Rapid Reaction: Gators' offense kept out of end zone in loss to Seminoles
For the second year in a row, the Seminoles’ defense kept the Florida Gators out of the end zone. While a banged-up UF defense put forth an admirable effort, FSU’s playmakers proved to be too much as Jimbo Fisher’s squad notched its fourth consecutive victory in the rivalry, topping Florida, 31-13.
What it means: In two years, Jim McElwain has gone 3-1 against Tennessee and Georgia, while winning the SEC East twice, but a victory over arch-rival Florida State eludes him. Florida falls to 8-3 and faces the possibility of ending the season on a three-game losing skid again.
What I liked: While the call earned McElwain notable criticism on Twitter, the early decision to go for it on 4th-and-goal on FSU’s 2-yard line showed that the Gators realized they weren’t coming out of Tallahassee with a win by playing conservative (field position, field goals and defense).
Gators cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson played tight man-to-man coverage and forced the Seminoles to rely on underneath receivers to move the ball through the air.
DT Joey Ivie came up with a big blocked field goal to keep it a one-score game (10-3) late in the second quarter. Special teams came up with another big play in the fourth quarter, scoring the team’s first touchdown when Chris Thompson forced a fumble on an FSU punt return and Marcell Harris scooping it up for the score.
What I didn’t like: For the third year in a row, the Gators struggled with defending Dalvin Cook. In the first quarter, Cook logged 87 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Any time the ‘Noles needed to move the sticks, they could count on Cook.
In a tight game, points off turnovers played a factor. Florida State converted the Austin Appleby fumble into 7 points. After an interception by S Chauncey Gardner, the Gators could only manage a field goal.
When Florida receivers were able to get open, Appleby either overthrew them or didn’t find them. It appeared Appleby took a step backward at the worst possible time.
Who’s the man: Just about any Florida State defender has a case for this one. The Seminoles did it all on defense. They pressured Appleby, contained Jordan Scarlett and kept tight coverage on Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland.
Key play: When NB Duke Dawson left the game due to an ankle injury, LB Daniel McMillian covered the slot receiver. The Seminoles took advantage with QB Deondre Francois finding WR Travis Rudolph for a 46-yard strike. The FSU lead was extended to 17-6 in the third quarter. With the way the Gators played on offense, Rudolph’s touchdown effectively sealed the deal.
What’s next: Florida faces a tough bounce back opportunity next week against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The Gators’ only hope at a New Year’s Six is pulling off a massive upset to secure the SEC’s Sugar Bowl bid.