Gators Revert Back to 2012 Formula

Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy’s first start was a memorable one, as the Gators now own the longest winning streak by one SEC team over another in an annual, uninterrupted series. Florida has defeated Kentucky for the 27th consecutive time, 24-7.

It was a dominating all-around performance for this Gator team, which finally looks comfortable in its own skin after a rather shaky September start. Florida’s opening drive against Kentucky set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Murphy-led Gator offense started from its own seven yard line. It was by far the most impressive drive of the season—Florida drove 93 yards on 13 plays, converted three 3rd downs, chewed up almost eight minutes, and most importantly, capped the drive off with a touchdown.

It’s been a smooth transition for Murphy so far. Had you only looked at the stat sheet, you would have never believed it was his first career start as a Gator. His performance was like the second coming of the great “famous” Jameis Winston of Florida State (insert sarcasm here). Murphy completed his first 13 passes of the night, while throwing and running for a touchdown in the first half.

Perhaps the most crucial stat since Murphy has taken over as quarterback is Florida’s redzone efficiency: Seven trips, seven scores. Six touchdowns and a field goal.

While Jeff Driskel is arguably Florida’s most talented quarterback on the roster, Murphy has proven thus far to be a better decision maker, which is all this team really needs under center. Florida’s offensive production in the Muschamp era, or lack thereof, has been a topic of scrutiny for quite some time now. In year two of Brent Pease’s offense, Gator fans were expecting a much improved attack in 2013. These expectations were not unfounded, but like it or not, they have been put on hold due to the current situation the team faces.

It seems as though Florida has reverted back to its strategy from a year ago: Ball control, ball security, and great defense. It resulted in an 11-1 regular season, and with the defense that Florida has, particularly its defensive line and secondary, it is not unrealistic to believe the Gators still have a good chance to win the SEC East.

The key ingredient to Florida’s offense last season was a great running back. Florida had that in Mike Gillislee, who rushed for over 1,100 yards.

Running back Matt Jones, fresh off a career high 176 yards rushing against Kentucky, appears to be the man most likely to fill the shoes Gillislee left behind. Jones, who battled through a nagging viral infection during the summer, has seemingly hit his stride and will be expected to carry the load and build off of his successful day in Lexington.

If Jones is able to mirror the success of his predecessor, good things are likely to come to this Gator team that is seeking its third straight SEC victory against Arkansas on Saturday.

Canes Stun Gators in Final Chapter of Rivalry

If the phrase “shooting yourself in the foot” was to be taken literally, Albert the Alligator would be a wheel-chair bound reptile with little nubs instead of feet.

That’s right. Feet. Plural. Both of them. It’s as if he said, “screw it” after he blew the first one off sometime around the 2nd Quarter of Saturday’s Florida-Miami game in front of almost 77,000 fans at Sun Life Stadium. Albert “went for two” and blew the second foot off–as well as blowing the game–in the same perplexing manner as Coach Will Muschamp’s decision to go for two after Florida’s first touchdown.

While my intent is not to take anything away from Miami, the truth is anybody who watched Saturday’s game knows the story of the the contest had a lot more to do with Florida turning the ball over at the most inopportune moments, rather than Miami out-playing the Gators. I do give Miami a ton of credit for stepping up and playing 60 minutes of physical football; I was impressed with Miami’s intensity and effort on defense. Miami stood toe-to-toe with Florida all day, and even when it seemed like Florida would take control, Miami came up with the big play defensively.

It’s too bad for the Gators. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way in football. And on days like Saturday, the ball never bounced Florida’s way. The blame lies squarely on the Florida offense, however. College football is a lot about seizing momentum and making the most out of your opportunities. Florida could never quite take away enough momentum, and subsequently could never take the lead.

The Gator defense played lights out football for the final 3 Quarters. Miami RB Duke Johnson was held to  59 yards on 21 carries and QB Stephen Morris threw for just 162 yards–52 of them on a deep touchdown to WR Phillip Dorsett late in the 1st Quarter. The final stats just make you sick if you’re a Gator fan. Florida out-gained Miami 413-212 in total yards. The Gators had 22 first downs compared to just 10 for the Hurricanes. Miami was 1-11 on third down.

Many players in orange and blue had their best games as Gators, in my opinion. Solomon Patton caught 6 balls for 118 yards and a TD. Quinton Dunbar caught 7 for 98. Both career highs. Even Jeff Driskel, while throwing two gut wrenching interceptions, threw for a career high 291 yards, going 22 for 33. The much anticipated return of Matt Jones, however, did not go as planned. To me, it looked like the holes were there but Jones was not able to break past the first level and exceed a 10 yard rush. I give credit to Miami’s defense because they tackled very well all day. Even with Jones’ inability to get his own run game going, Florida still out-rushed Miami 122-50. RB Valdez Showers had a good day for Florida carrying the ball. Showers rushed for 27 yards on just four carries. I would have liked to have seen Showers touch the ball more. I expect him to be a big part of our offense the rest of the season.

And yet, here we are, Miami 21, Florida 16. While it flat out sucks losing to Miami, a team that I think we are much better than, we have to get over this one. We all knew that Florida was probably not a national championship contender, and that aspiration goes out the window with this loss. Unless of course Florida runs the table the rest of the way (spoiler alert: not going to happen). But the Gators still have a lot to play for this season. The SEC East looks very balanced at the top. I could easily see Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina winning the division. And truthfully, Florida’s offense moved the ball better than it did all last season on Saturday afternoon. You just absolutely can’t win a game in which you turn the ball over four times inside the opponent’s 25 yard line. Beyond the statistics, what disappointed me the most was how undisciplined Florida looked at the beginning of the game. Our defensive players were constantly talking trash and committing penalties and our offense lost total focus in the redzone. Florida must fix this if they are going to have success this season.

Bottom line, if Florida was going to drop one game this season, it’s probably best that they did it now. I’m trying to stay really positive here, by the way. This Miami game hurts Florida in almost no way other than pride and bragging rights. And hey, there are no Miami fans in Jacksonville, so I don’t have too much to worry about! The important thing is to not let this one loss turn into two or three. It only will get tougher for the Gators as we near October. Florida must refocus and get ready for Tennessee in two weeks. This loss to Miami will either be the defining moment of the season, or a sign of things to come. I’m hoping it’s the former. It’ll be a long bye-week, but before we know it, it’ll be Florida-Tennessee live from the Swamp. I’m ready to get this season back on track.

Go Gators!