Florida lost to Georgia, 24-20. We'll look back at the game in at multiple parts: The Rapid Recap, which reacts to the game in full before a second viewing, comes first.
This is my attempt to make sense of the most painful Florida loss of 2011. It's a little short on vitriol, possibly because I've just forgotten some of the worst things.
How Florida Lost
After failing to capitalize on a number of great early chances and build a lead much bigger than the 17-3 it stretched to at one point, Florida let Georgia steamroll it in the second half, and could respond with only futility on offense.
Florida's return teams were so good that Georgia's strategy in the second half seemed partly designed to avoid the Gators getting a chance to return kicks. Jeffrey Demps took a kick to the house, Andre Debose gave Florida the ball deep in Georgia territory, and Florida didn't make any mistakes on punt returns. That's about all you can ask for, really.
John Brantley's play to get Florida's lone offensive touchdown is probably going to go down as his best as a Gator: He dodged a blitz that disintegrated his pocket and found an open receiver for a fourth down touchdown. And he did it on a bum ankle that clearly limited him throughout the game. Brantley's day overall wasn't nearly that good, but I'd be remiss to not note that moment of brilliance.
Florida's defense has one massive deficiency (defending the run inside), but Will Muschamp and Dan Quinn's charges don't give up, and held Georgia to 354 yards on a staggering 84 plays from scrimmage, a 4.21 yards per play average that really isn't a terrible number. Take away Georgia's two fourth down touchdown throws, both over undersized Florida corners (De'Ante Saunders and Jaylen Watkins) on jump balls, and Florida would probably have won. Of course, stopping those plays is what good defenses do.
Jordan Reed made four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, and at least one of those was made with two feet firmly on the ground. I know this because I saw it with my own two eyes.
Marcus Roberson made a very athletic interception to force Florida's first turnover since Kentucky. Less than nothing was done with it, but, hey, it happened.
Demps made plays on offense when given space to run. I know, it's crazy, but it happened.
I may be alone on this island, but I think Muschamp made the right call to show Georgia a seemingly honest attempt to go for it on fourth and two late in the fourth quarter. Yes, Muschamp burnt a timeout in the process, but that timeout turned out to be rather meaningless; meanwhile, the Gators got Georgia to waste its second timeout, buried the Dawgs deep, and then forced a three and out. The gamble worked, Muschamp's defense held up its end of the bargain, and the Gators got better field position for a first and 10 than it had for the fourth down. That Weis' offense didn't do anything with it doesn't invalidate the decision.
Brantley was valiant, but teams don't win football games with valor: They win them by being better at football than the other team. Asking Brantley to do a lot more than he did, when receivers aren't getting open and the offensive line alternates between resembling an offensive line and resembling ashes, would be silly. Asking him to do a little more, and complete, say, 15 of 33 passes instead of 12, is what every Florida fan was doing throughout the game. That might have something to do with his injury. Charlie Weis relying on Brantley instead of looking to Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel might say more about how much Weis trusts Brantley. But Brantley had chances to win this game. He didn't.
Then again, if Weis can't get more than one touchdown and two field goals out of the field position that Florida's defense and special teams gave him, Florida's problems are related to schematics, not personnel. Weis riding Brantley is fine, but he should have considered how poorly Florida's receivers have played when calling plays; Weis using Trey Burton once or twice is fine, but anything more than that is an over-reliance on a fatally limited player; Weis completely neglecting Florida's running game is okay, but he needed to look for short passes early to make up for the problems staying on schedule that a pass-heavy offense can cause. This wasn't catastrophic by Weis, but it's not hard to imagine that better play-calling could have won this game for Florida, with all else remaining equal.
Florida's secondary is not exactly bad, but it's certainly not good, and between the Mossing of Florida's bite-sized corners and Roberson's one untimely pass interference penalty, it was arguably in the running to be the worst part of Florida's defense on the night.
Chris Rainey cannot fumble and drop passes for this Florida team if he's going to be the first option on offense. Because I don't think he's going to grow better hands or get bigger or stop looking for touchdowns on third and 22 when a simple 15 yards would have sufficed in the near future, he should probably be utilized less.
Florida simply isn't even in the region of being good enough to commit 14 penalties for 101 yards and expect to win games. (One penalty was practically intentional; that leaves Florida with a still-atrocious 13 penalties for 96 yards.) This is a discipline issue, and a youth issue, and a heart-breaking, passion-diminishing problem; it's nigh impossible to excuse penalties that are as dumb as Ronald Powell shoving a blocker out of bounds on a punt that wasn't even being returned. I think cleaning up other areas of play will lead to fewer penalties, rather than the reverse, but I'd settle for fewer penalties, too.
Florida's up-the-gut run defense has been gutted in four straight games. Opponents should know by now that running up the middle and switching to the pass only if the Gators demonstrate a little resilience is probably a ticket to victory over this team; Florida should know by now that stacking the box with eight defenders is what they need to do to make life a little harder on opponents running the ball. And yet, neither side appears to fully get that. Let's hope that the Gators, at least, figure that out in the near future.
HOW THE HELL DOES FLORIDA'S DEFENSE NOT DEFEND AGAINST THE THING THAT KILLED THEM ON FOURTH DOWN IN THE FIRST HALF WHEN THE SAME OPPORTUNITY ARISES FOR GEORGIA IN THE SECOND HALF?
Florida's wide receivers had one of their better nights of the year. They combined for four catches for 60 yards. Demps outgained them on a single catch-and-run that saw him get caught from behind. Reed had as many catches and more yardage. Quinton Dunbar failed to hold on to a catch that he obliviously moved out of bounds to make. Frankie Hammond fumbled to give Georgia the ball in Florida territory. Again, this was one of their better nights of the year. I don't hate many things in sports, but I truly do hate these Florida wide receivers.
Florida's offense didn't gain more than nine yards on any drive in the second half. That is unspeakably bad.
#FreeGilly seems futile at this point. That's just sad.