GatorZone.com Senior Writer
MIAMI -- That his Florida defense turned back high-powered Miami time and again, and gave its turnover-plagued counterparts repeated opportunities to sneak out a win, was of little solace Saturday to UF coach Will Muschamp.
He was too focused on something that same defense gave the Hurricanes early in the game.
“We gave them way too much momentum early,” Muschamp said.
Much went wrong for the 12th-ranked Gators in a 21-16 loss at Sun Life Stadium. While it was easy to zero in on UF’s five turnovers and just nine points on six trips inside the UM 20-yard line, Muschamp wasn’t about to give his defense a pass after allowing the Hurricanes to score two quick touchdowns on two of their first three possessions.
He wasn’t alone.
“If they don’t score, they don’t win,” junior inside linebacker Mike Taylor said. “We’re a team. We’re not an offense or a defense, we’re a team. Execution was very important today and we didn’t make the plays at the right time to come out with a victory.”
Considering the Hurricanes, who averaged nearly 480 yards per game last season, were held to just 212 yards of total offense, that’s quite a bar Muschamp, Taylor and the rest are setting. In fact, the Gators allowed the Canes just 69 yards on 35 plays (that’s 1.97 per snap) and only four first downs the final three quarters combined.
But it was the first quarter, Muschamp said, that set the game’s tone.
After tailback Matt Jones fumbled on UF’s opening possession, quarterback Stephen Morris and the UM offense went 50 yards in nine plays, with Morris firing a sideline route to Herb Waters, who got a step on junior defensive back Cody Riggs in the end zone, for a 7-yard touchdown pass and 7-0 Miami lead.
A three-and-out on the Hurricanes’ next possession was followed by a Loucheiz Purifoy blocked punt downed at the UM 10. The Gators needed two plays to score a touchdown, but failed on a 2-point conversion attempt and trailed by just a point.
Until Miami went 84 yards in six plays on its ensuing possession, with Morris going over the top of redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye for a 52-yard touchdown bomb to go up 14-6.
“That was disappointing,” Muschamp said.
“What made it all the more so were the mental mistakes that put the Gators in position to get burn. The UF defense got confused early with its situational personnel and UM capitalized with its hurry-up offense.
Some key players either weren’t in the game or where they were supposed to be.
“Substitution errors killed us,” said Purifoy, the junior cornerback who missed last week’s opener due to a one-game suspension for violating team rules. “It’s that simple.”
Added Muschamp: “Alignment, communication, assignment, you name it. We didn’t do it very well in the first series. We got very discombobulated, in my opinion. [And] the big play should not have been there. We repped that in practice over and over and over [because it’s] something they’ve done very well since they’ve been here.”
At the end of the first quarter, the Hurricanes had 143 yards on 18 plays.
They finished with 212 yards.
Thanks to the first quarter, it was enough.
Too bad the Florida defense, like much of the team, arrived on the job a little late Saturday.
“I’m not going to be bold and say that nobody should beat us,” Taylor said. “But if we don’t beat ourselves, we have a really good chance to beat a lot of the teams we play.”