment. We were just trying too hard to make those plays that we just weren’t doing our assignment football.”

The defense also had problems in that area. They were undisciplined at times, trying to do too much, and got burned on the ground and especially through the air. The depleted secondary gave up 240 yards passing and three touchdowns to Jake Fromm.

Overall, this was not the same team it was during the five-game winning streak.

“There are times in the game where you say, ‘OK, we’re playing like the Florida Gators.’ Like we expect to play,” Mullen said. “The goal-line stand, that’s who we expect to be. We come out in the second half and go right down the field and score. Do those things.

“In other situations, we just weren’t as clean as we needed to be.”

The Gators were still very much in the game early in the fourth quarter. With 11:12 to play, Evan McPherson made a 42-yard field goal to make it a one-score game, 23-17.

But from that point on, Fromm and the Georgia offense ran through and passed over the UF defense, taking control of the game with a 24-yard TD reception by a wide-open Terry Godwin and a 33-yard TD run by D’Andre Swift.

“Everybody was disappointed (in the locker room after the game),” senior defensive end/linebacker Cece Jefferson said. “We felt as if we were the better team. We just didn’t come out and execute the way we were supposed to. We just did a lot of things that got us in the situations we were in.

“We all reminded each other that we have to bounce back from this. This season isn’t over. We’ve got to keep moving forward.”

It was a tough loss for UF and a huge win for Georgia, which will play Kentucky for the Eastern Division title Saturday in Lexington.

“I am really proud of our guys,” UGA coach Kirby Smart said. “They have worked so hard and dealt with a lot of criticism. They played their tails off in a very physical game against a good Florida team.”


Up next

Who: Missouri (4-4, 0-4) vs. No. 9 Florida (6-2, 4-2)

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

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

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

59 COMMENTS

  1. If it was the worst game of the year I guess things aren’t that bad. Other than QB we were the better team. Seems like Jones is coming on as a possible upgrade over Franks. The 2 players in the defensive backfield on the game of the year is the kind of thing that is also a must fix for Mullen.

    • No, we are not the better team. Quit looking through rose colored glasses. The secondary is not nearly as good as GA especially with 3 defensive backs out. The interior of the defensive line is not as good as GA. This team is not loaded with talent.

      • No, we are not better, but if you put in an average QB, I think we could have won it, or at least brought it down to the wire. And give UGA credit for being a very good team. It was not all bad. We moved the ball well on the ground most of the game. We couldn’t do that against UK in week 2. We had 3 D backs out yet still played good defense most of the game. Our defensive line stopped a touchdown after our offensive fumbled on the 1 yard line. As the TV commentators said- no one expected this Gator team to be this good going into the season, but Mullen has them headed in the right direction.

      • Not sure what you were watching George, but for the most part the Gators were the more physical and better coached (as far as playcalling) team and had they had a healthy secondary and protected the ball, they would’ve won the game. Georgia’s secondary wasn’t that impressive to me, Franks just made them look a lot better than they are. If he hits that wide open receiver on the first play of the game and we don’t turn it over the next play, we may be having a different conversation right now. Mullen was calling a great game, unfortunately Franks resorted back to his old self. This whole idea that Georgia is far more talented, wasn’t shown in the game I was watching. Once they woke up and realized we had a bunch of backups playing in the secondary, they started exploiting it. No rose or orange and blue colored glasses on here, just a fan not allowing anger from the loss to cloud what I actually saw in the game. I saw a team that had the potential to win, but instead not only got hurt physically, but hurt themselves with turnovers. Georgia protected the ball and Fromm was able to hit his receivers when he needed to, that was the difference. The score only looks worse than it was because they were able to pile it on in the end on a gassed and depleted defense. Once Mullen has his guy at QB, he’s going to run circles around Smart.

        • I’m with you Joe. Such a different team than what we saw with KY. and I agree with needing a qb, Franks is the best we have at the moment, but looks like Jones is in the mix. Go Gators. Win lose or draw I am a Gator and always will be and do my best to support the team and the great coaching staff.

    • I agree. How much longer do we have to listen to Franks” tortuous blather about how he has to fix things, do better and “keep grinding”. The only thing he is “grinding” is many people’s patience.

  2. I hate it when Florida loses to Georgia. I absolutely hate it. But the players have to get ready to play Missouri with a ticked off attitude and with a lot better execution. Then beat the hell out of Muschamp’s team the following week. Then play Jones a lot vs. Idaho. And then go to southern Alabama and beat the hell out of the Noles like Clemson did today. 10 and 2 baby and a New Year’s Day bowl game. Fingers crossed.

    • “Southern Alabama”… ha ha ha, classic!
      I too freakin hate losing to the bloody leg humpers. Man, we need an upgrade at QB. I listen to Franks talk, and his demeanor seems really good, but during the game, he just plays stupid. I do not know why. I coach and both my kids play high school ball, and I can tell you, some kids just don’t have the cerebral aptitude others do. I cannot explain nor tell anyone how to coach seeing and passing softly to open receivers. Franks throws fast balls to crossing receivers which result in them not being able to adjust or not being able to corral the ball, and he just seems to miss wide open receivers, time and again. I went to school at UF, and bleed O & B, and this just frustrates the heck out of me. We are UF, why can’t we get a great QB?

  3. Horrible game all around we missed wide open receivers, bad turnovers in our own territory and a secondary that looks like we are going to really miss our two best DB’s. Not what we’ve been used to the last couple of weeks but we are still way ahead of where we were last year. CDM will get us back on track he’s a good coach that knows how to deal with young men and adversity. Loosing CJ Henderson made a huge difference in the secondary and the unforced errors (FF) that we haven’t been making in games caught up with us. If we can bounce back and win the rest of our games this year it will still be a very good year for the program. Go Gators! Oh ya I will be pulling for UK next week but I just don’t know if they have enough to beat UGA. It wouldn’t hurt my feeling one bit to see UK go to the SEC championship game.

  4. The bottom line is the Gators lost. They lost to a better team. Period. Winners don’t make excuses about being the better team, when you lose by 19 points. You lost by 19 points because you weren’t good enough. Give credit to the other side and move on. Get better. Don’t talk about being better; that’s what losers do (and are doing now). Do something about it! You got whipped. It happens.

      • im sorry for you personally that you feel that way, Mr. patrick etc., the best team does not always win. in fact, this is acknowledged by the sportsman’s wish, “May the best team win”. if you consider objective facts to be whining, than its you that may want to look at your mental approach to things.

    • Far from regression artifacts – regression to the mean, Steve. Were it that, we would have been taken to the wood shed like last year. We just made too many errors, Georgia capitalized on most of them, and we got beat by a better team this time.

      • Robbie summarized it beautifully, breaking it down to 7 crucial plays. I was so into the game, I had not considered that four TDs were given up on 3rd down. I do know the first one was during a (cringe) three man rush, which I despise.

  5. Wasn’t fun to see Jordan lose that fumble but I think he should get a pass because he has provided so many clutch yards at clutch times for this team, this season. With Feliepe, I don’t have the same opinion. People should not pound on this kid for lack of effort. He shows he wants to win as much (maybe too much) as any player on this squad. But, at some point, you have to figure out whether or not you have the guy to get the job done at the highest level. It’s not just about the turnovers. Its about the plays he does not make (see overthrown touchdown pass in the first quarter). There is a reason Danny Wuerffel was Danny Wuerffel, and Doug Johnson was Doug Johnson. Doug could throw the football like an intercontinental ballistic missile. But Danny knew where to throw, and what to set up to make his throws. We are not in the hunt for the East anymore. Make a change. Give Emory the time to develop, And if he does not develop into the guy we need, let DM find another. But we don’t have the right guy pulling the trigger right now at QB. When we get that guy, Uncle Nick needs to be concerned. This team is good. Really good. Only a player or two away. GO GATORS.

  6. So, please please please Gators equipment people. Realize this, when you have a team, who plays, practices, lives innorange helmets year round, you do not change the helmet during big games, which you aren’t favored to win. A pga tour player doesn’t change his pre shot routine the night before the masters, a basketball player, soccer player, anyone for that matter does not change their normal routine prior to big games/events. Whether or not this white helmet is liked. The white helmet is different, it is a distraction. At the least it is a minimal psychological distraction that is unspoken of. At the most it is a distraction and players aren’t used to it, which adds to an expectation and gets players in a different mental state. The players throw and catch and block and run with Orange helmets on all year. Stop it with the change during big games. Or change every game so they are used to it. I guarantee, unknowingly in the minds of the player. This white helmet change is either knowingly messing with their heads or unknowingly. Burn the white helmets. We have anlosing record with them.

    • The evidence basis for that is lacking due to a lack of controlled studies, but that can also be said about many other things that are at face validity true. I don’t know how much of the actual variance could be attributed to the white helmets, but I’ve been saying the same thing for years about uniform changes, so there are at least two of us who believe it if for no other reason anecdotally.

      • At one time, there was a belief that the uniform was about team identity and not just marketing. I feel there is truth to the old way, with even some teams leaving the player’s names off the jersey as part of the whole team first concept.

        I have often wondered how much money is really made with all the gimmick uniforms and whether it is worth the cognitive disruption as well as the distraction it creates. Last year as the team was falling apart the week before the game the players and coaches were being asked all kinds of questions about the Gator skin uniforms, and then the team played terrible and lost the game. I haven’t seen a whole lot of those jerseys around. There is probably a village in some third world country where they are very popular. Then, I hear it helps with recruiting, yet I have never heard a single recruit say he picked a school because of the gimmick jerset.

        Oh, well. I am probably just old longing for the old days.

    • No we were not the better team. And get rid of the white helmets. I hate them. They are a joke, and they have “Always lose when we wear these” written all over them. The entire team played bad. We will not compete seriously until Feliepe Franks graduates or transfers. And I don’t see him doing the latter.

  7. Practice like you play. Does Florida practice in white helmets? Did Florida win in white helmets against miss state, LSU, Vanderbilt? Do competitive players love routine and practice to perfect it? Do pro golfers change their pre shot routine the night before the masters? Either play in the same color helmets you practice in, play in the same color helmets you win in, it is a distraction that is uneeded. Guaranteed. Look at the record. Burn the white helmets. We are gators we wear and win in Orange helmets!

    • I love these posts. I am not sure if you are serious, which is part of what I love. Also, I felt the same about the lame flying F helmet that we wore for a time and which was ugly and stupid looking and also clearly caused us to lose games. I am pretty sure the one person who liked them curls up with one every night when he goes to sleep and has strange fantasies about fat, weird coaches dancing naked wearing only those ugly, stupid helmets.

      • Jaws you forgot the shark(s). Add a movie twist and maybe they have lasers instead of sea bass with lasers. Ok off topic. We got out played and made too many mistakes. Could of should of on the missed passes. The turnovers killed us and our D played a different game. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Ultimately we lost and maybe this was putting things in perspective. We are a better team the record shows that. But we are not ready or quite there for the bigger stage. I’d love to be in Atlanta but truthfully I want to have a shot at knocking off the west. I fully believe we were a good enough team to win last weekend we just didn’t bring our A game and they did. Still had a good time in Jax and walked over 7 miles on Sat. These guys have done an amazing job with an all new staff. They blinked when facing the big game. they will learn not too in the future.

  8. It ended like I had been saying all week on here. I didnt think they would win. I also said that reasoning that, we beat LSU and they beat ga meant we would, was based one one game and you dont analyse a teams record on 1 game. Clearly LSU lost to us because of swampfield advantage and they are a better team than the gators and deserve their ranking, we dont!
    No one is mentioning the other reason they lost besides Franks; Mullen’s calling run on 1st down all game so that Ga just shut down our running game, by keying on run on 1st downs. It was so stupid and I couldnt understand why he kept doing it rather than mix it up for 1st downs!
    BTW the defense did a great job except for the cornerbacks. How do you let a TE catch that many passes in a row?
    BTW the betting went as planned, I considered the UF bets a loss when i made them and made a sure bet to cover the loss. Ended up with $112 gain out of it after subtracting the losses on UF. My sure bet was UK, it paid more on the points and moneyline than my fan bet on UF loss.

    • With Frank’s back there can you blame him. I was telling co-workers all week I would predict Florida to win but there is one thing in the way, the most sporadic QB in gator history, the first quarter I almost vomited. If you seen my comments about him in the past I repeat, will throw int, throws decent dink and dunk passes, about 4 wow was that Frank’s, the rest are head scratches. I don’t fault him this is on Mullen. Mullen called a game can’t discredit that either, we will never see a championship with him behind center.

      • But when you blitz the objective is to get to the qb fast enough to sack him or disrupt his throw. You’re necessarily leaving your DBs out to dry. Georgia, to their credit, picked up our blitzes nearly every time. It wasn’t a problem with coverage (although that didn’t help) – it was a problem with our D line not getting there to make the play.

  9. Any non-biased follower of this game could see the only difference between these teams were the turnovers. 3 to 0. Florida doesn’t turn the ball over and they would’ve won this game. All Georgia did was play opportunistic football. I trust Mullen to recruit and get the depth chart up. Losing Henderson was massive.

  10. Unfortunately, the talent gap between UF and GA INCREASES with next recruiting class, and increases even more among what will be experienced players. Here’s hoping Mullen can turn it around. Getting Elam and Steele to join the CBs already committed for this class would solve our CB depth issues. But we are worlds away from what we need on the lines of scrimmage in the current recruiting. And we are now on year 9 in a row with poor QB play.

    • That is a good point, Steve. This is a concern of mine going forward. We need better players. If I remember correctly, Franks was an LSU committ before flipping to UF, but we only went after him hard after we lost out on our top guys. We need to start landing our top choices at key positions or we will not make it back to the promise land.

  11. I agree with starting Emory from here on out. Not because he’s some savior and Franks is terrible — Emory ran some designed plays and did well, but he wasn’t making any reads — but because by this point, Franks has clearly demonstrated his ceiling. He has had decent games, he has bad games, but he hasn’t had a single lights-out oh-my-god-this-guy-will-be-playing-on-Sundays game in his entire collegiate career, even against cupcake teams where you’d expect to see that. No, I think you give Emory the start to build critical experience in a season that doesn’t matter any more. Sure, we’d like to beat Muschamp, and the Noles. But I’d rather Emory learn some lessons, win or lose. We’re still going to a bowl regardless, so we should pivot to a true rebuilding mode for the rest of the season.

  12. Georgia won the turnover battle. They are also a VERY EXPERIENCED TEAM. I would not say Franks has reached his ceiling. He is, after all, just a red-shirt sophomore. There are still 4 games left. I predict Florida will be 9-2 heading into Tallahassee. As for me, beating FSU (FINALLY) will be the perfect sign of the huge turnaround. Don’t start firing blame at Franks, coaches, etc. Georgia was simply the better team and Jake Fromm was NOT fazed by the defense. Stop calling for Jones to start and Franks is a COLLEGE QB, not NFL. Let’s move on. Gators have Mizzou and Drew Lock coming this Saturday. To keep the turnaround from Mac going, let’s get behind this team and stop being an arm-chair QB (i include myself in this category until I realized I was not a Gator coach and this team has exceeded expectations by far). If you think this season is a disaster, just look at how Gators finished the 2017 season.
    I am NOT unhappy with the progression of this team.

  13. This team has gotten in the habit of taking the first quarter off, and that needs to be corrected. There were a bunch of missed tackles on UGA’s opening drive, including from Vosean who just collided with the Gerogia back and didn’t even try to wrap up, turning what should have been a TFL into a big gain. Then, Scarlet getting careless with the football. I doubt that UGA player ever had an easier pick in his life. He was standing right there and Frank’s ignored an under neath receiver who was wide open and threw it right to the Georgia player, who had to be thinking– what the heck is that dude actually throwing the ball right to me even though I am clearly wearing a red jersey? Oh, well!

    But, it happens and this is still a young team growing and learning. Eventually they will make doing it right an ingrained habit rather than the result of being humiliated. As for Frank’s, I have come to see him as a hard working guy who passionately wants to help his team win, but he is lacking the IT factor of a superstar AND the consistent reliability of a game manager. Hope he enjoys the rest of this season. I think the weird facial hair might be part of the problem, though, too. Hopefully he will learn to shave just like Tom Brady.

    • I think his beard got into his eyes on the interception. There was a breeze and it blew the crazy hairs into his face and it made the red jersey look white due to optic infraction. (Just kidding around in case it isn’t obvious).

      I admire his heart and from accounts he is one of the hardest working players on the team, but no quarterback with a weird beard has ever won an SEC title. Check the record books. Also, I am pretty sure that is carved on a brontosaurus rib that rests outside the SEC office.

      Now, I do have an alternate theory on this which is that if a bunch Gator fans would grow weird beards in support of Franks it could elevate his play to crazy levels. I would like to see this happen along with a chant, perhaps, whenever Franks first takes the field “Weird Beard! Weird Beard!” I think this would be much like when a kid gets chemo and everyone shaves their head so the bald kid doesn’t feel like an odd ball. Similarly, if everyone grew weird beards Franks would feel more comfortable and execute better, perhaps one day becoming the first weirdo with a beardo to win an SEC title.

      Maybe the cheerleaders could even done fake weird beards at the beginning of the third quarter and we could add a third song to the third quarter sing along. I am thinking the song might be called Weird Beard.

  14. Mullen said after the game that he is redshirting Jones most likely, so he can play in two more games this season. I bet those will be against Idaho and again in the bowl game. But he did add, “we will see how it goes.”

  15. Franks is too inaccurate a qb to win big games. I’ve been pulling for him but he is not the answer. 50% passer at best. Bubble screen passes are low or high. Flee flicker would have them up 7 to 3. His running is so slow to start. The guy just isn’t the answer. Good news is I don’t think Georgia is that far ahead. Recruiting will even this thing out very soon. Mullins decision to put in Emory on the option play before the half was a mistake. Third and one you just sneak it get the first down and try for 3 to tie the game. Ends had no pressure so they had all day to throw. But again I don’t think all is lost. And Georgia is going to get embarrassed by Bama.

  16. This was frustrating because this game was winnable but not with three key turnovers, two deep in your territory, and inexperienced CBs. D showed their mettle with that epic goal line stand, even better than the one two years ago at LSU. But those guys were gassed in the 4th quarter, thanks to poor QB play. UGA better but not by much. Anyway, water under the bridge. Let’s win out. I agree we let Emory Jones play a good part of Idaho game to see what he’s got..We know FF not the guy. 10-2 would be outstanding achievement and tribute to high quality coaching.

  17. Awful lot of negative comments. After the KY game how many thought the gators would beat Mississippi State or LSU. This team has overachieved. Franks is not great, maybe not even good but he is he best option we have. There is no guarantee that the gators beat Mizzou or USC. KY was lucky to beat Mizzou, and USC is a Dr. Jeckel and Mr.Hyde team. If you start Jones you will probably only win two more games, Franks gives you a shot at 4. Considering the turnovers, the gators played pretty well. One heck of a goal line stand. Number 6 Texas went down to an unranked team and FSU was totally humiliated. Be thankful for the 6 wins, remember last year. Go gators.

    • I disagree, I think Trask is the best option we have. I think the coach wont play him because he has Jones and then Jones coming in and doesnt want to upset his QB progression. I think if trask came in and played like he has shown in the spring game last year, then the coach would be forced to play him next year when Jones needs to play, thus upsetting the progression. I dont think the coach ever intended for franks to play past this year.

  18. PS… note on uniforms. Gators winning colots are: blue jerseys, white pants orange helmets. All white with orange helmets on the road… Ditch white helmets. And, am I the only one thinks it’s ridiculous to have a basketball logo on football uniforms? I know it’s about contracts and money but come on….

  19. I said after those two wins after the UK loss where a lot of Gators were starting to get a little cocky that sooner or later, we were going to have another UK-style “brainfart game” where nothing was going to work and nothing would go right.

    Well talk-da! There it was yesterday, and not surprisingly, against a very talented and well coaches UGA team.

    NI, im not foing to tear into Franks, bemoan the loss, or rip the play-calling or coaches, I went into this game thinking we had a chance to win it but knowing we could lose it too.

    Its been a good season so far and I knew we werent going to win all our games anyway, so I’m not in any type of panic mode.

    Let’s learn from our mistakes from this game, lets correct them, and tear Mizzou a new one next weekend.

    Whats really encouraging is that we know we have a pretty darn good team, not elite like an UGA or NFL-esque like a Bama, but we are definitely a top 10 – 12 worthy team imo… and we have a very realistic chance of winning our remaining schedule ans winning 10 games, and possibly even an 11th win in a bowl game.

    Lets just tend to our business and get better from this loss.

  20. “We felt as if we were the better team” is a REALLY weird comment under the circumstances. I think anyone with functioning eyes saw that the Gators were not the better team. In fact, I disagree with this headline – the turnovers were not the Gators’ undoing. They surely didn’t help. And I think it’s time to move on from Franks. BUT, Georgia dominated the 4th quarter in every respect. They were the far, far better team. There has been massive improvement, indeed, but this Gator team is not quite ready for prime time yet.