Gators' defensive performance shockingly lacked any juice at all in Citrus Bowl
ORLANDO — Florida’s offense wasn’t going to have a fairy tale ending to its season. The Gators hadn’t shown a spark on offense since the end of October.
However, the lights went out a game too early on the defense in the 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. No one expected that.
Even before this season, through those abysmal offensive performances under Will Muschamp, the Gators defense rarely showed up with no teeth.
Despite the horrific patches of offense this season against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic, the defense fought valiantly to bail the offense out before victory was eventually attained.
Not today. Not even up until the fourth quarter. Heck, barely until halftime.
The only time Michigan’s Kenny Allen needed to come onto the field to punt was with three seconds left in the first quarter. Outside of that drive, and not including their final possession that ended with a kneel to close the game, the Wolverines scored touchdowns on 6 of 7 drives, while the other stalled at UF’s 3-yard line for an easy field goal.
Michigan fifth-year senior QB Jake Rudock finished the game 20-for-31 passing for 278 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions to lead the offensive onslaught.
In the postgame press conference, Florida coach Jim McElwain said of Michigan’s offensive performance: “No doubt. It was a little surprising.”
“I thought their quarterback did a great job in the play-action game. He was real accurate,” said McElwain, whose team finishes the season on a three-game losing streak. “I think they took advantage of us with the tight ends over the middle. If you look back at East Carolina, that was a problem for us as well all the way back. I think they did a good job and exploited some areas in there.”
Not only that, but Michigan methodically marched down the field on Florida’s defense numerous times.
Of the Wolverines’ eight drives, three of them consisted of 12 plays and took at least five minutes off the clock. For the game, Michigan nearly doubled up Florida in time of possession (38:38 to 21:22).
Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins’ unit simply couldn’t get off the field, allowing Michigan to convert 9 of 12 third downs.
At game’s end, the 63,113 in attendance had seen the Gators give up season-highs in total yards (503) and first downs (28). Florida, which entered the game allowing just 4.5 yards per play (8th in the FBS), allowed Michigan to average 6.5. Only Alabama’s average of 7.1 in the SEC title game was higher.
All of that adds up to an inexcusable performance from Florida’s defense.
The offense doesn’t get a pass by any means after only scoring a touchdown. However, the Gators’ highly acclaimed defense — said to rival Michigan’s in stinginess — failed to deliver at a crucial time for the program, one that sorely needed to stop the bleeding.
Now, the one thing the team could always hang its hat on has some wounds of its own to lick.