Finish strong: Gators seek to end faulty fourth quarters

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Florida running back Lamical Perine is brought down by Texas A&M defenders in the Oct. 14 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Part of the Gators work since the SEC loss is improving fourth-quarter production. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

The same team that beat Tennessee with a 63-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play, that overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win at Kentucky a week later, has suddenly forgotten how to finish.

Just like that, the Florida Gators have gone from strong finishers to fourth-quarter flops.

“You know, we just haven’t finished,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “We had two opportunities to finish games and we didn’t. That’s what these young guys have got to figure out. When you give yourself an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter you’ve got to take advantage of it. And we didn’t do that the last two ballgames.”

In the back-to-back SEC losses to LSU and Texas A&M, the Gators played well enough to put themselves in a position to win both games heading into the decisive fourth quarter. But both times, they came up empty. Quite literally.

Down just a point to LSU heading into the fourth quarter, the Gators had all the momentum and a big, loud crowd urging them on. But they went out and produced almost nothing over the game’s final 15 minutes. UF could muster only one first down and 37 yards in the quarter, allowing the Tigers to escape with a 17-16 win.

A week later against A&M, it was more of the same. Or is it less of the same?

On the first play of the fourth quarter, wide receiver Dre Massey took a lateral/pass from Feleipe Franks and scored from six yards out to give the Gators a 17-10 lead.

Again, the Gators had all the momentum and the frenzied Swamp crowd behind them.

And again, nothing the rest of the game.

Over the game’s final 14:54, the Gators were outscored 9-0 and ran all of nine offensive plays for just 21 yards. UF’s bid for a last-minute comeback died on the first play when Franks threw an interception over the middle to effectively end the game.

The same team that won big in the fourth quarter earlier in the season, now has a finishing problem.

Heading into Saturday’s game against No. 3 Georgia, the emphasis this week is to finish if the Gators still have a chance to win the game going into the fourth quarter.

“Well, I think that’s one of the things you do in practice, the points of emphasis,” McElwain said. “We’ve been pretty good at it in the past. We slipped up in two weeks and the big thing is you don’t hit the panic button. You obviously talk about it, call it what it is, and continue to move forward.”

As down as some are on the 3-3 Gators, they have had a chance to win every game since the opener, losing those two games to LSU and A&M by a combined three points thanks to an inability to close.

The Gators seem confident they can hang in there again in Jacksonville and put themselves in a position to win in the fourth quarter.

“We’re not satisfied, we know what we have to do,” sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. said. “We haven’t been blow out. We’ve been playing tough all year, we just couldn’t make plays when things were going wrong. We’ve just go to get back doing what we’ve been doing, playing football.”

Some look at the fourth-quarter fades and point to the suspensions and all the injuries as a possible reason.

But McElwain won’t go there.

“There are no excuses,” he said. “You take advantage of whatever opportunity that is given and figure out a way to go do it. We haven’t finished. That’s our responsibility. We expect to win. We’ll continue that moving forward. I like these guys, man. They come to work every day and they’re a fun group to be around.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.


Saturday

Who: Florida (3-3, 3-2 SEC) vs. No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0)

When: 3:30 p.m.

Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville

TV: CBS

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


9 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder just what the emphasis will be to do something that has not been attainable for 2.5 of Mac years ? Actually pretty much the entire second halves without any offensive adjustments have been pretty dismal !! Will Mac remove the wildly imaginable Nuss ? Will Mac call the offense ? Will Clarabell take over at quarterback ? I do believe these young men are busting their cans to try and win every Saturday. I hear there is a lack of execution, and maybe there is a small bit, but to me and it is glaringly obvious, is there is a lack of correct, responsible offensive coaching. Now, I am certainly no coach, and have no claims to any, but I did get a good engineering education, and can see pretty well when something is not working. I have been a die hard Gator since the mid 70’s and love my school and team !!! I am pretty sure everyone knows,..doing the same things over and over but expecting different results is insanity……..any way, my two cents

    • UF79: When you repeatedly stare down one receiver and miss throwing to the open man, that’s more than “a little bit” of execution problems. Missed blocking assignments resulting in multiple sacks…ditto. Countless critical mistakes on special teams…ditto. Predictable play calling is frustrating and maddening, but there’s definitely more than “a little bit” of execution breakdowns this year.

  2. The offense can’t afford to stall all game, 3 and outs, Georgia is to deep and it will be a forth quater blow out. Is Zaire really that bad at qb, I only saw him play 3 series in a game that the team had gave up on. As a fan I wish Frank’s was tearing it up out there, I question the logic, it seems like let Franks stay out there and hopefully before next season something click and he carry momentum over into next year. Since the season opener it’s been difficult to be optimistic about the gators until I seen Del Rio, after Mac words of encouragement Who the starter is I’ll miss Jacksonville this year.

    • What I saw from Zaire’s time in the offense what a guy with a noodle arm. Seriously, I’ve rarely seen so many weak, fluttering throws by a college QB. Whatever he may have had at Notre Dame, he has lost. Don’t go looking there for salvation.

  3. It’s so simple it’s ridiculous. Until the offense can sustain drives and not leave the defense on the field for the majority of the game to the point that they wear down by the 4th quarter, then there won’t be any 4th Q comebacks or holding onto leads. And until there are some changes with the playcalling, the offense will be forced into 3 and 5 play drives.

  4. You look really good when the defense forgets to cover a wide receiver not once but twice and the defense refused to drop deep enough in coverage and lets a receiver get behind them in the final minute of the game. In reality, the offense we saw at the end of the LSU and A&M games are who we are. And it has been the exact same old same old for 2.5 years.

  5. This also looks a lot like, lack of proper coaching more so than “a lot” of lack of execution Mr. Gillmore !! Like I say, if they are doing the same thing wrong, week in and week out, this to me is a lack of correct coaching !!! Like I say I am not a coach and certainly do to not aspire to be one. As you say sir, missed blocking, QB sacks, and special teams being bad every week, to me means someone is not coaching/teaching proper technique !! Suspect play calling aside, which I too think is predictable, bad, and lacks any imagination. I am certain any of us that expound on this forum, were to be taught how to do something correct, I certainly believe we could figure this out in a much shorter time period than 2.5 years, this is “IF” we were taught correctly !!!!