For the third straight season the Gators fell short in Jacksonville. Georgia’s 23-30 win Saturday was the first time the Bulldogs have won three consecutive games over Florida since 1987-1989. In the midst of what has become a three-game skid there is anger, for sure, to go with the disbelief and inevitable questions “why” and “how did this happen?” You could also cut the frustration with a chainsaw.
Frustration is eating away at a team that is finding more questions than answers on both sides of the ball.
“Very frustrating,” linebacker Mike Taylor said following the game. “[So] frustrating that words can’t even describe.”
Sure, losing to Georgia for a third straight year is frustrating but it wasn’t just the loss to the hated Bulldogs that frustrated the Gators, it’s the way Florida came out to begin the game.
Florida came out of the locker room looking lethargic, slow and disinterested in the game. This is Florida-Georgia, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. If you can’t get up for this one you better check your pulse and see if you’re still alive.
Still, with the SEC East a distant yet attainable goal, Florida came out flat and allowed Georgia to gain 259 yards of offense in the first quarter. Aaron Murray diced Florida’s defense, completing 8-of-12 passes for 172 yards and a score. Todd Gurley — who returned from a high ankle sprain — gained 121 yards on just five touches (24.2 yards-per-touch) in the opening quarter and before you could blink Georgia had built a 17-0 lead. There were still three quarters left to play.
“We dug ourselves too big of a hole,” Will Muschamp said. “Especially with big plays on defense early in the game.”
Florida’s defense was gashed by Georgia in the first 15 minutes and couldn’t stop the bleeding in the second quarter, even when the offense began moving the ball and put three points on the board.
Down 20-3, the Gators began a second quarter drive from their own eight with 7:26 to go until halftime. Tyler Murphy made some plays with his arm and his legs and got a couple of nice runs from Kelvin Taylor but once the Gators got to the Georgia 16 the drive stalled. Facing fourth and ten, Muschamp left the offense on the field, forcing Georgia to call its final time out.
It was the perfect opportunity for the Gators to send in punter Johnny Townsend. Georgia had no time outs and Townsend was having a good day — he averaged 39.5 yards-per-punt and had three-of-four punts downed inside the 20 — but rather than kick, Muschamp kept the offense on the field.
Fourth and 10 might as well have been fourth and forever. Murphy made an off-target throw that Quinton Dunbar caught but when the play came to an end, the Gators actually lost yards and Georgia took over with 1:07 left on its own 43.
You don’t give a quarterback of Aaron Murray’s caliber that kind of break. He led his team down the field for a field goal, extending the Georgia lead to 23-3 halfway through the game.
The defense walked into the locker room at halftime having surrendered 23 points (before last week Florida had held 13-consecutive SEC foes under 20 points), 335 yards of offense and allowed Georgia to go 4-of-8 on third down. The 335 yards that Florida surrendered in the first half were more than they allowed six teams to gain in a full game heading into this game.
After a half of football where the Gators looked like and the stadium felt like a noon kickoff against Blue Mountain State, the Gators finally woke up and so did the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
It’s hard to describe the change. The first half the fans weren’t into the game, the players looked bored and the atmosphere felt more like mass on Sunday that football on a Saturday afternoon. As the Gators defense started stuffing the Georgia offensive attack, Gator fans rose to their feet and cheered on the orange and blue like they haven’t all season. The fans stood throughout the second half and they were loud — drowning out the other half of the stadium clad in red and black.
The team fed off of the electricity of the crowd and as the beat reporters in the press box began wiring eulogies for Florida’s season, the Gators fought back scoring 17 unanswered points.
“To come out of halftime, you could feel the energy from guys,” quarterback Tyler Murphy said. “We definitely believed we could come back and win it. We had so much momentum, you couldn’t tell me that we weren’t going to win it.”
The defense held Georgia to just 14 yards on their first four drives of the second half and even got on the scoreboard when Loucheiz Purifoy came untouched off of Murray’s blindside, sacking the Bulldog quarterback for a safety.
“I’m very proud of our players intensity and the effort, their intensity, their fight, their resolve to battle back.” Muschamp said after the game.
The loss sinks the Gators record to 4-4 (3-3 SEC) and all but eliminates them from the SEC race.
“They’re upset, hurt,” Muschamp said of his team. “We’ll rebound and we’ll be fine.”
But with almost no hope of getting to Atlanta how do the players get up for the rest of the season. When you enter a season with SEC Championship sized expectations and sputter to a .500 record through eight games, how do you get up for the rest of the games? It’s a matter of pride for the team now.
“You got the ‘Gators’ on our helmet, the names on our back,” Mack Brown said. “Our parents taught us better our coach taught us better. We’re not gonna quit, we’re gonna fight until the last game of the season.”