It was the end of the road for the Florida-Miami rivalry and the Gators — sometimes literally– fumbled away the chance for bragging rights until the series is renewed. Florida out gained their opponent 413-212 and controlled the pace of the game, holding the ball for 38:20 while asserting their tempo – running a play every 29 seconds.
UF’s defense held Miami to their lowest yardage output since 2009, despite Florida giving them every chance to eclipse that number by giving the ball back to them before they could finish out drives. The skill of Florida’s defense was not lost on Miami’s running back Duke Johnson, who rushed for 75 yards on 21 carries.
“They’re physical from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, even if we went into overtime they would have been the same physicality at the end of the game,” Johnson said.
Much like last year’s loss to Georgia, the turnovers were what did the real damage for Florida, and self-inflicted wounds were too many to overcome.
The Gators have lost three games with Jeff Driskel as their starting quarterback — last season to Georgia and Louisville and again this season against Miami. In each loss, Driskel has thrown two interceptions — his career high. The interesting thing about his performance today is along with the two interceptions; his 291 yards and 33 attempts were also career highs.
The Gators were also brutal in the red zone. They did score a touchdown and made a field goal inside the 20. The problems sprung up when they weren’t scoring: both the interceptions, one fumble and one turnover on downs also occurred in the most crucial real estate on the field.
Miami head coach Al Golden credited his ball-hawking unit by giving the entire defense the game ball in the locker room.
Golden was overjoyed in the post game press conference. There was no opening statement from the scratchy voiced tie wearing Miami headman; only excitement after a big win for his team.
“It’s a good win. You know we’ve been through so much, it was almost cathartic to be honest with you. 26 months just unleashed there in the last four or five seconds. Proud of these guys, you guys know, you watched us grow. We couldn’t handle this setting a year ago,” Golden said. “Real proud of the way the guys fought, there was nothing easy on that field for either team.”
26 months ago marked the beginning of Golden’s first summer training camp at Miami. The program’s been through a lot in that short span. Miami limped to a 6-6 record in 2011, only the third non-winning season since 1979. They’ve also had to deal with two straight losses to rival Florida State under Golden. A self-imposed postseason ban axed any chances of the Hurricanes playing in the ACC championship game last season despite the fact that they were on deck to play in the game because of North Carolina’s ineligibility. It is a symptom of the black cloud hanging over the program that is an ongoing NCAA investigation into the school’s ties with rogue booster Nevin Shapiro.
Some of those demons were exercised today when a jubilant Miami team sprinted across the field to join its student section in celebration. It was something Al Golden thought was important for his team to do.
“I did want those kids in that end zone because I wanted them to thank all those people that stood by us. All those guys that no matter what, they’re there,” Golden said. “It was a good moment for our guys.”
Golden’s shining moment came at the expense of one of Florida’s dullest in the Muschamp era. Florida had the gun aimed steadfastly at the foot the entire afternoon. It’s a loss that leaves an empty, unfinished feeling in the hearts of fans.
The worst part about it? At least for the foreseeable future, the Gators won’t be avenging this one anytime soon.