For the first time since 1979 the Florida Gators are on a five game losing streak. They have struggled with filling the talent void at linebacker, safety and tight end while dealing with a rash of injuries across the board that have required the use of a third string quarterback, fourth string offensive tackle, and a host of burnt redshirts.
While the product on the field is noticeably worse than last year, some statistics do not show much difference. For example, on offense the Gators are ranked 113th compared to 104th last year and the defense is ranked seventh compared to fifth last year. However, when you delve deeper into some other numbers you see the stark difference between 11-2 and 4-6, even if the general picture looks the same.
Primarily, the passing statistics are alarming. Now, of course, the Gators are on their third quarterback of the season, but compared to last year the Gators are incredibly less efficient. Last year, the Florida Gators (led by Jeff Driskel) had a 63% completion percentage with 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions. This year, however, the Gators have the same 63% completion percentage, but only have eight touchdowns with nine interceptions.
Further, the Gators are struggling mightily in the fourth quarter, an area where they excelled last season. Last season, the Gators had a 181.35 QB rating in the fourth quarter on 33-of-47 passing for 410 yards and six touchdowns, with just one interception. This season, the Gators have a 119.35 rating on 49-80 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Further, last season the Gators averaged 4.84 yards per rush with seven touchdowns and 27 rushes of 10-plus yards. This season, the Gators are averaging just 2.17 yards per rush with two touchdowns and only 10 rushes of 10-plus yards. Finally, the Gators last year averaged 4.53 yards per rush, this season just 3.60 yards. Now, of course, Mike Gillislee was better than Matt Jones (4.29 yards/carry) and Mack Brown (3.74 yards/carry), Kelvin Taylor is averaging 4.71 yards per carry against Mike Gillislee’s 4.72 yards per carry.
Continuing, punting has obviously been a major issue for the Gators this season. Entering the year, Florida was expecting similar to results from last season from their Ray Guy finalist, Kyle Christy. For some reason, Christy struggled from the beginning, never regained his confidence and lost his job to true freshman Johnny Townsend. Last season, Christy had 66 total punts for an average of 45.8 yards/punt, with four games averaging more than 47.0 yards/punt. This season, however, on 21 punts Christy only averaged 39.62 yards per punt with less precision and more touchbacks. Freshman Johnny Townsend has averaged 41.56 yards per punt, albeit an improvement, still an averaged of 4.2 yards shorter per game.
Of course, you cannot talk about the Gators without talking about their kicking fiasco. Last season, the Gators had the opportunity to have Mr. Clutch, Caleb Sturgis, in his final year. In 2012, Sturgis was 24-28 on field goals and 34-35 in extra points. While the Gators have not struggled in the extra point department (21-22), they are only 10-18 in field goals have tried three kickers to make it work. Walk-on junior kicker Frankie Velez is the most consistent at 4-5 on field goals and 3-3 in extra points; former number-one overall kicking prospect (ESPN) Austin Hardin only 4-11 and has struggled since the 2012 Under-Armour All-American game.
Last season, the Gators excelled in turnover margin. After struggling in 2011, the Gators averaged a +1.15 turnover margin aided by 30 total turnovers and only 15 turnovers lost. This season, however, has put the Gators back in negative turnover margin with a -0.30 turnover margin. The Gators have had only 15 turnovers and have turned the ball over 18 total times. Turnovers have cost the Gators tremendously in games they have lost as they have an -8 turnover margin in losses, compared to +5 in wins. Another interesting statistic is that last season, the Gators blocked six kicks/punts and this year they have only blocked one.
In the red zone, the Gators are only averaging a 70.27% scoring percentage this season, only scoring a touchdown 45.95% of the time. Last season, the Gators had an 82.61% scoring percentage, scoring a touchdown 52.17% of the time.
Finally, in the tackles for loss/sacks statistic there is a stark difference. Last season, the Gators averaged 6.77 tackles for loss per game and 2.31 sacks per game, this season however; the Gators are only averaging 5.40 tackles for loss per game, with only 1.70 sacks per game.
It has been an interesting season for the Gators that has included bad breaks, interesting coaching decisions, and tough losses. Will Muschamp’s caveat has been that “This is the same staff that came a game away from playing for national championship”, and while that is true, in nearly every category the Gators have gotten worse, even if the general numbers look the same from an aerial view.