Florida football: 3 things the Gators learned from loss to No. 1 Georgia
Florida football is turning the page ahead to a showdown at Texas A&M on Saturday (noon, ESPN) after its most lopsided loss of the season.
The Gators (4-4, 1-4 SEC) were outgained 555-371 in a 42-20 loss to No. 1 Georgia that exposed familiar problems on offense and defense. Those included the inability to get off the field on third down on defense and the inability to sustain drives on offense. Florida allowed Georgia to convert on 6 of 12 third-down attempts and had one drive of 10 plays or longer, a 13-play, 75-yard TD drive to start the third quarter.
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Texas A&M (3-5, 1-4 SEC), in its fifth season under former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, is dealing with its own issues. The Aggies showed signs of life in nearly rallying back in a 31-28 home loss to No. 10 Ole Miss. Freshman quarterback Connor Weigman threw for 4 TD passes for Texas A&M in the loss and is expected to start again on Saturday.
"Jimbo's got a really good team at A&M, very talented group -- personnel, rosters, deep, certainly height-length, verified speed," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "Not many chinks in the armor when you look at the personnel match-wise."
Here are three things the Gators learned from the Georgia loss:
The pass defense remains inconsistent
Florida recorded two interceptions against Georgia, with linebacker Amari Burney and safety Jadarrius Perkins picking off passes from Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV. But Florida still allowed Bennett to throw for 316 yards and 2 TDs.
Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey made a 29-yard catch in man coverage against Florida cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. in which he appeared to push off Marshall's back. But instead of offensive pass interference, defensive pass interference was called. The catch set up a 7-yard TD catch by McConkey with 17 seconds left in the first half that put Georgia up 28-3 at halftime.
For the season, Florida's pass defense ranks 11th in the SEC, giving up 253.3 yards per game
"That just goes back to film study and just executing every down," Florida cornerback Jaydon Hill said. "Every down is a money down, in my eyes. They say third down, money down. I feel like every down is a money down."
Florida needs to pick up blitzes
Florida's offensive line was a strength in pass protection entering the Georgia game as the Gators allowed just five sacks in their first seven games.
But against an elite, physical Georgia defensive front, the Gators allowed three sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. A Georgia blitz on a 4th-and-6 play from the Florida 49-yard line early in the fourth quarter resulted in quarterback Anthony Richardson throwing an incompletion, turning the ball over on downs with the Gators trailing 35-20.
"Some individual matchups, some communication, some technique," Napier said. "I think they all contributed to those plays."
The tight ends remain invisible
Florida is still getting little from its tight ends in the passing game. The double-Zs — tight ends Keon Zipperer and Dante Zanders combined for one catch for four yards in the Georgia loss.
Georgia tight ends Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington, in comparison, combined for eight catches for 201 yards and 1 TD.
A reliable, pass-catching tight end could add another element to Florida's offense, but to date, Zanders and Zipperer have combined for 19 catches for 219 yards and 1 TD.