Sunday November 3, 2013Gators Notebook: Bowl Projections, Taylor's Starting Debut, Orr's Play, Slow Starts, etc.
Defensive tackle Leon Orr, No. 44, after his momentum-shifting fumble recovery Saturday.
Defensive tackle Leon Orr, No. 44, after his momentum-shifting fumble recovery Saturday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A trip to Atlanta and chance to win an SEC championship is now as unlikely as a snowstorm on Jacksonville Beach.
Still, there are goals to chase, starting with the most important one: a win. The Gators have lost three consecutive games after falling 23-20 to Georgia on Saturday.
At 4-4 and with four regular-season games remaining, a winning record remains within reach. Returning to the national rankings is still possible if Florida can discover some late-season magic. A bowl berth also hangs in the balance.
Florida has not missed a bowl game since 1990 when it finished 9-2 in Steve Spurrier's first season but was ineligible for postseason play.
The Gators need two wins in their final four games to become bowl eligible. Here are the latest bowl projections from ESPN.com.
Starting quarterback Tyler Murphy has no plans to spend the holidays without preparing for another game. But with games still remaining at South Carolina and at home against undefeated Florida State, the feat won't be a small task.
It starts Saturday at home against Vanderbilt on Homecoming.
"We definitely want to win out and make it to a bowl game,'' Murphy said in the wake of a third consecutive loss to the Bulldogs. "Just keep fighting and get better. Vandy is a good team. They beat Georgia. Maybe we can try and do some things to shake things up in the [SEC] East even more."
Murphy's message was the predominant one shared by Florida coach Will Muschamp and his players after they fell behind 20-0 Saturday before coming back and nearly pulling off what would have been the season's biggest win to date.
Instead, they headed back to Gainesville frustrated by another loss and focused on salvaging what is left of the season.
"We've certainly been inconsistent,'' Muschamp said. "That's the frustrating part for me right now."
TAYLOR'S STARTING DEBUT
Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor made his first career start Saturday, rushing for a career-high 76 yards on 20 carries.
Taylor's debut came in the stadium where his father, former UF standout Fred Taylor, starred for most of his NFL career with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Kelvin improves every week,'' Muschamp said. "He's a young player; keeps getting better and better."
The insertion of Taylor into the starting lineup was one of the changes the Gators made during the bye week. Taylor's ability to hit holes quickly and avoid negative plays provided the Gators with a consistent run game for most of Saturday's loss.
Florida finished with 145 yards on the ground.
"He did a good job of getting north and south,” Murphy said. "It always seems like that kid is one play away from making a big touchdown run."
The Gators forced a turnover for the 19th consecutive game, but this one was not your typical takeaway.
Georgia faced second-and-12 at its 28-yard line in the third quarter when quarterback Aaron Murray tossed a lateral to tight end Arthur Lynch, who dropped the ball and fell to his knees.
Gators defensive tackle Leon Orr quickly grabbed the ball and took off running before being tackled at Georgia's 14. Officials reviewed the play and determined Murray's pass was a lateral.
"That was a great heads-up play,'' Florida linebacker Michael Taylor said. "I thought he was going to score. It would have been a lot better if he would have scored. It got the momentum going. It got us really started on the sideline. That was a big play for us coming out of the half."
Two plays later Mack Brown scored on a 5-yard run to trim Georgia's lead to 23-10. The Gators scored 17 unanswered points before the Bulldogs ran out the clock on a 15-play, 67-yard drive to end the game.
Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy goes airborne on his 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The loss of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel earlier in the season took away a dangerous weapon in Florida's offense: Driskel's legs.
Driskel averaged 34.4 yards rushing per game last season, second on the team behind 1,000-yard rusher Mike Gillislee.
During the Gators' bye week, they worked to utilize Murphy more in the running game. Murphy was averaging just 11 yards rushing a game prior to Saturday. However, he ran for 39 yards on back-to-back plays to open the fourth quarter.
His 14-yard touchdown run with 14:20 left in the game cut Georgia's lead to 23-20 after Murphy hit tight end Clay Burton for the two-point conversion. Murphy had 56 yards rushing Sunday, finishing officially with 28 yards on 10 carries when factoring in four sacks for minus-28 yards.
"One thing in the off week that we looked at was our lack of running the quarterback, which is something that has been very successful for us this past season,'' Muschamp said Sunday on his TV show. "We felt like we needed to get back to that. Tyler does it extremely well. He's got a great feel for it as far as running some of the zone-read concepts that produced a touchdown for us toward the end of the game."
The Gators have now been outscored 48-16 in the first quarter, including 27-3 in back-to-back losses to Missouri and Georgia.
The Bulldogs led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter Saturday, which proved to be an insurmountable lead for the Gators to overcome.
"We dug too deep of a hole to get out of,'' Muschamp said. "Defensively, the first drive, we get cut out of our gaps a little and [Todd] Gurley hits a big run on us."
Gurley had a 25-yard run that moved Georgia to Florida's 5-yard line on the game's opening drive, and he scored on a 5-yard run the next play to cap a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive.
The Gators responded when Murphy hit Quinton Dunbar for an 83-yard completion, the Gators' longest offensive play of the season. However, the Gators failed to score after a first-and-10 at Georgia's 10-yard line.
"The first drive, we need to get points out of the drive,'' Muschamp said. "The second play of the game is what we wanted. We just gotta convert those situations."
On Georgia's next drive, Gurley took a dump pass in the middle of the field and raced 73 yards for a touchdown. Middle linebacker Antonio Morrison blitzed on the play and defensive end Dante Fowler missed an assignment by not dropping to cover Gurley on the zone-read blitz, leaving the middle wide open.
"You are down 14-0, but I'm extremely proud of our players and how we fought back and gave ourselves a position to win the game in the end,'' Muschamp said. "Our guys have been in tough situations before. We always coach through this. We always talk about 60 minutes in a game.
"I feel like we did kind of seize control. They had 12 men on the field after that fourth down and I felt really good about our situation in the game. We need to win those games in the end."
OFFENSIVE LINE IMPROVES
Much of the focus on what ailed the Gators during the bye week was aimed at the offensive line.
The unit allowed 10 sacks in the previous two games and also had difficulty helping the offense establish a consistent run game. There was marked improvement on Saturday despite the absence of starting left tackle D.J. Humphries, who is out two to four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
"They stepped up today,'' Murphy said. "They took it upon themselves to do better and they did a good job. They gave me a lot of time in the pocket."
Murphy was sacked four times but was not nearly under the consistent pressure he faced at LSU and Missouri.
Tyler Moore moved to left tackle Saturday and junior transfer Trenton Brown made his first career start at right tackle. Both Moore and Brown were called for costly penalties in the second half but the juggling of the line paid off.
"I thought we blocked well,'' Muschamp said. "I thought we got a hat on a hat. I thought we got good movement. One [of the sacks] was on a seven-man protection. It was on the tight end; a couple were scramble situations. We had time to throw the ball. It wasn't because of the offensive line."
A behind-the-scenes look at Florida's trip to Jacksonville for the annual Florida-Georgia game ...
QUOTE OF NOTE I
"For us. For pride. You play for the name on the back of your jersey. Your family. For the coaches." -- Taylor when asked what the Gators play for the rest of the season
QUOTE OF NOTE II
"He helped a little bit, didn't he. He played so well those first couple of series.'' -- Georgia coach Mark Richt on Gurley, who rushed for 100 yards for the second consecutive season against the Gators
QUOTE OF NOTE III
"It's always an emotional game. We need to get back on the right end of the stick here as far as that game is concerned. Our crowd was great. I appreciate all the Gator fans." -- Muschamp on Florida's third loss in row to the Bulldogs
WHAT THEY'RE WRITING
--Early deficit haunts Gators in loss to Georgia writes Matt Kelley of The Miami Herald.
--Gators remain mathematically alive (barely) in SEC East writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.
--Florida native Aaron Murray accomplished a rare feat for a Georgia quarterback writes Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.
--Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy recorded a rare safety, which sparked the Gators writes Joe Morgan of The Orlando Sentinel.
--There was one main reason for Florida's loss writes Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley.
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Bill King offers his Bulldogs fan perspective.
--Marc Weiszer of the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald writes emotions were running high in his UGA postgame blog.
NOTES AND NUGGETS
Dunbar's 83-yard reception on Florida's second play was the longest pass play for Florida since John Brantley connected with Chris Rainey for an 83-yard pass on Sept. 17, 2011 ... Dunbar now has a catch in 24 consecutive games ... Kickers Frankie Velez (1-for-2) and Austin Hardin (0-for-1) each missed kicks Saturday; Muschamp said on his Sunday TV show the Gators will continue to rely on which kicker has the better week of practice ... The Gators limited Georgia to 79 yards after the Bulldogs gained 335 in the first half ... The Gators did not commit a turnover and are now plus-two in turnover margin ... Gators linebacker Ronald Powell recorded his third sack of the season and now has 10 for his career ... Freshman defensive tackle Joey Ivie (Pasco High) made his first career appearance, the 11th true freshman to play for Florida this season ... True freshman Vernon Hargreaves III finished with a career-high nine tackles, which led the team ... Murray, who is from Tampa, joined Johnny Rauch and Buck Belue as the only Bulldogs quarterbacks to defeat the Gators three or more times in their careers.