The Florida Gators' Issues With Undermatched Opponents Lately

By Phil Clark

 

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida Gators have been one of the great success stories in college football this season. But recently, that success has become clouded by the fact that the Gators have been having problems finishing games against opponents they shouldn’t be having those problems against.

The last two games for the Gators were less than impressive wins, and it is something that Gator Nation may want to take notice of with a potential look-ahead game coming up today.

The Missouri Tigers have had a less than impactful first season in the SEC with all five of their losses coming in conference. But their best overall performance in the SEC had to be their near-win against the Gators. The only downside of that performance for the Tigers, but also the thing that saved the Gators, was Tigers quarterback James Franklin throwing four interceptions with the final two coming in the final five minutes of the game. They were necessary turnovers as the Gators’ offense was completely stifled during this game. The Gators were outgained, went 2/13 on third downs, and neither Jeff Driskel nor Mike Gillislee were a real factor in the outcome outside of their 45-yard touchdown play together a little over a minute into the fourth quarter; that score did end up being the final score in the Gators’ 14-7 win.

Then came last week’s miracle against the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. Even with the Sun Belt become more and more legit by the season, this was not a game that was expected to be a competitive one. It was in Gainsville, the Gators were just coming off a very disappointing performance and surely would bounce back and beat on a team that was below them. Well, it didn’t go down that way.

The Ragin’ Cajuns scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to turn a game that was in the Gators’ hands, though not a blowout, into a major upset in the making. Once again, Driskel & Gillislee were neutralized, and in a more effective way than the Tigers were able to do the week before as Gillislee only gained 53 total yards and Driskel suffered the ankle injury that has kept him off the field since. Enter Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett’s relief performance wasn’t anything mythical, but it sure was efficient. He completed six of eight passes thrown and lead the Gators to the offense’s only touchdown since right before halftime. The score came with a little under two minutes to go and tied the game. I wasn’t able to watch the game on T.V., but when I saw that the Gators had tied it up, I swear I could hear the collective sigh of relief from Gator Nation all the way in Wisconsin. But that wasn’t the miraculous part of this win.

It should have been a forgone conclusion that this game was going to overtime with the Ragin’ Cajuns only needing to punt the ball and prevent the Gators from returning it for a score as there was less than 15 seconds remaining. I didn’t fully believe it until I saw it, but Loucheiz Purifoy blocked the punt, Jelani Jenkins grabbed it out of the air and ran it 36 yards for a touchdown with only two seconds remaining in regulation when he scored. Result: 27-20 Gators.

Driskel won’t be playing quarterback for the Gators today against the Jacksonville St. Gamecocks, and their yearly meeting with the Florida St. Seminoles is only a week away. Not concern, but maybe apprehension should be the dominant emotion going into this game. It is the definition of a trap game or look-ahead game as they have their biggest rivalry game in their sights, they are missing their starting quarterback, and are coming off their two worst overall showings of the season. I’m not calling an upset here, but it would be in the Gators’ best interest to use this game to get out of their funk, because going into Doak Campbell Stadium and playing the way they have been will mean a loss to end the Gators’ season.

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