CFN Take: Florida Misses Late In FSU Loss

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 29, 2014


2014 Florida Gators ... Head Coach: Will Muschamp

Florida Gators

2014 Schedule
Record: 6-5

Aug. 30  Idaho PPD
Sep. 6 Eastern Michigan W 65-0
Sep. 13 Kentucky W 36-30 3OT
Sep. 20 at Alabama L 42-21
Sep. 25 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 at Tennessee W 10-9
Oct. 11 LSU L 30-27
Oct. 18 Missouri L 42-13
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 Georgia (in Jax) W 38-20
Nov. 8 at Vanderbilt W 34-10
Nov. 15 So Carolina L 23-20 OT
Nov. 22 Eastern Kentucky W 52-3
Nov. 29 at Florida State L 24-19
Nov. 29 at Florida State 24, Florida 19
And You Care Because … Jameis Winston was awful – throwing four interceptions – but he came up with two second quarter touchdown passes to Nick O’Leary from ten and six yards out, and the defense came through with a gamechanging interception return for a score in the first to slow down a Gator roll. Florida took advantage of Winston mistakes early, but settled for three Austin Hardin field goals for a 9-0 lead. Just when it appeared that the Gators were going to score again, FSU’s Terrance Smith picked off Treon Harris and went 94 yards for a touchdown. The Noles took a 21-9 lead on Winston’s two scoring passes, but Florida fought back to pull within nine on a fourth Hardin field goal and a 15-yard Clay Burton touchdown catch. But that was as close as it would get with FSU’s Roberto Aguayo coming up with a 37-yard field goal. The Gators stalled on their final drive, with Harris missing a wide open Demarcus Robinson on fourth down.
What Else? Florida State QB Jameis Winston completed 12-of-24 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions, and ran seven times for 16 yards
- Florida QB Treon Harris completed 13-of-32 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, and ran nine times for a team-high 41 yards
- Florida State RB Dalvin Cook ran 24 times for 144 yards and caught two passes for 28 yards
- Penalties: 10 for 105 yards – Florida State 8 for 63 yards
Game Rating: B+

Nov. 22 at Florida 52, Eastern Kentucky 3
And You Care Because … Florida didn’t have any problems as Kelvin Taylor ran for a 13-yard score and the passing game clicked with Quinton Dunbar scoring from 70 and 29 yards out and Demarcus Robinson scoring from 19 and 38 yard away. Jeff Driskel threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, taking over after the first quarter after Treon Harris bruised his knee. EKU’s only points came on a 51-yard Andrew Lloyd field goal.
What Else? Florida WR Demarcus Robinson caught four passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Quinton Dunbar caught three passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns
- Florida QB Jeff Driskel completed 9-of-11 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns, and ran four times for eight yards and a score
- Total yards: Florida 430 – EKU 142
- Time of possession: EKU 32:19 – Florida 27:41
Game Rating: D-

Nov. 15 South Carolina 23, at Florida 20 OT
And You Care Because … In overtime, Florida got a 35-yard Austin Hardin field goal, but South Carolina got a four-yard Dylan Thompson scoring run for the win. The Gators struggled on special teams with a missed fourth quarter field goal and a late blocked punt that led to a USC touchdown with 12 seconds to play – Mike Davis recovered his own fumble in the end zone – to force overtime. Florida got down 10-0 before going on a 17-pound run, with Matt Jones running for a one-yard score and Demarcus Robinson making an 11-yard touchdown catch, but special teams and a stalled offense proved to be too tough to overcome.
What Else? South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson completed 22-of-41 passes for 206 yards, and ran for the game-winning score
- Florida QB Treon Harris completed 5-of-11 passes for 60 yards and a score, and ran 20 times for 111 yards
- Penalties: Florida 10 for 75 yards – South Carolina 6 for 67
- Total yards: South Carolina 301 – Florida 278
Game Rating: B

Nov. 8 Florida 34, at Vanderbilt 10
And You Care Because … Vanderbilt scored first on a 33-yard Steven Scheu touchdown catch, but helped by four takeaways, it was all Florida from then on with 24 straight points on touchdown runs from Kelvin Taylor, Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris. Harris tore off a 33-yard touchdown dash to put the game out of reach, and the defense did the rest. The Gators only allowed a field goal after the Scheu touchdown in the first.
What Else? Turnovers: Vanderbilt 4 – Florida 0
- Florida QB Treon Harris completed 13-of-21 passes for 215 yards and ran ten times for 49 yards and two scores
- Vanderbilt QB Johnny McCrary completed 14-of-35 passes for 160 yards and a score with two interceptions
- Florida RB Matt Jones ran 17 times for 82 yards
Game Rating: C-

Nov. 1 Florida 38, Georgia 20
And You Care Because … Florida ran over, around and through Georgia, getting two touchdown runs from Matt Jones from 44 yards and one yard away, and two from Kelvin Taylor from two and 65 yards away, with the second one ending any potential threat. The Gators got down 7-0 early on a 39-yard Nick Chubb run, but Florida reeled off 31 straight points as the ground attack dominated the game. The Bulldogs tried a late comeback, getting a ten-yard Chubb touchdown catch, but the momentum stopped after the two-point conversion didn’t connect to keep it a three score day.
What Else? Rushing yards: Florida 418 – Georgia 141
- Florida RB Kelvin Taylor ran 24 times for 197 yards and two scores, and Matt Jones ran 25 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns
- Georgia RB Nick Chubb ran 21 times for 156 yards and a score, and caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown
- Florida QB Treon Harris completed 3-of-6 passes for 27 yards, and ran six times for 31 yards
Game Rating: C+

Oct. 18 Missouri 42, at Florida 13
And You Care Because … It was the Marcus Murphy show as the Mizzou running back returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, ran for a five-yard score, and returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown as Missouri blew out to a 42-0 lead. The Missouri offense only generated 119 yards, but it didn’t need to do much thanks to a defense that forced six turnovers and for a 21-yard Markus Golden fumble return for a touchdown and a 46-yard interception return for a score from Darvin Ruise. In garbage time, Treon Harris threw a five-yard scoring pass to Tevin Westbrook and ran for a three-yard touchdown.
What Else? Penalties: Missouri 11 for 74 yards – Florida 3 for 39 yards
- Missouri RB Marcus Murphy ran eight times for 27 yards and a touchdown, returned four punts for 101 yards and a touchdown, and returned one kickoff 96 yards and a touchdown
- Florida QB Jeff Driskel completed 7-of-19 passes for 50 yards and two picks, Treon Harris completed 8-of-12 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown with an interception
- Missouri QB Maty Mauk completed 6-of-18 passes for 20 yards with an interception, and led the team with 38 yards on seven carries
Game Rating: D

Oct. 11 LSU 30, at Florida 27
And You Care Because … With the game tied in the final minute, a late interception of Jeff Driskel led to a 50-yard Colby Delahoussaye field goal as time expired to give LSU the win. Rough early, the game got stronger as the game went on with neither team ever up by more than one score after Florida took a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter. Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette brought the Tigers back with two short scores, and Travin Dural answered a Florida score – an 11-yard Demarcus Robinson touchdown grab – with an 11-yard touchdown catch with under three minutes to play. A 73-yard pass play to Robinson gave the Gators a perfect chance to take the lead in the final minutes, but the LSU defense held on the goal line, forcing Florida to settle for an 18-yard Francisco Velez field goal to tie it before the wild final 90 seconds.
What Else? Total yards: Florida 306 – LSU 305. Turnovers: Florida 3 – LSU 0
- LSU RB Leonard Fournette ran 27 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns
- Florida QB Jeff Driskel completed 14-of-25 passes for 183 yards and a score with two picks, and led the team with 71 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries
- LSU QB Anthony Jennings completed 10-of-21 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: B+

Oct. 4 Florida 10, at Tennessee 9
And You Care Because … Tennessee was up 9-0 on Aaron Medley field goals from 36, 38 and 39 yards out, and the Florida offense wasn’t going anywhere. In came backup quarterback Treon Harris for the Gators, and he led the way to a short touchdown drive with Matt Jones punching it in from two yards out, the defense held, and Harris led the way for another scoring drive with Austin Hardin hitting a 49-yard field goal for the lead. The Florida defense held on with its second interception of the day to close out Tennessee’s final shot.
What Else? Florida QB Jeff Driskel completed 11-of-23 passes for 59 yards and three picks, and ran 14 times for 30 yards. Treon Harris completed 2-of-4 passes for 17 yards and ran four times for 24 yards
- Tennessee QB Justin Worley completed 26-of-39 passes for 205 yards and two interceptions
- Tennessee LBs A.J. Johnson and Brian Randolph each made 13 tackles
- Florida DL Bryan Cox made five tackles with three sacks
Game Rating: B

Sept. 20 Alabama 42, Florida 21
And You Care Because … In a key early-season SEC showdown, Florida had no answers for the suddenly prolific Alabama offense. The Tide piled up 645 yards, the majority off the right arm of QB Blake Sims, the most ever allowed by a Gator team. Florida knotted things at 21 on a Jeff Driskel 14-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, but Bama controlled the rest of the game. The Tide scored the final three touchdowns, two on touchdown passes to WR Amari Cooper.
What Else? Sims recorded the second-best passing day in the history of Alabama football. He wound up 23-of-33 for 445 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. His first touchdown, an 87-yarder to Kenyan Drake, set the tone for this game.
- Florida QB Jeff Driskel was in many ways the anti-Driskel in this one. The beleaguered senior only connected on 9-of-28 passes for 93 yards, one touchdown and a couple of interceptions.
- Amari Cooper was unstoppable, proving that even when matched with a corner of Vernon Hargeaves’ caliber, he’s one of the game’s premier receivers. Cooper schooled the Gators for 10 receptions for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
- If today was an indication of where the Florida D is at, what does it mean for Will Muschamp’s future? The Gators used to be able to count on the defense, but the unit was repeatedly abused, on the ground and through the air, in Tuscaloosa.
Game Rating: A

Sept. 13 Florida 36, Kentucky 30 3OT
And You Care Because … In the third overtime, Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis miss a field goal attempt and Florida pounded away for the win with a one-yard Matt Jones run. MacGinnis nailed a 51-yard field goal with under four minutes to play to help forced overtime, and the two teams traded touchdowns in the first fame with Stanley Williams coming up with a brilliant reverse-field run for a 25-yard UK touchdowns, and then Florida answered, but it took a fourth down touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel to Demarcus Robinson, even though the playclock appeared to turn to zero. The two teams traded field goals in the second OT. The first half was an ugly 3-3 tie, and then came the offense with Patrick Towles finding Garrett Johnson on touchdown passes from 60 and 33 yards out, and Driskel throwing two touchdown passes including a nine-yarder to Robinson.
What Else? Florida WR Demarcus Robinson caught 15 passes for 216 yards and two scores. Jeff Driskel completed 25-of-43 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns with a pick.
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 24-of-45 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns with three picks, and Garrett Johnson caught six times with 154 yards and two touchdowns.
- Florida RB Matt Jones ran 29 times for 156 yards and a score.
- Florida P Kyle Christy averaged 48.7 yards per punt putting four of his six kicks inside the 20. Kentucky P Landon Foster averaged 39.8 yards per kick with five of his six going inside the 20.
Game Rating: A-

Sept. 6 at Florida 65, Eastern Michigan 0
And You Care Because … Florida got the game in to finally open up its season with a light scrimmage. The offense rolled up 655 yards with Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor taking off for long scores in the first quarter, short ones in the third, and Francisco Veles hitting three first half field goals. The backups kept the big plays going with Treon Harris finding Demarcus Robinson for a 70-yard touchdown and Mark Herndon for a 78-yard score in the fourth.
What Else? If it’s possible to still be a wee bit concerned after a dominant performance, Florida QB Jeff Driskel didn’t make too many things happen down the field. He dinked and dunked his way to 248 yards and a score completing 31-of-45 passes, but that’s nitpicking.
- Also, as always with Florida, the penalties were coming with ten on the game. Stalling and having to kick three field goals wasn’t a plus – again, nitpicking.
- The Gator D was humming, allowing just 45 yards of EMU passing and giving up nothing of significance. Florida came up with three sacks and nine tackles for loss – it was swarming.
- EMU’s Great Ibe and Ray Tillman each came up with 11 tackles, but there weren’t any truly big, stops.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

It’s not that hard to figure out why Florida had a disastrous year. It came down to three problems …

Injuries, injuries, injuries.

Yes, the offense gave away the Miami game with mistakes, and yes, there was little margin for error considering the team’s style of play, but this isn’t that hard. Florida went from being in the hunt for the national title in 2012 to a miserable 4-8 campaign with seven straight losses to close things out because top players were dropping left and right.

And it’s not like there were any truly cheap losses, and – don’t scoff - that sort of includes Georgia Southern.

Miami turned out to be a nine-win team, as was Vanderbilt. There’s no shame in losing on the road at LSU, Missouri or South Carolina, the Georgia game was a fight under trying circumstances – but the Bulldogs were banged up, too – and Florida State turned out to be pretty good.

The Georgia Southern game? Late in a lost year against a devastatingly-quirky running game? Okay, fine, you can’t lose to Georgia Southern, but that was a perfect storm type of moment with a devastating triple-option attack catching the Gators looking ahead to the Seminoles.

But considering all the top talents coming into Gainesville, and with so much NFL upside across the board, Florida is supposed to be fantastic no matter what. Still, it’s not fair to judge head coach Will Muschamp or the state of the program based on what happened last year.

Who got hurt? Who didn’t?

Jeff Driskel might not be Peyton Manning, but take any starting quarterback off an elite team in the third game of the season and things will take a sweeping left turn.

The Gators had a slew of problems, illnesses and injuries before the fall practices even started, and then came the cavalcade of disasters including Driskel’s broken leg and DT Dominique Easley’s torn ACL – he was considered a top ten NFL prospect before getting hurt before the season could get rolling. Top running back Matt Jones was knocked out for the year with a knee injury, star pass rusher Ronald Powell missed time with an ankle injury, starting offensive tackle D.J. Humphries suffered a knee injury, fellow offensive tackle Tyler Moore fell off a scooter, linebackers Michael Taylor and Antonio Morrison were hit by knee injuries, part QB/part WR Trey Burton hurt his shoulder, and on and on and on and on.

And even with all of the problems, and even with all the energy sucked out of the team, and even with an offense that couldn’t find anything that worked, the Gators were right there with chances to beat Miami, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and Georgia Southern. Those were the types of games the team came up with in 2012, and those are the types of games a healthy team would’ve won.

On the plus side, several young players saw playing time trying to fill in the gaps, and now the 2014 Gators are loaded with depth and options like never before in the Muschamp era. So will this team be more 2012 or 2013, or somewhere in between?

The defense has to fill in the defensive back gaps, but the front seven should be its typically devastating self right out of the gate. The spotlight will be on the offense that’s looking to be more explosive and more effective, and it should be with all the key parts returning to the backfield. The kicking game needs work, too, with 2012 superstar punter Kyle Christy needing to get his mojo back after a horrible year.

It’ll be easy to dismiss and write off the Gators with all the question marks, it’s stodgy style of play, and its nasty schedule, but be careful. This is the type of team with the type of style that should be able to hang around every game with its defense, and it could bludgeon and wear down defenses with its power offense. The formula worked in 2012, and attitude and experience should mean everything.

And health should play a wee bit of a factor, too.

What to watch for on offense: Remember, the offense that was so mediocre – but effective – in 2012 was banged up and without its key parts last season, losing QB Jeff Driskel to a broken leg early on and missing top runner Matt Jones in the fifth game of the year. Don’t expect fireworks, and don’t look for the Gators to go back to the old fun ‘n’ gun days, but there will be more downfield passing and the machine should be far better on third downs and controlling the ball.

The offensive line has the potential to be a major plus with veteran starters across the front, and yes, having Driskel and Jones back really will make a big deal. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is going to keep pounding away with the ground game, but it’ll be a faster attack. In the end, though, as long as Driskel isn’t making mistakes, and the power game is working, the offense will be doing its job.

What to watch for on defense: Watch out for the plays behind the line. The defense received absolutely no help from the offense last season, but it was still able to keep the team alive in game after game. Don’t expect there to be too many massive tweaks and changes – if any – considering the production in the Muschamp era. Remember, the 2013 defense had to replace Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam, Jon Bostic and a few other key parts, and it turned out to be just fine. However, the key will be to generate more of a pass rush from several spots, and it should come.

In 2012, the Gators came up with 30 sacks from 14 different players, and 28 from 14 defenders in 2011. Last year, the defense generated just 19 sacks from nine players and a mere 61 tackles for loss after generating 88 in 2012. Expect Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to bring the heat.

The team will be far better if… the offense takes advantage of absolutely every opportunity to score. Coming up with points has been like pulling teeth over the last few seasons, and considering how many close games the Gators play, and with a defense that can rise up and shut down just about everyone, there can’t be any misfires in the red zone. The offense was able to get the ball to the cup, but it kept missing the four-foot putt finishing 119th in the nation in red zone scoring. The midrange placekicking was a killer, with Gator kickers going 1-of-8 from 40 yards or longer, and overall there were too many empty trips.

Against Miami, Florida dominated, but bad interceptions and scoring just two of six times in the red zone turned out to be the difference. In the four wins, Florida scored on 14 of 17 times in the red zone, but in the eight losses, the offense scored just 16 of 26 times, and scoring just 69.8% of the time overall. In 2012? 82.6% and 86.5% in 2011. By the way, in the 2008 national title season, the Tebows scored 91% of the time, and by comparison, last year Florida State came away with points on 97% of its red zone chances.

The Schedule: For a team in need of a little bit of confidence and a lot of seasoning, starting out the season with two scrimmages against Idaho and Eastern Michigan is a major plus, and easing the way into the SEC season against Kentucky should help, too. And then the fun begins with a trip to Alabama.

The SEC schedule-makers never seem to give the Gators any sort of a break, and this slate is no exception playing LSU as its regular interdivisional partner to go along with the West date against the Crimson Tide. On the plus side, road games at Tennessee and Vanderbilt are manageable, getting a week off to get ready for Georgia is good, and hosting LSU and South Carolina should help. But even if everything is going along great, and even if the season is strong, there's still the trip to Florida State to close.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Jeff Driskel. The quarterback Florida fans love to blame, and SEC fans want to mock, is actually a lot better than you think. While it’s easy to focus on the two interception meltdown against Miami – and rightly so – he completed 69% of his passes and was great at keeping the chains moving before suffering a season-ending leg injury. Driskel was the ultimate game manager in 2012, converting clutch third down try after third down try, and he did what the offense needed him to do. While he doesn’t push the ball down the field, that’s not his role. As long as he’s using his legs and midrange arm to move the chains, he’s doing his job. Keeping interceptions to a minimum is also a must – the Gators are 12-0 when he doesn’t throw two picks, and 0-3 when he does.

Best defensive player: Sophomore CB Vernon Hargreaves III. In a corner-rich 2014 NFL Draft, if Hargreaves had been eligible, he still would’ve been a first rounder. All the parts are there for the nation’s No. 1 corner prospect of 2013 to become special at the next level, but for now, he’s doing his part holding down the Florida secondary making big play after big play, coming up with three picks on the year – coming in the first four games – with 11 broken up passes. He’s a terrific open-field tackler who doesn’t miss, and while he’s at his best when the ball is in the air, he’s not going to be challenged too much this season with new parts in other spots in the secondary.

Key players to a successful season: Senior WR Quinton Dunbar, sophomore WR Ahmad Fulwood and junior WR Latroy Pittman. The Gators need to find a second corner to hold his own on the other side of Hargreaves – likely relying on a true freshman - Driskel will have to be fantastic, and the kickers have to be far better, but the biggest hope for a better season comes from the receiving corps that looks the part, but certainly doesn’t play it. There won’t be a lot of big bombs down the field, but offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will make sure his targets will get chances to make things happen. It’s time for Florida to have a passing game again.

The season will be a success if ... the Gators win the SEC East. If Missouri could get the job done, then Florida should certainly be able to come up with a surprise year, even with a brutal schedule that doesn’t provide any breaks. As long as the defense can continue to be among the ten best in the country, and if the offense can do anything to not be so pitiful, it really should be possible to survive the East unscathed – at least that has to be the goal. Split with Alabama and LSU, and hope for the best.

Key game: Oct. 11 vs. LSU. After getting a few weeks of scrimmages against Idaho, Eastern Michigan and the annual win over Kentucky, it’s statement time at Alabama and Tennessee. Assuming Florida is back to being Florida, it should play well in a loss to the Tide and should be able to get through the Vols. Then come the real tests and the games the Gators have to win at home against LSU and Missouri. For most programs, getting through the first part of the SEC schedule before facing Georgia would be a killer, but beating LSU is a must to show that things really are back on track to being among the elite.

2013 Fun Stats:
- First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 78 – Florida 39
- Time of Possession: Florida 33:49 – Opponents 26:11
- Penalties: Florida 89 for 711 yards – Opponents 64 for 545 yards

- 2014 Florida Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players


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