Analysis: Florida's season ends on low note with Citrus Bowl loss
Florida’s up-and-down 2015 season ended on a low note with a 41-7 loss to Michigan at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The game many anticipated to be a defensive battle turned ugly in the second half, with the Wolverines notching 24 unanswered points.
- The offense struggled, but the blame goes to the defense: The extra preparation for the bowl game did not fix the dreadful Gators offense, which finished with only 273 total yards, but it’s the defense that allowed 503 total yards to Michigan that should leave Orlando feeling more at fault for the embarrassing defeat.
- A disappointing exit: CB Vernon Hargreaves III has been considered Florida’s top corner – and one of the best in college football – for three seasons, but on Friday he got embarrassed in pass coverage on multiple big plays. The NFL-bound junior may have been mentally checked out.
- Flame out like it’s 1999: The 2015 team unwittingly recreated a three-game finish last seen in 1999: falling to FSU, getting beat by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and dropping the bowl game. The potential good news for the 2016 squad is that the 2000 UF team posted a 10-2 record and won a conference title.
- Expectations exceeded, but goals not met: A season ending at the Citrus Bowl is better than most people predicted for the Gators in Jim McElwain’s first season as head coach. The team, however, must take the attitude that the expectation is to win the SEC and play in a New Year’s Six bowl.
- Help is on the way: The transfer of QB Will Grier is a significant blow to the Gators’ quarterbacks depth chart for 2016 and beyond, but that doesn’t mean Florida is necessarily stuck with Treon Harris, who went 8-of-21 for 146 yards with an interception on Friday. Walk-on transfer Luke Del Rio and incoming freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask all have the size and tools to better fit McElwain’s offense.
Offense: (D-plus) – The offense played decently into the second quarter, but reverted to its post-Grier self after the interception in the end zone. UF gained only two yards of offense in the third quarter while Michigan scored 14 points, extending its lead to 31-7.
Defense: (F) – The second-best defense in the SEC saved its worst for last, allowing Michigan to move the ball at will from the opening kick to the final whistle.
Special Teams: (D) – Without K Austin Hardin, kickoffs suffered as the Gators had one go out of bounds. A fake field goal was also executed poorly.
Coaching: (D) – The coaches deserve some credit for not holding back. They tried a few trick plays, but the team as a whole was clearly not prepared, especially on defense.
Overall: (F) – The recent suspensions for academics (OL Mason Halter, LB Anthony Harrell) and marijuana (RB Jordan Scarlett) were pregame evidence that the team wasn’t 100 percent motivated for the Citrus Bowl. Florida got blown out and embarrassed on both sides of the ball.
With extra time to prepare facing a familiar foe, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier switched it up a bit, allowing Harris to run more and calling some trick plays, such as Callaway’s underhanded touchdown pass. But Florida appeared inadequately prepared to contain Michigan’s run game, giving up 225 yards on the ground.
- RB Kelvin Taylor: Taylor crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season in his final game at Florida (11 carries, 50 yards). The junior Florida legacy will enter the NFL draft.
- DL Jonathan Bullard: Bullard could have easily skipped his senior season, but came back and led the Gators to their first SEC East title since 2009. After suffering through the 4-8 season of 2013, a New Year’s Day bowl is a good way to end his Florida career.
- WR Antonio Callaway: With 75 yards on the day, Callaway finished with 678 yards for the season, passing Gator great Reidel Anthony (615 yards in 1994) for most receiving yards as a true freshman.
- DE Alex McCalister missed the game with a foot injury, his last chance to suit up in orange and blue. McCalister will be entering the 2016 NFL draft.
- In a pregame announcement, it was revealed K Austin Hardin would miss the game due to an ankle injury.
- TE Jake McGee missed the game with a hamstring injury.
- DE CeCe Jefferson was injured during the game and after the game was spotted leaving the stadium in a boot.
- QB Treon Harris appeared to injure his elbow, as backup QB Josh Grady saw action in the fourth quarter.