Florida Can't Finish

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Omar Hunter knows the difference between this team and national championships at Florida. It's this group's inability to close out games. When he got to Florida as a freshman in 2008, he watched the leadership carry the Gators to win late in games. This season, Florida has struggled with late-game situations with the game on the line.

"That team was able to finish," Omar Hunter said. "This team has to learn how to finish. When I was on that '08 team, you had guys like Spikes and Tebow that were able to finish and close games. We need that on this team, myself included."

Players like Tebow and Spikes are special for any program, but vocal leaders as they both were for each side of the ball gave the Gators a chance to win every game. When Florida has been in close games this season, they've crumbled.

When Florida punted the ball down five points with 5:34 left, the defense needed to come up with a stop to give the offense a chance at winning the game. Instead, Dominique Easley's offsides penalty gave South Carolina a first down and they ran the clock all the way down to 42 seconds left before Florida could get the ball back.

Part of it is inexperience, but the lack of discipline is also hurting the team.

"It has been a different experience," Hunter said. "You're not used to this, especially coming in '08 like I did for the national championship. We aren't used to losing. We're a young team that has to get better from it."

The older defensive linemen, Hunter and Jaye Howard, have tried to mentor Easley this season. There's no denying his explosion off the ball, but his angst to blowup a play in the backfield can hurt the team like it did on Saturday.

"He's going to be good," Hunter said. He's a young player and you see him making plays out there. He's a great guy and holding on well.

"I'm sure he's disappointed, but it's not his fault at all. You can put blame on everybody."

It's not the first time an offsides penalty has hurt the Gators during the game. It has plagued the defense, specifically the defensive line, all season.

"Those offsides penalties have been killing us in crucial situations," Hunter said. "We just have to get better at it. You've got to be sound. We have to play our technique, and they coach us on it every day."

The lack of discipline on the defensive line also allowed South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw to run at will. He ran for 93 yards on the day and two touchdowns, mostly coming when the Florida defensive linemen couldn't maintain their gaps.

It wasn't just the defensive ends, either. The lack of pass rush this season has the linemen desperate to create it, and that has caused them to get out of their gaps.

"It's not just coming off the edge," Hunter said. "You have a certain gap you have to hold and when you rush your gap, you get into someone else's and that's when he can step up and runs at will."


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