Following their first matchup with a team named the Tigers — a 17-6 affair down on the Bayou that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard would read — the Gators heard the rumblings. The offense knew than both the media and fans were calling them out and the players made it clear to the media that they were ready to show everyone a new offense this week against Missouri. Not only did the offense not respond, they regressed and were handed a 36-17 beat down by the Tigers of Mizzou.
“We’re just not a very good football team, certainly not today,” Muschamp said. “That falls on my shoulders.”
It was a day to forget on both sides of the ball but the offense — the offensive line specifically — really had a rough go of it on the field affectionally known as “The Zou.”
“Extremely disappointed, just didn’t play very well,” Muschamp said on his post-game radio interview. “Obviously we’re very inept on offense, can’t do anything; run or pass. Had a hard time protecting, had a hard time getting movement up front.”
While calling the offense inept might come off as strong, it doesn’t even begin to explain what the Gators put out on the field today during their first ever trip to Columbia, Missouri.
The offensive line allowed Tyler Murphy to be sacked a season-high six times and pressured eight more times. Florida’s woes weren’t limited to pass protection more porous than a sponge; the line struggled to get a push up front to help the running game as well. Florida went into the locker room at halftime with 17-carries for nine yards. And 61 total yards. The offense went on to post 151 total yards on the day — the lowest total of any Florida team since Florida lost to Alabama with Jesse Palmer at quarterback in 1999.
The Gators offensive line has hampered what the team can do offensively. Last season, when the line couldn’t pass protect, at least the Gators were able to turn to the run game and wear teams down on the ground. This season the line is having as much trouble creating a push on running plays, as they are when they try to defend the quarterback. It has left Muschamp and the coaching staff with more questions than answers.
“We’re just not very good right now,” Muschamp said. “We struggle to do anything we try to do. We try and spread it out, we try to throw it, we can’t protect the quarterback. We try and grind it out; we’re not creating enough explosive runs.
“We need to find some answers and right now we’re not finding any. I want to spread it out just like everyone else does. But you know what? We have a hard time protecting the quarterback, more than most do. You watch the games. We need to get better.”
While fans are growing accustomed to watching the offense struggle, it was surprising to see the Florida defense get gouged for 500 yards of offense, including the most passing (295) and rushing yards (205) allowed in a game this year. The last time Florida gave up that much yardage was the 2008 Capitol One Bowl loss to Chad Henne and Michigan.
The Gators have given up back-to-back-to-back 100-yard rushing games this season, something that hasn’t happened in 22 games.
“Most disappointed with the run game,” Mushcamp said. “Just to give up the huge seams that we did, especially the 50-yarder because that was a huge momentum swing right there. We need to play better. We need to play better defensively, play the run better. Take more pride in our performance in how we’re playing on the field and that falls on me.”
A couple of things happened today.
First, Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC East) took commanding control of the SEC East with its win combined with Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC East), South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC East) and Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC East) all losing. For the Gators to get to Atlanta, they need help and lots of it.
Second, the Gators are now at a fork in the road.
ESPN’s Cara Capuano reported during the game that Ronald Powell had to break up a very heated discussion between Antonio Morrison and a group of Florida defensive backs.
The Florida Gators are at a very fragile point of the season. It would be easy for the team to start pointing fingers, pack it up and call it quits. Option number two would be to rally around each other, pick up the broken pieces and fight through the rest of the schedule. Muschamp said he will look for which players have that don’t give up the fight mentality as the team heads into its second and final bye week of the season.
“Circle the wagons; right now the arrows are flying,” Muschamp said. “We gotta pull together, find out who’s going to move forward and forge forward with us. And understand that we’re going to get this thing turned back the right way.”