The bad story that is the Florida offense in November, only got worse Saturday night as the 12th-ranked Gators (10-2, 7-1 SEC) closed out their regular season on the short end of a 27-2 thumping by arch-rival and 13th-ranked Florida State (10-2) before a record crowd of 90,911 at The Swamp.
“That was very disappointing,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “Hats off to those guys (FSU). They made some plays and we didn’t. It’s that simple.”
Without a fourth quarter safety turned in by the defense, the Gators would have been shut out for the first time since a 16-0 loss to Auburn in 1988, the year of the (Lynn) Amedeeville Horror. Comparitively speaking, that Florida offense in 1988 was lights out compared to what we’ve seen in a November in which the Gators manufactured only 55 total points.
This was a game in which the UF defense gave a winning effort until it simply gave out of gas in the last 10 minutes. Task #1 for the Gators was to neutralize FSU running back Dalvin Cook and for three quarters UF made Cook pay a price every time he carried the ball. Heading into the fourth quarter, Cook had carried 13 times for 43 yards. When the Gators started showing the signs of wear and tear in the fourth quarter, Cook carried 13 times for 140 yards with two touchdowns in the last 6:17 of the game.
Florida’s defensive effort should have been good enough if only the offense had done its part. The Gators couldn’t sustain drives, going 3-and-out five times. In the red zone, the Gators went 0-3. The passing game produced only 134 yards on a 19-38 passing effort – just 3.53 per pass attempt – from Treon Harris who was sacked four times, had several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and missed four wide open receivers including a couple that would have scored TDs with an accurate throw. Additionally, Harris had serious problems reading the FSU blitz. Only one of the FSU sacks came from its front four; the rest came from blitzing safeties and linebackers.
The Gators wasted a terrific game from Kelvin Taylor, who pounded the Seminoles for 136 yards on 24 carries but there was no threat of a downfield passing game – Florida’s longest completion was 15 yards – to complement his effort.
The Gators had a couple of chances to score in the first quarter. On their second possession, Harris had more time than he thought in the pocket and missed short when he had Antonio Callaway a good 15 yards behind Jalen Ramsey. Later in the quarter, the Gators drove to the FSU 20 where they faced 4th-and-1. Given the lack of productivity in the kicking game, McElwain went for it on fourth down but the combination of an off target snap and FSU pressure caused Harris to fall down 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Florida fell behind 3-0 in the second quarter on the first of two Roberto Aguyao field goals and the lead stretched to 10-0 on a 1-yard Sean Maguire to Jeremy Kerr touchdown pass to finish off a 74-yard scoring drive with 7:47 left in the half.
The Gators drove to the FSU 33 as time ran out in the second quarter, taking the ball 11 plays and 47 yards to set up a 50-yard Austin Hardin field goal attempt but the kick sailed wide to the left.
In the third quarter the Gators drove to the FSU 38 where they faced a 3rd-and-5, but Harris was eaten up by the FSU blitz and sacked for a 6-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The Seminoles stretched their lead to 13-0 with 5:21 left in the quarter on Aguayo’s second field goal from 51 yards out.
The Gators followed the field goal with a 16-play drive that took 6:18 off the clock but again, they came up empty. On 3rd-and-4 at the FSU 6, FSU brought the house. Pressured by Demarcus Walker, Harris tried to throw the ball away but was called for intentional grounding back at the FSU 19. Hardin was sent in to try another field goal, this one from 37 yards, but Walker leapt high to block it and end Florida’s last threat to score a touchdown.
The Gators averted the shutout in the fourth quarter when CeCe Jefferson hit Maguire at the FSU 16 as he was throwing. In the scramble for the football, Maguire ended up landing on the ball in the end zone. It was a safety but it saved a Florida touchdown.
The Gators head to Atlanta next week to face Alabama in the SEC Championship game while FSU will wait until bowl decisions are made to find out where it’s playing on New Year’s Day.
FLORIDA STATE 3, FLORIDA 0; 12:11
The Seminoles got the first field position break of the game when UF was called for interference with a fair catch. Starting at the UF 41, the Seminoles caught another break on first down when the Gators jumped offside. After converting a first down on 1st-and-5, the Florida defense shut FSU down, forcing a 45-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo with 12:17 remaining in the half.
FLORIDA STATE 10, FLORIDA 0; 7:47
The Seminoles put together the first sustained drive of the game, going 74 yards in 7 plays to score on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Sean Maguire to Jeremy Kerr on fourth down. A 21-yard run by Dalvin Cook followed by a 45-yard Maguire-to-Kermit Whitfield pass gave the Seminoles a 1st-and-goal at the UF 8. Maguire and Whitfield connected for 7 yards on second down to the UF 1, but on 3rd-and-goal, the Florida defense stopped Cook in his tracks. On fourth down, the Gators flushed Maguire out of the pocket, but he threw the ball across his body as he rolled right and found Kerr between Gator defenders for the TD.
FLORIDA STATE 13, FLORIDA 0; 5:21
A 10-play, 46-yard drive resulted in a 51-yard field goal by Aguayo with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter to stretch FSU’s lead to 13-0. Key plays on the drive were a 10-yard pass from Maguire to Dalvin Cook and a 22-yard connection to Travis Rudolph that gave the Seminoles a first down at the UF 42. At that point, the Florida defense shut FSU down and forced the long field goal attempt, which hit the left upright but caromed through.
FLORIDA 2, FSU 13; 8:58
The Gators finally got on the scoreboard thanks to the defense. With FSU facing a 3rd-and-4 at its own 25, CeCe Jefferson blew by FSU’s right tackle and hit Maguire before his arm could go forward, jarring the ball loose. In the ensuing scrum, the ball wound up in the end zone where Maguire fell on it, giving the Gators a safety but averting a touchdown.
FLORIDA STATE 20, FLORIDA 2; 6:17
Florida’s defense was obviously gassed as FSU drove 52 yards in 4 plays with Cook carrying the last three for gains of 12, 10 and 15 to put the game away.
FLORIDA STATE 27, FLORIDA 2; 0:20
The Seminoles iced their cake with a 7-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Cook scoring from 29 yards out with 20 seconds to go in the game.