Gators have their roll slowed by better executing team

37
3191
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks fumbles the ball at the Gator 1-yard line in the third quarter Saturday against Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Doug Engle/Staff photographer]

JACKSONVILLE — In the corner of the Jaguars meeting room where he had just conducted a second losing news conference as Florida’s coach, Dan Mullen was still talking excitedly on a day when no Gator fans were excited.

He was trying to get across the point that his team has to learn from a game like this and so do the coaches.

It was a rough lesson.

Saturday was a depressing end to a pipedream of going to Atlanta and caring deeply about where the Gators would be when the first College Football Playoff rankings are announced Tuesday.

Now? Meh.

Still, just being in a game that was this big a deal was a step forward even if the Gators took a step back in the game.

“We haven’t played in a big game like this in a long time,” Mullen said.

But that was part of the problem.

The Gators played like a bunch of guys who were in over their heads. Mullen said after the game that they may have wanted it too much.

“I wanted it really, really bad,” said senior Cece Jefferson.

To win a game of this magnitude in a rivalry they write books about, it takes more than wanting it. You have to play at a certain level.

“How do we get to that level?” Mullen asked.

Not by doing what they did Saturday.

To say the Gators left it all on the field would be true, but we’re talking about turnovers and busted coverages that littered the story of a brutal game. Florida ran out of SEC caliber cornerbacks when C.J. Henderson went down with a back injury and Georgia took advantage. The nation’s sixth-ranked pass defense was exposed by big plays against a slew of back-up defenders.

And with Feleipe Franks looking like Feleipe 2017, the Gators were in trouble from the first possession.

Franks made two huge mistakes, an interception that ended a drive that literally was thrown right at the defender and a fumble at the 1-yard line that could have been a backbreaker but instead showed that Florida still has some want-to.

The goal-line stand, six plays including one phantom pass interference call that ended with a field goal, gave Florida a chance.

But the mistakes kept coming and the Gators were eventually buried under an avalanche of third-down big plays and blown coverages.

“They were minus-four in turnovers against LSU and plus-three against us,” Mullen said. “You flip that and they probably beat LSU and lose to us.”

Yep, but you can’t flip it. You could only watch until you had seen enough and left early or flipped the channel.

“I gotta be better than that,” Franks said. “It’s not good enough to win a big-time game like this.”

It certainly wasn’t good enough on this day.

Nothing was.

Bad offense, bad defense. The first Florida offensive play was a flea flicker that Franks overthrew. The last drive of the first half was an embarrassment, four straight throws to tight end Isaac Nauta for 66 yards after the Bulldogs got the ball at their own 20 with 50 seconds left in the half.

But when Florida started the second half by taking the lead, you couldn’t help but wonder if this plucky team had some more magic. Instead, this was where the game was really decided, as Georgia needed only seven plays, one of them a 35-yard pass to an uncovered receiver to retake the lead.

Not much went right after that.

The clincher was a touchdown pass from Jake Fromm to Terry Godwin, who was wide open in part because he was being covered by a safety. Georgia had every second-half answer.

“The biggest difference,” said Mullen, “was they executed for four quarters.”

And therein lies the biggest disappointment for Mullen, who has harped on the weekly improvement theme all season.

“Everyone is going to be disappointed when they see this film,” he said. “This is on all of us.”

Whether they were too hyped or too confident or too undisciplined or too short on talent, the Gators got it handed to them on a windy day in Jacksonville.

Now, we see where they go from here.

Florida is basically playing the rest of the season for bowl position. The players know they took a step back and need to take a big one forward the rest of this season.

Maybe they just didn’t belong in a game this big this soon in Mullen’s UF career.

At least on this day, they sure didn’t look like they did.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Few gator fans have a lower view of Georgia than me but why do people be want to say the year is over. First we have some guys who can make a major bowl and get a high NFL draft position. We have got to get the right QB for the Mullen offense which can be fun. The coaches still want to win. The young guys need to play well to get better.
    We can win out. We let one get away to a weaker team but it’s time to not let that happen again for a while.

    • “A weaker team.” That’s the height is self-absorbed delusion. The Gators were blown out, 36-17, in a game that could have easily been a lot worse (at least 44-17) had it not been for inept clock management right before halftime and boneheaded play-calling by the Georgia OC at the goal line. They were outgained by nearly 200 yards and the defense was porous in the 4th quarter, when it mattered. And yeah, the goal line stand was awesome. But that’s merely a footnote when the team is crushed in crunch time.

      Face it: Florida was whipped soundly this game by a team that was better than they were. That’s the unvarnished truth. Sugar-coating it doesn’t change reality.

      • First of all I’m pretty sure he was referring to UK as being the weaker team. It’s funny to me when I see Gator fans who are so angry by the final score, that it causes them to lose their minds and act like we’re a terrible team who is far less talented. Let’s not forget this was only a 9 pt game with every opportunity to make it a 2pt game till about 8 mins in the 4th. Hardly getting “whipped soundly” as the final score would indicate to someone who didn’t watch the game. There’s some Gator fans out there that need to step away from the ledge. We’re a Mullen picked QB and a few more talented secondary players away from running circles around them. Mullen was making great calls and big plays were there to be made all over the field. Even on the last play when Franks missed Toney, Kroll was running wide open for what would’ve been an easy TD. It’s obvious Franks will not be taking this team anywhere, but to me the talent gap isn’t that big and they had every opportunity to win this game. Georgia was just able to protect the ball and attack a severely depleted secondary that was missing 3 starters. Not sure there’s too many teams that can win a top 10 matchup missing that many players in the secondary and turning it over in the red zone. And yes that goal line stand was a footnote and that footnote would say they were clearly the more physical team till the depleted secondary broke their back.

      • I beg to differ, QB play was the reason for the lopsided loss not the defense . That game should have been alot closer even with the defense weakened. We ran the ball on them, not much fear of the QB help stifled the gators run game. He had to hit big plays down fied consistently for this to be a close game or a win. This is why most are a little upset because they know why it was a rout. Congrats on Mullen getting this team to look like a football team again and making a bowl game before season end.

  2. Everyone needs a reset on the attitude meter! This season is far from over. We have an opportunity to come into this game next year with a 12 game winning streak. If the fans have given up, quit posting on here. We need positive vibes for recruiting and for W’s the rest of the way and play in a big bowl game. Keep the players motivated.
    Work ‘em silly Gators!! In all kinds of weather…….

    • Agreed. As much as it falls me to say it, UGAly was one of the two finalist for last year’s NC. And while they don’t appear to be the same team as last year, they are still very good. What they have over the Gators is the depth of talent. They could afford to lose a starter or two and replace them with someone nearly as good. With our depleted secondary along with the two suspensions left us exposed. And that put us in the position of under-manned man-coverage preventing the defense from being too aggressive. While there was a chance we could beat UGAly, it was a small one and that we didn’t is a bummer, however it hasn’t dampened any of my enthusiasm for CDM or the future of this program. Everyone take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the fact that we are 6-2 and have a bright future most likely happening a couple of years sooner than most pundits predicted. Besides, we could all be wearing garnet and gold and coming off the worst home beating ever. By the way, the FSU beating 59-10 is tied for the worse beating ever – 49-0 – laid on them by the Gators in 1973 during FSU’s infamous 0-11 season. As for some perspective, I was in the student section for that game.

  3. Bad defense? Obviously losing one of the best corners in the country was devastating. #12 struggled mightily
    Just like Lsu. Georgia didn’t start running the ball till the 4th quarter. Holyfield is scary and the Gators did a he’ll of a job against him and Swift for most of the game. 8 times on the Gators 1 yard line and Georgia couldn’t punch it in. Was something to be proud of as a Gator; being that Kirby Smart always talks about breaking the will of the other team. The Gator D broke their will on that series. Does Dooley watch the games?

    • If you only watched one series you might say the defense didn’t play bad, but if you watched that last series of the first half, or any of the 2nd half when we really needed a stop, you know that the Gators defense was bad in this game. Still plenty of positives to build on. Mullen needs to turn the recruiting up to match the rest of the coaching and we can get back to championship level.

      • Beliefs come from the reptilian brain and this reptile still believes we are stronger. fine, we had 2 starting dbs choose to not play with their conduct, and one injured by randomness (friendly fire), our qb missed a wide open bomb play, had another interception etc., and our second string running back fumbled right off the bat. But id rather be us than them – everything this game ended up being about could be different on a different day.
        i do have to make a concession to those gators i have disagreed with in the past. i have not been one to worry about recruiting stars since they don’t always transfer into football play. but sometimes a guy is 3 stars due to character, the fact that he is a risk to let down his teammates, which definitely hurt us in this game. i dont like pointless risk like that, and hope mullen finds guys that we never have to worry about. on that, and that alone, i tip my hat to georgia, they have players that, maybe not the most talented team on the field, do seem to make it to the game, to class, without beating up their girlfriends or stealing from the bookstore,we still have a couple and i look forward to that being solved without risk to the onfield product.

  4. Pat: Dang good summary! We need a trigger man, who can execute the plays Dan desires to call. Yes, everyone needs to take a sanity check, would you have taken 9-3 or 10-2, before the season started or after game two, HECK YEA! Did anybody see the Doak Campbell scene today? A 30% full stadium with a demolished team! We need to count our blessings we’re not Semiholes! We were exposed today. It was real and really happened. Its where we are, but we are far ahead of schedule!

    • Worst home beating ever, and tied for the worst beating ever. 1973 Gators 49 halfsassU 0. Both 49 point differentials, but think by virtue of a shutout, the 49-0 trumps the 59-10 score.

      ps I notice how FSU having such a poor season has cut way down on the number of trolls on this site. I guess that speaks to what fan base the trolls hail from.

  5. No one is saying this, but it is obvious, Franks sucks. He always will. Overthrowing wide open receivers and then throwing interceptions, all the time. We could not overcome his lack of wisdom today. I don’t get it. I guess Mullen thinks he is the best we have. wow. that is not good.

  6. Pat – Good luck with your top 25 vote. Eleven ranked teams lost this week. I don’t know on average how many loses each week but 11 seams like a lot. The top 5 should be easy though because they won easily or had a bye week.

  7. What a beautiful morning. What you take away from a loss such as this is the fact that your football program is woefully behind in athletes. Do we have a quarterback near the caliber of Fromm? No. Do we have a tight end like Nauta? No. Do we have running backs like Holyfield and Swift? Yes. Do we have an offensive line like Georgia? No. Do we have wide receivers ANYWERE? Yes, and if I have to watch Franks stare at an open receiver one more time and then throw the ball out of bounds I’M going to try out for the team. Do we have a defense like Georgia? Close, but with injuries we’ve suffered, and no SEC caliber depth on the team, No. Gutsy goal line stand showed the Grantham in them.
    But look, we all knew this before the season, we all drank Mullen Kool Aid after the LSU win, but this is still a team that can go 10-2 after being 4-7. A New Years Day bowl game (probably Outback and that’s not a bad place to be) is an attainable goal. The upcoming teams on the schedule are very beatable. Look at FSU’s dumpster fire of a program. Ending the 5 game losing streak to them this year is another plus you can add to re-building a program. That was for you, TampaGator, you moron. Is my orange and blue too bright for you now?
    Even now, only 8 games in, it’s time to focus on the future. What is Mullen and the administration doing to better the program? What athletes, what facilities, and what actions are being taken to make Florida a football school like Alabama and Georgia, instead of an everything school as they are now? It’s time now to build this team into the contender they need to be. Time to win the battle of recruiting, and get the athletes we need to put us over the top. It’s time.

  8. These are still largely Mcelwain’s players and their mentality shows. It will take time for Mullen to get the players he wants and needs here. In the meantime, there is talent although sometimes undisciplined. We need more than just a quarterback. We need a host of players that have the hunger, fight, and intensity and focus to make big plays and play with discipline and good football smarts. It will happen just not with someone else’s players. Florida doesn’t have the same depth but does have very good coaching.

    The future is always the focus and things look good. No doubt recruits are seeing what Mullen and his coaches can do with someone else’s players and I think they see that he can make them great if they come here. There is still plenty to play for including beating FSU on their field and a good bowl game. three home games remain and we all want to see Florida win big at home. Go Gators!

    • If that’s the case Alabama would be starting Hurts instead of Tagviola. QB play is a world of difference in how a team perform especially the offense. Remember when Driskel got banged up and Murphy came in and it was like the team stood up. This team knows Frank’s better than Mullen, they saw the writing on the wall, they knew Georgia was not the type of team inconsistent play would slide by. Looking in Mullen eyes he knew it on the sideline he knew it. I truly think He is a practice warrior, something about game time.

  9. Pre-season prediction for Florida were that 7-5 or 8-4 would be a tremendous jump from 2017.
    This team is not yet at 7 wins or 8 wins, but there are 4 games left.
    I love reading the armchair QBs assessment of this team. Those fans are NEVER wrong.

  10. If we finish out the year by bringing our “A” game every Saturday, we will be 10-2. We will reclaim the state of Florida, and our stock will rise while Miami and FSU stock plummet. If we finish 10-2, we will probably be ranked right around No. 10 in the country. We know we have our head coach for years to come, and he will almost certainly work towards bringing in a top 5 recruiting class. BUT, we have to bring our “A” game EVERY week from here on out. No more of this sleepwalking thru the 1st Quarter. We should beat Mizzou and So. Carolina comfortably in The Swamp. FSU looks so bad, we should beat them by at least 2 touchdowns. But if we continue to screw around in the early parts of games, we will let these lesser football teams hang around. It is dangerous and unacceptable. In my book, once we beat FSU and end their winning streak over us, I will say “this was a good year by golly.” We have a chance to really gain a leg up on Miami and FSU, and leave them in the dust where they belong.

  11. I think playing in Atlanta would have been overachievement for this season. We aren’t going. One of the two teams playing next Saturday are. They will get embarrassed. We have lost to both of them and know the gap in talent is not that big. The game in Atlanta will be a big difference in talent. There will be players in that game that will not be healthy to play in their bowl game. Bama will make you wish you didn’t win the East!

    Keep improving and win the rest. We have a lot to play for.
    Work ‘em silly Gators!

  12. Florida should not have even been in this game. The fact that they were is amazing in year one, especially with the QB play they are getting from Franks. The secondary w/o Wilson, Henderson, and Scott was woefully inadequate, and not much pass rush either. Time of possession was all theirs in the second half. I’ll tell you this, you better get these Gators now, because in a year or two, they will be a team to reckon with for sure…

  13. The difference between UF and UGa was pretty apparent Sat. Smart is playing with the 4 and 5 stars he’s recruited and Mullen is playing with McElwain’s 2 and 3 stars. The result?…no quality depth in the secondary, no quality depth at LB, no pass rush against their O-line, no tight ends running free, no QB who could hit them anyway. We’re still recovering from Mac’s and Shannon’s lazy recruiting and will be for another year or so. But Mullen will coach these guys up and go out and get the guys he needs to fit his and Grantham’s systems. At that point we may just be unstoppable!