Florida struggles without downfield plays

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Georgia loaded the box. It wasn't a surprise for the Gators or anything different than what they've seen this year. The Bulldogs managed to take away the quarterback and running back on the ground. When that happened, the Gators needed to win battles down the field for big plays. The worst scenario for Florida played out — receivers weren't open and pass blocking struggled.

"When they're loading the box, we've got to win down the field," Will Muschamp said. "We have just got to win down the field."

The offensive game plan was built around Mike Gillislee on the ground, and Florida tried multiple ways to get him going in the first half. Everything offensive coordinator Brent Pease drew up on the ground early in the game was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

The Gators tried to open up the passing game with a few shots down the field. The offensive line didn't hold up and give Jeff Driskel enough time to throw the ball down the field, but the receivers also weren't getting open quick enough for it to happen.

"We struggled to run the ball, and we struggled to protect at times," Muschamp said. "You can't put it all on the offensive line. We've got to look at some things like routes, taking the ball to certain places and getting rid of the football. There are a lot of things that go into the passing game. It's not all on the offensive line."

The result of the struggles for both was another monster game against the Gators for Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. After a four-sack performance last year, he had a career high 13 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, including three sacks, to go along with two forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

"He's a very active guy," Muschamp said. "They do a good job of moving him around. We went to some more conventional things in the second half where we held him under control with some three-man surfaces."

The Gators have been able to slow elite pass rushers like LSU's bookends of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery while South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney didn't even have close to the production of Jones.

Muschamp blamed the inability to run the ball effectively. The Georgia front seven did such a good job of stopping the run game that Jones was able to crash into the backfield and either stop the run play there or affect the quarterback.

"I didn't think we ran the ball well enough," Muschamp said. "You become one dimensional against really good rushers, and Jarvis is a really good rusher. We had planned to chip him and do some things. Sometimes we did. You can't limit yourself in the passing game on every single snap in order to chip a guy."

AVOIDING THE OFFICIALS: Muschamp didn't want to talk much about the officials after the game. Both teams were hit with plenty of penalties—ten for 95 yards against Florida and 14 for 132 yards against Georgia. The game drew multiple personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls as the referees attempted to keep the game under control.

"I don't have any comment on that. It is what it is," Muschamp said.

The next question was specifically about the holding call against Dominique Easley on Georgia's second to last drive of the game. Florida looked like it forced a three-and-out to get the ball back down one point, when a flag was thrown for a hold on Easley when the Bulldogs ran a screen play.

"I have zero comment on that one," a noticeably aggravated Muschamp said.


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