Florida Gators: Kelvin Benjamin

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's only fitting that a season characterized by injuries and an ineffective offense would conclude with a whimper thanks to those same culprits.

But after losing 37-7 to No. 2 Florida State (12-0, 8-0 in the ACC) in the Swamp on Saturday, Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC) can take solace that its season of misery is mercifully over.

[+] EnlargeBurton
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsDespite carrying the ball just twice, Trey Burton led the Gators with 47 yards rushing versus Florida State. Burton left the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter.
"Very frustrating, difficult day that ends a very frustrating, difficult season," coach Will Muschamp said. "That’s the best way I can sum it up."

Not even an inspirational pregame speech by Gators great Tim Tebow could do more than delay the inevitable.

"What he said to us was, 'Any man that goes down, he has the ability to get back up. But the difference is how that man gets back up, because a man can get down and come back withered, can come back beaten. But a man that goes down and comes back up and is changed and is different from being down, that's who we are. That's who the Gators are. That's how we need to play and that's who we need to be,' " Florida left tackle Max Garcia recounted.

"So, I'm going to stick with that for the rest of my life. It really penetrated my soul."

With Tebow watching on the sidelines, the Gators were bouncing around and showing more emotion than they had in weeks. In front of a nearly full stadium, its fans at full throat, Florida's defense harassed Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston into one of his worst quarters (4-of-6 for 35 yards) of the season.

Winston threw his first interception in three weeks -- an excuse-me catch by Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, who broke up the pass with his back to the ball but was able to find and reel in the deflection. It was the Gators' first interception since the second quarter of the Missouri game on Oct. 19.

The crowd roared its approval, and there was more energy in the Swamp than at any point in the season.

Florida outgained FSU 81 yards to 33 in the first quarter, but 50 of those yards came on one Wildcat keeper up the middle by senior Trey Burton. Two plays later, Burton injured his shoulder on another keeper and did not return to the field.

With Burton went half of the offense the Gators were planning to run.

"We were probably going to have 30-35 plays with Trey [at Wildcat quarterback]," Muschamp said. "Some of the misdirection runs now go out of the game plan, so you've got to make adjustments and you've got to change.

"I hurt for Trey because he’s a senior, his last game in the Swamp, so [it's] very difficult for him. He’s a great young man. It just kinda sums up what’s happened this year. Very frustrating."

With Burton's injury, Florida was missing 16 scholarship contributors in this game. And with cornerback Marcus Roberson dealing with an ankle injury in the first half, UF was missing 10 of its original 22 projected starters on offense and defense.

Winston and the Seminoles still led 3-0 after the first quarter, as FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo converted the same 49-yard field goal that his Florida counterpart, Austin Hardin, missed.

A 12-play, 96-yard drive that culminated in a 45-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Kelvin Benjamin might have put the game out of reach, but more importantly, it quelled the enthusiasm of the Florida defense and the crowd.

FSU had weathered the early storm of defensive pressure and taken a 17-0 lead into halftime. It tied the lowest first-half scoring output of the season for the Noles, which happened previously against Nevada in Week 2.

A game that looked on paper like a colossal mismatch inevitably turned out that way. The Florida defense couldn't get off the field, thanks to FSU going 9-of-15 on third-down conversions. Meanwhile, Florida went 1-for-11 on third down and averaged 3.9 yards per play on the day.

"You got to maintain the ball against an offense like that," Muschamp said. "You got to take time off the clock. ... We weren’t able to do that. Give them credit. They made plays on third down, and we didn’t. I think we were 1-of-10 or -11 on third down. You got to convert those, and we’ve struggled to make explosives, make third-down conversions. You name it, we haven’t done it.”

In a season of making all the wrong history, the only drama Florida could muster against Florida State was whether the Noles would shut out the Gators for the first time in the 58-game series.

The answer was no, but it was close. And now the Gators boast the nation's second-longest streak of scoring in consecutive games (322, second to Michigan's 374 games in a row).

With one score in the fourth quarter, Florida finished the season with 11 passing touchdowns. It's the fewest since 1989, the season before Steve Spurrier was hired as coach. On the other sideline, sitting out the Noles' final series to let his backup play, Winston had already broken Florida State's single-season record for passing TDs, with three more on Saturday giving him a total of 35.

"It’s been a tough year, difficult to deal with, but it is what it is," a somber Muschamp said when it was over. "Those guys have persevered through some tough times and certainly this season being the iceberg of it all."

Now that it's in the history books, however, Florida's 2013 season might be remembered less as an iceberg and more as the ship that sunk when it struck one.
It’s probably hard for Florida fans to admit, but there are players on Florida State’s roster that are better than ones on the Gators roster.

And vice versa, too.

So what if trades could happen in college football? What if UF coach Will Muschamp and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, because of their long-standing friendship, could work something out? You know, during an afternoon at their shared beach house in the Florida panhandle they hammered out a couple of deals to exchange players.

Here are two we think they could work out, and the ramifications for each team:

No. 4 Florida (10-1) at No. 10 Florida State (10-1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
ABC


Gators to watch

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel, Mike Gillislee
Kevin Liles/US PRESSWIREMike Gillislee is nearing the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
RB Mike Gillislee: The senior needs just 36 yards to become the first Florida player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. He’ll certainly get his chance. The Gators are going to try and pound the football, similar to the way they did against LSU. The running game might not gain much early, but the hope is that the OL eventually wears down FSU’s DL and Gillislee will have more success in the fourth quarter. Gillislee hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards against an FBS school since he had 146 against LSU on Oct. 6. He had a career-high 34 carries in that game and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t get at least 25 against FSU.

NT Omar Hunter: FSU is averaging about 100 yards more per game rushing this season than during 2011 and the Noles have run for at least 237 yards in two of their last three games (they had minus-15 vs. Virginia Tech). Stopping the running game starts with stopping up the middle of the line, and that’s Hunter’s job. The fifth-year senior is having his best season (36 tackles) and is a big part of the Gators’ success against the rush (95.2 yards per game, sixth nationally).

CB Marcus Roberson: Roberson has a tough job on Saturday because FSU’s top three receivers are a handful. They’re big, physical players -- especially Rodney Smith (6-foot-6, 219 pounds) and Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 242) -- and Roberson is not exactly the most physical corner. UF plays almost exclusively man coverage so he’ll match up with each of them and the Gators need him to keep them from making big plays down the field. Plus, he’ll likely return punts again this week. He did a good job last week of running up and making a fair catch in traffic to save the Gators yardage. He needs to do that against the Noles.

(Read full post)

Rivalry week Roundtable: UF vs. FSU 

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
8:00
AM ET


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 4 Florida and No. 10 Florida State meet Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. The Seminoles (10-1) have won two in a row in the series, after the Gators (10-1) won six in a row.

NoleNation’s Corey Dowlar and David Hale and GatorNation’s Michael DiRocco and Derek Tyson break down this weekend's game in a roundtable discussion:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Challenges Facing No. 1 FSU
Travis Haney discusses the challenges facing Florida State, which is ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches' poll, and teams outside of the Top 25 to watch.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Saturday, 8/30
Sunday, 8/31