Pierce: Gators can't let mistakes, lack of execution carry over into final third of season

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
View Comments
Florida running back Dameon Pierce picks up yardage Saturday against Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

The perception heading into Saturday's 34-7 loss to Georgia was that the unranked Gators would have to play a near-flawless game to hang with the top-ranked Bulldogs. 

In case there was any doubt, UF didn’t execute a clean contest at TIAA Bank Field, and the players weren’t oblivious to the miscues in the aftermath. 

"I feel like we shot ourselves in the foot too many times to overcome. And the defense – just, we just really gave it to the defense, honestly, man,” running back Dameon Pierce said. “But hats off to them, they're a great team, we already knew that coming in. We had the perfect game plan. We just didn't execute on our end."

Pierce led the team in rushing with 69 yards on just nine attempts. The Gators couldn’t find the end zone until Emory Jones’ late two-yard rushing touchdown prevented the team from being shut out for the first time in 33 seasons. 

UF completed just four of 13 third-down attempts, including two of the first nine against the vaunted Bulldogs defensive front, and Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson finished with a trio turnovers. The first, a fumble on the 10-yard line, led to Georgia’s first trip to the end zone of the afternoon. The second, an interception by Nolan Smith, came three plays later, and Kearis Jackson scored from 36 yards out. Richardson’s first half would only get worse as halftime approached – Nakobe Dean easily jumped the route, picked him off at midfield and dashed 50 yards into the end zone. 

Three touchdowns in three minutes on the back of three costly errors by the Gators. 

To his credit, Richardson didn’t quit – he returned in the third quarter and had the Florida offense moving deep into UGA territory before the Gainesville native had to exit the game for the rest of the way. 

The status of Richardson may be uncertain heading into the team’s upcoming preparation for the 7:30 p.m. road trip to South Carolina, but the Gators may not have to worry about their signal-caller getting rattled in the future after seeing how he responded after the misfires and miscues. 

“He remained calm. Even when he made the mistakes in real time, you know, like on the last one when he threw a pick, he gave the effort to try to go run the guy down. He didn't hang his head – he tried to go make the play, you know, on his end for his mistake,” Pierce said of Richardson. “That's all you really ask for, you know – effort. I feel like there wasn't a play where, like, he hung his head, you know, he tried to learn on the fly. Being thrown in that situation, especially as a young quarterback like he is, trying to learn things, trying to get used to the game speed and the tempo of things, especially in this SEC matchup, is big. I feel like he handled it very well."

Those were when the outcome was technically still undecided. Now that Florida has dropped to 4-4 and suffered another deflating defeat, it remains to be seen if the program will have a similar level of motivation heading into the contest with the Gamecocks. 

In a sign his praise of Richardson was genuine, Pierce was blunt in his assessment of the team’s mindset after the UGA loss, saying he’ll know after Monday’s practice if the Gators are able to channel the post-game energy of their head coach and regroup for the final third of the schedule. 

It’s not what many may want to hear, but Pierce isn’t one to blow smoke or change his tune after a loss. The candor doesn’t exist only after victories. 

"We'll have to see, that's something that we’ll be (watching) out there on Monday when we go to practice. You know, that's when my leadership will have to come in and make sure that doesn't happen, make sure I get them guys going in the right direction,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to make sure that our standard isn’t lowered when we leave here. If anything, we’ve got to make sure the younger guys are creating a dander at a higher bar than when we got here. So the bar can only go up. We don’t need to lower it. We don’t need to stay where we are. We’ve got to progress forward whether it’s inch by inch or mile by mile.”

View Comments