It didn’t matter what final scored turned out to be. Once Roberto Aguayo hit a 45-yard field goal to give the Seminoles a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter, Florida State was able to play from ahead, run the clock and limit any possible chances offensively. And the Gators could only muster a safety while the offense was shut out.
The Seminoles cruised to a 27-2 win over the Gators on Saturday night in front of a new Ben Hill Griffin Stadium record crowd of 90,916.
“They made some plays and we didn't,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “It's plain and simple. We had opportunities, just didn't feel like we took advantage of them and that's something we've got to learn from. I think it'll be interesting in the building of this program (to see) how we handle disappointment like this and how we rebound. It'll tell a lot about a lot of our guys, tell a lot about the guys who are going to be coming back and what kind of roles they'll play and really kind of about who each one of us are.
“We competed hard. Our guys competed hard now on both sides of the ball except they made some plays and we didn't.”
It was so bad that Florida’s streak of not being shutout, which dates back to 1988 as the longest active streak in FBS, was in serious jeopardy in the fourth quarter. The only reason the streak wasn’t snapped is the Florida defense. It found points on a safety, created on a sack by CeCe Jefferson where the fumble bounced into the end zone and was recovered by a Florida State player.
The offense could do nothing. Florida punter Johnny Townsend is having an All-SEC caliber season, and he was able to boost those stats on Saturday with nine punts. The Gators have punted 18 times in the last two weeks while completing just 27 passes in that span.
Saturday was uncharted waters for McElwain with the brutal offensive showing and the loss. They’ve found ways to win despite the struggles in recent games, but the offense was too limited to make that happen. The first-year coach kept his consistent message after the game that he likes his team and wants to keep their spirits high before facing Alabama next week in the SEC Championship.
“I will tell you this -- I really like our football team,” McElwain said. “We have a really good football team. We have a bunch of guys who care for each other and a bunch of guys who still have something to prove. We'll learn from this and move forward and we've got an opportunity to play these guys again next year.”
Somehow, this Florida offense has managed to get worse while Harris got more time as the starter. The Gators put up 326 yards and 28 points at LSU in his first start and backed that up with 413 yards and 27 points against Georgia.
Since then, it has been ugly. The Gators have gone over 265 yards just once in the last four games, and that was a 404-yard performance against one of the worst defenses in the Southeastern Conference at South Carolina.
Harris went 19-38 for 134 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but the same issues crept up that have plagued him in recent games. There were open receivers. He just didn’t see them or wasn’t able to get the ball to them.
“I think maybe (he) might have looked at the rush a little bit,” McElwain said. “We had some guys created some pretty open receivers, but we've got to deliver it.”
McElwain did say there was no thought of a quarterback change and that Harris is the team’s quarterback.