The unthinkable happened Saturday at The Swamp. Florida assured itself of its first losing season since 1979, dropping a 26-20 decision to Georgia Southern of the Football Championship Series division, giving up 429 rushing yards in the process. The loss was Florida’s sixth straight and dropped the Gators to 4-7 on the season.
Florida took a 10-0 lead, but gave up 20 consecutive points to the Eagles before putting together a fourth quarter rally to tied the game at 20-20 on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Skyler Mornhinweg to Solomon Patton with 5:41 to go in the game. But, Florida’s defense couldn’t hold the Eagles, who responded with a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive, the key play a 53-yard William Banks run straight up the gut on a third and two against a stacked Florida defensive line. Two plays later, Jerick McKinnon went around the right side for the final 14 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The Gators (4-7) still had a chance to win. Two missed Georgia Southern extra points gave the Gators a window of opportunity. A touchdown and an extra point would have won it, but the drive came up short. A pair of 17-yard passes from Mornhinweg to Quinton Dunbar gave the Gators excellent field position at the GSU 24, but Mornhinweg threw incomplete three of four passes, the last one from the GSU 17 on the final play of the game.
Florida 3, Georgia Southern 0: Florida used up 6:26 of the first quarter on the opening drive, taking the ball 63 yards to the Georgia Southern 10 where the drive stalled, forcing Frankie Velez to come on to kick a 27-yard field goal 8:34 remaining in the quarter for a 3-0 lead. The key play on the drive was a 33-yard run by Kelvin Taylor. Taylor carried eight times for 54 yards on the drive. Skyler Mornhinweg had two potential interceptions
dropped by Georgia Southern defenders once the Gators got to the GSU 10.
Florida 10, Georgia Southern 0: Following a special teams miscue in which Georgia Southern punter Luke Cherry fumbled the snap and Michael Taylor recovered for the Gators, Florida drove 14 yards to take a 10-0 lead on a Skyler Mornhinweg to Solomon Patton touchdown pass from three yards out. Velez added the extra point with 13:31 to go in the half.
Georgia Southern 7, Florida 10: After a three-and-out by the Gators inside their own 10, Georgia Southern got exceptional field position, taking the ball on the Florida 45. It took only one play to get into the end zone. Kevin Ellison went around the right side, found a gap and ran 45 yards untouched for a touchdown with 2:01 remaining in the half. Younghoe Koo kicked the extra point for Georgia Southern, important because he missed two later on.
FIRST HALF SUPERLATIVES
Skyler Mornhinweg 4-10 passing for 6 yards, one touchdown
Kelvin Taylor 13-65 rushing
Mack Brown 8-32 rushing
Solomon Patton 1-3 receiving, one touchdown
THE GOOD: Kelvin Taylor carried the ball eight times for 54 yards on the very first drive. He finished the half with 13 carries for 66 yards, better than five yards per carry.
THE BAD: Skyler Mornhinweg throwing the football. Mornhinweg threw 10 passes in the first half and half of those should have been intercepted. He finished the half 4-10 for six yards and a touchdown.
THE UGLY: A 26-yard punt from Johnny Townsend. There’s no explanation needed here. It was a 26-yard punt.
Georgia Southern 14, Florida 10: Georgia Southern set the tone for the third quarter on the first play out of the locker room. Jerick McKinnon burst through the line into the secondary and raced all the way to the Florida nine before Vernon Hargreaves III tracked him down and got him to the ground. The Gators held for three plays but on fourth down quarterback Kevin Ellison got into the end zone on a one-yard QB sneak with 12:24 remaining in the third quarter. Koo added the extra point to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead.
Georgia Southern 20, Florida 10: After forcing a three and out, Georgia Southern got great field position at the Florida 49 after an 11-yard punt return by Brandan Thomas. The Eagles used a methodical eight-play, 49-yard drive that lasted 4:02 to get into the end zone when fullback William Banks powered in on a three-yard run to cap the drive with 32 seconds left in the third quarter. Koo missed the extra point.
Florida 13, Georgia Southern 20: The Gators responded to the Georgia Southern touchdown with a Frankie Velez field goal from 22 yards out with 12:02 left in the game. Solomon Patton breathed life into the Gators with a 54-yard kickoff return to the Georgia Southern 32 and from there the Gators held the ball 3:30 but couldn’t punch a touchdown in. Florida got the ball to the Georgia Southern 10, but the offense got predictable. Two running plays got it to the four then Mornhinweg threw incomplete, forcing the field goal.
Florida 20, Georgia Southern 20:
Georgia Southern tried to put the Gators away, gambling on a fourth and two at the Florida 41, but Marcus Maye stopped Banks in his tracks for no gain. Two plays later, Skyler Mornhinweg connected in a big way to for a 46-yard touchdown pass to end the three-play drive that only took 1:42 off the clock. Velez kicked the extra point to tie the game at 20-20 with 5:41 to go in the game.
Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20: The play of the game was a 53-yard fullback dive by Banks on a third and two against a stacked Florida defensive line. Banks went straight up the gut to the Florida 14 where he was brought down by Hargreaves. Two plays later, McKinnon went the final 14 yards over the right side for the touchdown with 2:57 to go to cap the five-play, 75-yard drive that produced the game-winning score. Koo missed the extra point but that didn’t come back to haunt him as Florida’s fourth down pass from the Georgia Southern 17 fell incomplete on the final play of the game.
Skyler Mornhinweg 14-24 passing for 122 yards, two touchdowns
Kelvin Taylor 22-92 rushing
Mack Brown 11-44 rushing
Solomon Patton 4-69 receiving, two touchdowns
Quinton Dunbar 3-37 receiving.
THE GOOD: Solomon Patton’s 45-yard touchdown catch. Patton ran a skinny post, beat his man and caught a pass in stride from Mornhinweg for a 45-yard touchdown that tied the game at 20-20.
THE BAD: Allowing a TD to start the half. We get that the team starts slow. Everyone has accepted that the Gators won’t play good football in the first quarter. But what is up with the slow start in the second half?
THE UGLY: Losing to Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern has lost 19 players to injury this season and that’s on a roster limited to just 65 scholarships. Injuries weren’t an excuse for the Eagles who played a more physical game and beat the Gators on the ground all day long. There is no excuse for the University of Florida to lose a football game to Georgia Southern. None.
THE WORST: Georgia Southern ran for 429 yards and didn’t complete a pass the entire game.