Uncharacteristic turnovers produce first loss

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Gators came into Saturday with four turnovers on the season. Florida was one short of that number in the first half alone and turned the ball over a total of six times against Georgia. After the Florida defense talked all week about causing strips and creating turnovers, the Florida offense struggled to maintain possession from its first drive in a 17-9 loss on Saturday.

"I've said all season long, we're not a team that has a lot of margin of error," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. "With six turnovers leading to six points, they're critical plays in the game. You've got to rise up in those opportunities you have and make those plays. They did, and we didn't.

"Six turnovers. Wow. That's tough to overcome."

The first snap of the game should have been the indicator. Quarterback Jeff Driskel held onto the ball too long and caused a fumble on a read play with Mike Gillislee. The ball bounced to the ground before Driskel jumped on it to save the possession. Two plays later, Jarvis Jones caused his first of two fumbles by stripping Driskel and setting up an easy Georgia touchdown.

Driskel would fumble later in the first quarter and throw an interception on the final play of the first half while trying to throw across his body and into the end zone.

"I've said it throughout the entire year and preached it to our team—we can't go out and lay it on the ground six times," Muschamp said. "That's not what we can do. We've got to take advantage of field position, which we didn't. We've got to take advantage of turnovers, which we didn't.

"There were a lot of self-inflicted situations. We can't do that. We haven't done that all year."

The frustration for Florida wasn't that the turnovers came. It was that they came in bunches on Saturday. The Gators worked all offseason on ball possession, knowing that the offense didn't have enough talent to put the ball on the ground and break out a long touchdown drive to make up for it.

It showed on Saturday.

The Gators managed to stay in the game because of three interceptions by Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. The Florida defense also stifled the Bulldogs in the second half, but the offense wasn't strong enough to take advantage.

"We didn't play the way we've needed to play with field position and turnovers," Muschamp said. "That's the formula we've needed against good football teams."

The last turnover was the biggest one. Down eight points, the Gators were driving and had the momentum. Driskel hit Jordan Reed on a short throw, where the tight end ran it to the five-yard line. When he got there, he jumped. As he left the ground, Jones reached in and punched the ball out, bouncing into the end zone where Sanders Commings recovered it for a touchback.

"No one play loses the game," Muschamp said. "Great effort on Jordan's part trying to get the ball in the end zone—just got to do a better job on ball security. It was an outstanding play and turning it up the field, but in that situation, you've got to have better ball security. But don't fault the effort."

INJURY REPORT: Muschamp said defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (hip) "never recovered" from his injury during last week's game and was held out on Saturday. Muschamp said on Monday that he expected Jacobs back at practice last Tuesday.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins tweaked his hamstring in the first half and didn't return. Wide receiver Solomon Patton broke his arm on a fourth down run in the first half.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Gators now have a chance to respond. They close SEC play next weekend by hosting Missouri before two non-conference teams come to town. Florida will then play Florida State to close the regular season.

"You've won together, and we're going to see how we handle adversity as a football team," Muschamp told the team after the game. "We've done that very well in my time. We've got a bunch of down guys in the locker room and I totally understand that. We've got to regroup here."

Georgia has two remaining SEC games against Ole Miss and Auburn. The Bulldogs will play in the SEC Championship game by winning both. If they drop one and Florida beats Missouri, the Gators will go to Atlanta.

That's not on the minds of the coaches right now. They're focused on regrouping and closing the season strong.

"Our staff will get back in the office and work. We get the players back at 3 o'clock on Monday. We have good leadership on our football team. We'll be fine. We just need to push through this. There's a lot of football to play.

"We already had some guys stand up. Those guys will regroup, and we'll be fine."


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