Punting to Kirk proves costly in Gator loss

Texas A&M's Christian Kirk returns a punt as Florida defensive back C.J. McWilliams can't make the tackle Saturday at Florida Field. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida had talked all week about the importance of shutting down talented Texas A&M junior Christian Kirk — both as a receiver and in the return game.

But an poorly placed punt in the fourth quarter directly to Kirk proved costly during UF’s gut-wrenching 19-17 loss to the Aggies at The Swamp.

Rather than angle a punt out of bounds, Florida senior punter Johnny Townsend lofted a 46-yard punt in the middle of the field directly to Kirk with 4:20 remaining. Kirk made the Gators pay, returning the punt 43 yards down to Florida’s 39-yard line.

“That was supposed to happen and it didn’t,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “And it came back to bite us.”

McElwain said the plan for the punt was to either pin Kirk on the boundary or kick it out of bounds.

“The plan didn’t work,” McElwain said. “We didn’t execute. We didn’t get the guy to the ground.”

The big-time return set up Texas A&M’s go-ahead field goal by Daniel LaCamera with 58 seconds left and was one of a handful of UF’s special team blunders in the game.

The others:

• Eddy Pineiro had a kickoff sail out of bounds at the 10-yard line after Florida scored a touchdown to go up 17-10 early in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M started the ensuing drive at its own 35-yard yard line, good enough field position to allow the Aggies to drive for a field goal and cut UF’s lead to 17-13. “Should have kept it in one time for sure,” McElwain said. “Eddy kicking it out of bounds, I don’t try to teach him to kick it out of bounds. He just mis-hit it.”

• Freshman Adarius Lemons, making his debut returning kicks, stumbling while returning a kickoff out of his own end zone and getting to just the 15-yard line with 7:33 left. With poor field position, Florida was only able to drive to the 36-yard line before Kirk returned Townsend’s ill-fated punt. McElwain said Lemons had practiced well during the week and deserved the opportunity to return kickoffs.

“Just some things we need to get cleaned up,” Florida junior defensive lineman Cece Jefferson. “We will work on them and try to get ready for the next game.”


  1. If the Gators actually ”cleaned up some things” after each of these loses and post-game pressers, well they’d have a great season going, and they’d make Molly Maids want to hire them. But we all know what’s really happening… it’s ”the 7 year, and counting, curse” that Urban Meyer put on us back in 2010 when he said,
    ”…the program is broken!”
    ”Still crazy, after all these years.”

  2. Townsend wasnt responsible for that loss. Nussmeier was. When they had their last possession at 5 minutes he stupidly did 3 straight dive plays with malik davis which of course failed and we had to punt it back to A&M. We desperately needed to keep that drive alive, leading by one point and kill the clock which we couldnt do with such idiotic play calling. No, the blame for thew loss sits squarely at Nussmeier’s feet! Our guys played their tails off, its NOT their fault!!!!!

    • That’s the problem with Nuss. He either has horrible play calling or he listens to the noise and has some decent moments but inevitably falls back into old habits when under pressure. Those two stuffed 1 yard to go runs were completely telegraphed and horrible. Then on 4th down you punt the ball back to a defense that is gassed because you have been whipped on time of possession in 2nd half. Nuss just can’t make the right call at the right time, he is just unable to get a pulse of the way the game is headed. Yes they were in their own territory but 1) The defense is worn down and increasingly unable to score. If you give aTm the the ball back they likely score and take the lead. 2) Your offense is playing horrible and 1 to go on your own 35ish is probably the best opportunity you you will get to score and/or put together a time killing drive. But Nuss just does not recognize these things. Add to that the following: 1) Utter failure in QB development. 2) Marginal TE development (in a TE heavy offense!!) 3) Inability to use team strengths to full potential (didn’t have O-line ready at beginning of season despite having multiple future high draft picks, didn’t realize Davis/Toney as good as they are until they proved it on the field, etc.).

      Ugh. I wrote this up on phone so plz excuse errors.

  3. I do not think Johnny Has been punting as accurately since they have become fixed on hang time. I have not seen the sideline kicks inside the 10. I saw an attempt to speed up play calling need more of that. The running game needs some help reverses, traps, play action pass more plays for the running backs. It was nice the tight ends were more involved. Coach Mac is too cautious at times His FG kicker could be putting points on the board but the coach would rather punt. QB play is unsat, throwing into double coverages when when he has uncovered receivers on the other side of the field. Running out of bounds when he could throw it out of bounds. He does not need to be running we do not have many backup QBs.

  4. Since Tebow’s last game in the Sugar Bowl, I have watched opposing defenses stack the box against the Gators.

    None of our Offensive Coordinators seem to understand how to properly adjust.

    Nothing changes.