Special teams breakdowns cost Gators

Florida set up for a field goal that would’ve iced the game, but that’s when the special teams mistakes started.

Frankie Velez lined up for the 32-yard kick, well within his range and comfort level this season. The field goal unit set up with plenty of time to get the kick off, but Mushcamp said an “operation time issue,” forcing the unit to rush it. Once the ball was snapped, Velez hit a low kick that was blocked and went 26 yards backwards, improving field position for the Gamecocks.

The Florida defense stood strong again, forcing a turnover on downs. After the Gators ran three plays and decided to punt with under one minute left, Jasper Sasser burst through the middle of the line untouched and blocked the punt.

Muschamp said the Gators were in a look where they “should’ve kicked it the other way” but didn’t. The Florida players on the line of scrimmage didn’t get off the ball quick enough, and what happened after that didn’t matter. The Gamecocks were going to block the kick.

“Getting two kicks blocked will lose you a football game,” Muschamp said. “We had every opportunity to win. We had two blocked kicks with 3:30 to go in game. That will cost you a football game. I don’t know what else to say other than that.”

And in a matter of 3:30 on the clock, the Gators went from complete control of the game to banking on a win in overtime to escape. That didn’t happen either.

Asked if he had been in a game before Saturday where he felt like the team had the game in hand and ended up losing, Muschamp’s response indicated the frustration of the 2014 season.

“Yeah, LSU,” he said, pointing to this season’s game.

When the game was forced to overtime, the Florida offense started with the ball, ran it twice before throwing an incompletion on third down and hitting a field goal. Florida stayed on the ground with the football throughout the game -- calling 49 runs compared to 11 passes -- but Muschamp didn’t feel they were too conservative.He pointed back to the special teams mistakes, saying that if they didn’t happen, the offensive issues wouldn’t have been a concern.

“We felt like we just tried to continue to put ourselves in a position to win that game,” Muschamp said. “That’s the bottom line. If we don’t get the punt blocked, we win the game. That’s the bottom line. We do what we have to do to win the game. We put ourselves in that position. We just couldn’t get it done.”

While the special teams issues took the fall for mistakes on both sides of the ball, the questions now turn to Muschamp’s job security. With the sixth loss in the team’s last eight home games, the heat has turned to new levels on the Florida coach.

As expected, he didn’t want to comment on it after the game, saying that the team would begin preparation for next week’s game.

“I’m going coach this football team and we’re going to move on and get ready for the next one,” Muschamp said. “That’s what I’ll do and that’s what our staff will and the team will do. I’ll let you guys speculate.”

The loss also pulls Florida out of contention for the SEC East title. Even with a win, the Gators would’ve needed a lot of help to make the trip to Atlanta, but Saturday’s loss ends any chance of that happening.

Florida heads into next week’s game against Eastern Kentucky without that goal in front of them and will need to find new motivation this week.

“You play at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “You keep playing hard.”

INJURY REPORT: Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff and crutched back to the locker room. He went to get an MRI but Muschamp didn’t have an update after the game.

Quarterback Treon Harris got hit on the hand early in the game and was bleeding on the sideline. Muschamp said he had a hard time with “some ball handling things.”


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