The Gators gave up just 124 yards of offense in the first half and was in control of the game. Florida State went conservative at times since it didn’t fear the Florida offense, but the Gators were able to play well defensively and limit most of what the Seminoles wanted to do.
That changed in the fourth quarter.
After being on the field as often as they were when the offense couldn’t maintain drives, the Florida defense simply wore out. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook had 33 yards on 13 carries through the first three quarters. He broke out in the fourth quarter for 150 yards on 13 carries.
“We just gave him that many opportunities,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “Our defense is as a good as any in the country. And they played well enough today to win. It’s a team game (and) in all three phases you’re responsible for that. We didn’t take advantage of what they were giving us and create some plays for ourselves.”
That wasn’t on the defense, however.
The Gators held Sean Maguire to 14-28 for 160 yards and one touchdown, and the Seminoles only went 2-13 on third-down conversions.
“Our defense gave us opportunities and the key is we’ve gotta stay together as a team and a family and you know get a little bit better,” McElwain said.
The players understood the frustration. Wasting dominant defensive performances because of offensive struggles has become all too familiar in Gainesville over the last five seasons, and it crept up again on Saturday.
“It’s tough,” Florida tight end Jake McGee said. “It’s something that really makes you sick when you see how hard they’re playing and what the type of defense that they are and you can’t give them any help. You see them out there; they’re making plays left and right. We weren’t able to give them anything."
Florida announced an hour before kickoff that wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was suspended for a violation of team rules. McElwain has emphasized players making choices and needing to make the right ones all season, but it was Robinson’s fourth suspension during his three-year career at Florida.
“Are any of you surprised? I mean, really,” McElwain said. “What’s disappointing is for somebody to do that to their teammates and yet I’m not mad at him at all. He just made a choice. That’s the way it is.”
McElwain said Robinson’s future at Florida is “up to his teammates.” He also added that it remains to be seen if Robinson could do what’s right in the future.
KICKING GAME ISSUES … AGAIN
Austin Hardin went 0-2 on Saturday, missing field goals from 37 and 51 yards. The 51-yarder was wide left while the 37-yarder wasn’t hit high enough to avoid being blocked.
McElwain has continued to be confused by Hardin’s issues. He has leg strength and shows it off on kickoffs, but he simply hasn’t been accurate enough, now falling to 5-13 on field goals this year.
“We’ll get a kicker,” McElwain said. “That’s our responsibility and we’ll get one. And we’ll get a good one.”