Gators know they’re capable of more

Oct 4, 2020 | 0 comments


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Normally, a two-touchdown victory over an SEC East opponent at home is cause for celebration. Every win is hard-earned in this league and gets you one step closer to achieving all of your goals.


That was not the mood surrounding the No. 3 Gators following their 38-24 defeat of South Carolina (0-2) on Saturday afternoon at the Swamp. Instead, if you hadn’t watched the game, you would’ve almost thought that they lost by some of the comments they made after the game.

“With the capability and potential of our offense, the playmakers that we have, we expect to score every single time we have the ball,” quarterback Kyle Trask said. “We should’ve scored more. There are some little things we need to do, such as taking care of the ball. I can’t put the ball on the ground and give it to the other team. We just have to clean up those little things, and there is no doubt in my mind that we can score on every single drive.”

Added cornerback Kaiir Elam: “We try to have a shutout every game, and we have a long ways to go with everything.”

Yes, they do. Florida (2-0) limped to the finish line in the second half and may have found itself in serious trouble if not for some questionable game-management decisions by the Gamecocks. 

“I think we’ve got to get a lot better,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “Certainly, get a lot better in how we finish the game. Offensively, we should have finished the game much sooner. Defensively, had the opportunity to get off the field and the first time we got a stop [on fourth down] was on the last play of the game there. We gave up 11 conversions today. So, we have to do a better job of getting off of the field.” 

The first half couldn’t have gone much better offensively. The Gators rolled up 242 yards of offense and 24 points in the first 30 minutes. Trask completed 14 of his 17 throws in the half for 175 yards and two scores. Tight end Kyle Pitts hauled in two touchdown receptions, and receiver Trent Whittemore made an incredible leaping catch in traffic over the middle of the field. They didn’t punt at all in the half, and the only time they didn’t score was when Trask lost a fumble on a quarterback run. 

Then came a second half that everybody in orange and blue would like to erase from their memories. UF gained just 106 yards in the half, with 57 of them coming on a catch and run touchdown by Kadarius Toney. Trask threw for just 93 yards. They punted twice, threw an interception in their own territory and scored only twice in five possessions. 

Perhaps most indicative of the type of game the offense had is Pitts’ production. He caught four passes for 57 yards and the two scores in the first half but was shutout after halftime. 

“I think we threw it to him once, but we had a drop, a missed read,” Mullen said. “I don’t think we got into a very good rhythm in the second half at all offensively. So, a lot of that’s going to be on me in play-calling. Our execution, I just don’t think we had very good rhythm there in the second half with the three-and-outs and turnovers. Terrible. I don’t know that it was anything they really did or changed; they did the same thing in the second half that they did in the first half. We just didn’t execute very well.”

They looked more like one of the offenses South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp regularly put on the field during his time at Florida than the explosive offense that scored 75 points in its first six quarters of this season. 

A similar thing happened on the defensive side of the ball. After a rocky start, Florida’s defense settled in and made four consecutive stops spanning the two halves. Then, once their offense gave them a seemingly insurmountable 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, they lost their edge and gave up 160 yards and 10 points over their final three possessions. 

UF held the Gamecocks to 6-for-17 on third downs but allowed them to convert five of six fourth downs to keep them in the game. 

“Execution, effort,” Mullen said of what plagued the defense. “There were a couple of mistakes out there on the field. We still have got to tackle better with the attention to detail on all the little things that we’re still catching up on defensively.”

Elam said they know they have to do a better job on third and fourth downs, but he tries not to think about it during the game. He expects them to continue to improve as the season goes on. 

“You can’t dwell on those things like that,” he said. “All those third down conversions are just learning lessons to help us execute next time. I feel like we should get off the field every third down. If not, you can’t dwell on it. You’ve just got to learn from it and come smarter and harder.”

Because the Gators seemingly got complacent and let their guard down, this game turned from a possible blowout that would’ve allowed them to get some younger players in the game into a frustrating rock fight that was somewhat in doubt until the final minutes. 

Mullen said there isn’t one aspect of the team that concerns him more than others. It was a full team collapse in the second half, and everything will be evaluated for improvement. 

“Every little detail of the game concerns me,” he said. “Our offense going three-and-out concerns me; that’s really bad defense. Our offense is extremely responsible for playing defense. Twice we gave them the ball at midfield, and then in the fourth quarter, we came out with two three-and-outs, I think, offensively. So, that’s really bad defense played by the offense. We had opportunities to get off the field on third down defensively and didn’t get off.”

In some ways, it’s a testament to how far the program has come under Mullen that a two-score win is looked at as a bit of a disappointment. But, as Mullen has pointed out numerous times since taking the Florida job, he expects his team to play up to the Gator Standard. They didn’t do that against South Carolina on either side of the ball. 

The Gators know they’re capable of playing much better than they did on Saturday. Now, it’s a matter of doing it – for all 60 minutes. 

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