I think this team needs to learn how to win on the road. In the SEC you must start fast against good competition and I think the Gators got too far behind to make up the difference. When you trail on the road early you leave the crowd in the game for the duration and you give an underdog like South Carolina confidence. The Gators had some missed opportunities on some deep balls but rarely challenged the Gamecocks in the passing game. The difference in the game may have been the one turnover and it resulted in a touchdown for South Carolina. It was disappointing for all Gators and UF must show some pride and finish undefeated at home against FSU.
Ack: What were some key reasons for the loss?
Field position was a very big reason. UF had great field position (-47) to start the game and gave that away with a turnover. Florida's average starting field position was its own 21 yard line which makes it tough on a ball control offense. UF never had the short field, while South Carolina started three possessions in Gator territory. The Gamecocks scored two touchdowns and ran out the clock on the third possession to end the game. Turnovers were a key with USC scoring seven off the Gator turnover and UF producing none. The Gators came into the game with the second best turnover margin in school history.
Brady: What was key play of the game?
The hitch and run by Sidney Rice against Dee Webb when the game was 20-19. Dee had a tough day but could have used some help from the outside linebacker or safety. Florida had a poor tackling day on key plays and South Carolina maximized their yardage.
Ack: How did Florida lose even though they outgained South Carolina?
We mentioned turnovers and field position already but add hidden yardage in there as well. Florida had 86 yards in penalties and USC had a 48 yard interception return. Combine those yards with poor punting effort by Eric Wilbur and you have some hidden yardage on behalf of the Gamecocks.
Brady: What was disappointing about the defense?
Brandon Siler had one tackle versus a team that ran the ball 36 times. I was just amazed at this statistic and it had to be one of his worst games. Dee Webb had four penalties and several secondary players missed key tackles. I thought other than Marcus Thomas the defensive line was not up to speed with their performance of the entire season.
Ack: What was disappointing about the offense?
Their inability to find big plays in the offense was disappointing. Was Bubba Caldwell the only big playmaker? I don't think so. Chad Jackson should have made the deep catch, but Leak has to put more air under it. Dallas Baker had a chance to make a big play in the passing game as well. In the running game the backs have been solid, but where are the big touchdown runs? Ciatrick Fason was obviously a great talent, but UF once again did not record a 20-yard run. They have six as a running back group for the season. I can't remember a season without a long touchdown run for the Gators in the SEC.
Brady: What's up with our two minute offense?
I am not sure the offensive staff has put a lot of time into the hurry up. It was apparent to me that they did not have a sense of urgency or a plan to get big chunks of yardage. Even if your plan is to be conservative in the passing game, the time to get risky is in the hurry up down two scores. UF needs more formations and deep middle routes to pick up yardage against teams that are playing prevent. Running the ball down two scores with four minutes left is unacceptable unless it is short yardage and you are trying to get a first down or you are going in to score.
Ack: Are injuries contributing to the problems?
I think so although Meyer has never made excuses. Losing Vernell Brown, Bubba Caldwell and basically Ray McDonald has hurt this team. Also the nagging injuries to the receivers have set the passing game back.
Brady: Is that why the passing game seems to struggle?
I think the injuries and the fact that UF asks its receivers to spend a lot of time blocking and working on drills in practice. To be a good passing team you must use repetition and practice it better than 60 percent of the time. Florida is a balanced team that wants to run and I think the growth of the receivers has been stunted by change in philosophy.
Brady: Is the program in a transition?
It has been five years since the SEC title and this group of Gators has really accomplished nothing in regards to the SEC. I think Meyer needs to change the attitude and get more of his type of players in to be successful. I think this team hopes to win instead of expecting to win. Meyer will change that culture and I think this year's recruiting class is the most important in school history.
Brady: Anything positive from Saturday?
Well the Gators battled back after trailing 20-3 and some guys played very well. Marcus Thomas, Markus Manson and Deshawn Wynn all played well. Chad Jackson had a bunch of catches but the missed opportunity cost UF a big play.
Brady: What's next for UF?
They can win two straight over an arch rival and win a bowl game for the first time since 2001 season. I think the next two games are extremely important for the offseason, recruiting and spring practice. Florida can also go undefeated at home with a win.
Brady Ackerman can be heard on ESPN radio Gainesville-Ocala on AM 900 and AM 1230. Brady's website is http://www.bradyackerman.com