The Florida Gators finished the regular season with a 5-7 record after a 24-15 loss to FSU in week 13. After starting the season 5-2, the Gators dropped their final five games, failing to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2017.
Gator Country provides you with five early takeaways from Florida’s loss to the Seminoles.
Offensive line failed miserably
Florida’s offensive line struggled for 60 minutes on Saturday night, especially in pass protection. Gators’ QB Max Brown was sacked six times for 38 yards while the Noles accumulated 11 tackles for loss for 56 yards. Even when the Gators had explosive plays, they could not capitalize due to the number of negative plays. Florida’s offensive line was banged up entering the contest as starting left tackle as Austin Barber was out for the game, starting guard Richie Leonard was in a hand cast, and starting center Kingsley still dealing with a nagging ankle injury. Offensive line has to be a major priority in the offseason.
Lack of touches for Pearsall for Wilson
Two of Florida’s top offensive playmakers in Ricky Pearsall and Eugene Wilson combined for just four five touches in the contest. I knew leading into the game that Florida wouldn’t sling it around too much, but there needed to be a conscious effort to get their best players the ball as much as possible. Jet sweeps and screen passes should have been utilized more often. When Trevor Etienne got injured in the second half, I wouldn’t have hated to see Eugene Wilson line up in the backfield, given his speed and ability to move in space.
Florida was penalized eight times for 90 yards in the contest, many of which were game changing personal fouls. The Gators had a player ejected for ‘spitting’ and a critical targeting call late in the 4th quarter, which could have changed the outcome of the game.
“I think that tonight it was a handful of decisions or a handful of execution opportunities, missed plays. It’s been a little bit different each week. I think a number of things contribute,” Billy Napier said on the undisciplined penalties. “But the penalties obviously, those are things that we need to address. There’s no excuse for those. I think some of those were technical and some of those were decision-making. So, yeah, I think a lot of things contribute to the result.”
In a rivalry game like this, you have to keep your emotions in check and Florida State did a better job of this in 2023.
Max Brown has the talent to succeed
Although the stat sheet wouldn’t indicate it, I thought backup QB Max Brown put his talent on display given the circumstances. Brown made several impressive throws early in the game which helped the Gators jump out to an early 12-0 lead. Ultimately, the offensive line didn’t help him out throughout the game and made things incredibly difficult for the redshirt freshmen. The jump Brown has made from year one to year two should excite Gator Nation. Brown was not ready to take the field in any capacity as a true freshman, but he battled against a great FSU defense and a poor offensive line in year two. Brown could improve his pocket presence and overall command of the offense, but that will come with more game experience. I’m not saying the Oklahoma native is Florida’s starting quarterback in 2024, but it’s a good feeling knowing that Florida has a quality quarterback in the room next season.
Best defensive performance since Tennessee
It wasn’t perfect, but Florida’s defense put together their best overall performance since week 3 vs Tennessee. The Gators held the Noles to just 224 total yards in 60 minutes. Florida held FSU’s dominant rushing attack to just 2.9 yards per carry and their secondary performed well throughout the game. I know the Noles had a backup quarterback, but Florida State is still loaded with offensive talent. I believe Mike Norvell was a little conservative with his play calling early in the game as well.