Red zone inefficiency plagues the Gators

The Florida offense reached the red zone six times on Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes. Six trips to the red zone is a good day for any offense and an especially good day for an offense that continues to struggle as they try to find their identity. What wasn’t good was the execution on those trips.

Florida came away with points on just two of those six red zone trips. It’s inexcusable and other than coughing the ball up five times, is the driving force behind Florida’s 21-16 loss in Miami Gardens.

“You can’t turn it over five times and go one for six in the red zone in scoring touchdowns,” Will Muschamp said after the game Saturday. “We moved the ball, had over 400-yards, mixed the run and pass well. I thought we did some good things at times, but bottom line is you cannot continue to shoot yourselves in the foot and give someone else an opportunity, especially on the road, and we certainly did that.”

Struggling in the red zone is not something new for Muschamp’s Gators. In his first season as the head coach in 2011, the Gators scored just 18 touchdowns on 37 attempts for an SEC worst 48.65% red zone touchdown conversion rate. Last season, Florida was slightly better, scoring touchdowns on 20-of-39 attempts in the red zone, but still ranked in the bottom half of the SEC (9th) with a 52.17 conversion rate.

After today’s performance, the Gators have scored touchdowns on just four of their 12 red zone attempts this season. That 33% touchdown conversion rate would have ranked them dead last in the SEC.

But not only was Florida unable to put six points on the board when they got down close, the Gators struggled to do anything but give the ball back to Miami when they got in the red zone. Florida had five turnovers on the day; three came in the red zone (four if you include a turnover on downs).

“You can’t have the turnovers, especially in the red zone,” Muschamp said. “You can’t do that, you can’t make those decisions, we can’t afford to take points off the board in those situations and that’s such an emotional lift for the other team. It can’t happen.”

Florida’s first trip to Miami’s red zone came as the result of a blocked punt by Loucheiz Purifoy. The Gators started at the Miami nine yard line and Jeff Driskel was able to score two plays later. Little did we know that would be the highlight of the game for Florida inside their opponent’s 20. The next three drives that made it inside the red zone resulted in an interception, a turnover on downs and a Trey Burton fumble after a short reception. Driskel would connect with Tracy Howard later in the game; problem is, Howard plays for Miami.

When you go back to this game and look at the box score, Florida dominated in all facets of the game. The Gators had 22 first downs to Miami’s 10, Florida held Miami to 50 rushing yards and 212 total yards. Florida surpassed the 400-yard mark on offense for the second straight game this season and once again won the time of possession battle; holding onto the ball for 38:20.

But none of that matters when you turn the ball over five times and can’t put points on the board when you get close to your opponents endzone.

The team stuck together after the game, nobody wanted to point fingers and blame their teammates for the loss, except for one player who pointed the finger at himself.

“I’ll put it out there, we don’t point fingers at people and don’t say it’s other peoples fault but I’m willing to say that a lot of the things were my fault,” Senior wide receiver Trey Burton said. “I played a really bad game today, probably the worst since I’ve been here at Florida.”

Yes, Burton did have his worst game of his college career but the loss doesn’t fall squarely on his shoulders. The entire offense needs to get better and they’ll get an off-week now to try and sort things out before SEC plays begins on September 21, when the Vols come down to Gainesville.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC