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Gator offense still a question mark

The University of Florida’s 21-16 loss to the Miami Hurricanes was not a fun one to watch. Neither team looked like it wanted to win the heated in-state rivalry. The only reason Miami won was because of how dedicated the Gators were to losing the game.

Gator Nation should be ecstatic the Orange and Blue only lost by 5 points.

It should have been at least triple that.

The fact that the Gators even had a prayer of a chance at the end of the game after giving the ball away four times in the red-zone was nothing short of a miracle.

The tone for boneheaded plays was set early by head coach Will Muschamp when the Gators had a chance to tie the game at 7 after quarterback Jeff Driskel ran for a first-quarter touchdown. Instead of doing the logical thing and kick the extra point, Coach Muschamp decided to go for a two-point conversion.

It backfired, of course, much like everything else Florida’s offense tried doing during the game. The Gators failed conversion attempt put them behind the eight ball for the remainder of the game.

This forced the team to rely on Mr. Driskel to make enough plays to bring the team back.

He did make some great plays, but unfortunately they were for the Miami defense. He threw two red-zone interceptions, including one a play after missing a wide open receiver for an easy touchdown, and fumbled the ball away to the Hurricanes late in the fourth quarter. The fumble led directly to a Miami touchdown that all but sealed the game.

Mr. Driskel is not a good enough passer to lead the Gators to victories over teams they’ll play every week in the SEC. Sure, he was 22 of 33 for a career-high 291 yards, but every time it looked like he may lead the team back, he threw an interception or took a costly sack instead of throwing the ball away. Until Mr. Driskel develops as a passer, the team doesn’t have a chance to play for an SEC title, let alone a national championship.

A nonexistent offense wasn’t the only Coach Muschamp trademark that reared its ugly head during the loss to Miami; the Gators continued to be one of the most undisciplined teams in college football. The team averaged 68.8 penalty yards a game in 2012, and things haven’t been much different so far this season. The Gators have been penalized 10 times for 70 yards in each of their first two games, including a false-start against Miami that allowed the game clock to run down and seal the game for the Hurricanes.

Coach Muschamp needs to find a way to instill some discipline into his players if he doesn’t want to lose more than just an early season nonconference game.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Gators.

For as bad as the offense was, the defense couldn’t have played much better. They held an explosive Miami offense to just 10 first downs and allowed only one third-down conversion on 11 attempts. The defense held star running back Duke Johnson to just 59 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

Other than an early big play, the defense shut down quarterback Stephen Morris as he completed only 48 percent of his passes for 162 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

But will the defense be enough to keep Florida competitive when the team enters conference play September 13 against a hot Tennessee team? It might keep the Gators in the game, but the offense has to find some playmakers if the team wants to be anything better than a five-loss squad.

The Miami game brought the Coach Muschamp and the Gators offense to a crossroads. How they respond in the coming weeks will determine the fate of their season.

Jon Shumake

Press Sports Editor

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