Florida's offense is limited. It cannot execute consistently. It cannot overcome mistakes or penalties. The Gators also cannot overcome special teams miscues, and could not stop them from happening tonight, it seemed. No points were scored by the offense. None. Every drive stalled. Both field goal attempts were missed. Florida's offense, and all the other Gators responsible for scoring points, had a horrible, no good, very bad day.
That's how you lose 27-2 to Florida State in The Swamp.
It should not be — and wasn't — surprising that the Gators would struggle on that side of the ball, given their play against Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic in recent weeks. And, frankly, all year there had been issues with the offense, though it has noticeably regressed of late. Florida mustered just nine points against Vanderbilt and had to hang on in overtime against FAU, despite good performances from the defense in both of those games. This game felt very similar to those.
But, this was worse, of course. In those games, the Gators did just enough on offense to squeak by with wins. This game was against a hated rival at home. And this time, against a higher quality opponent, Florida's luck ran out. Florida State embarrassed the Gators in The Swamp, extended its win streak over Florida to three, and has now won three straight games in Gainesville for the first time ever.
Both defenses played well, as expected. A scoreless first quarter saw both teams trading defensive stops and not doing much on offense. The stalemate was broken when a Florida State drive, aided by Florida penalties, culminated in a 45-yard field goal from Roberto Aguayo. The Seminoles followed that up with a fourth and goal touchdown from Sean Maguire to tight end Jeremy Kerr. Florida mounted their own drive to end the half but came away empty after a missed Austin Hardin field goal. After going into the half 10-0, the Seminoles scored again on another Robert Aguayo field goal to make the lead 13-0 with over five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Gators then put together a promising drive that ended the third quarter and started the fourth. This drive had 16 plays, took over six minutes, and went 56 yards; it appeared that Florida might be in position to finally get on the board. But, again, the offense sputtered: Treon Harris was flagged for intentional grounding on third down just outside the red zone, and on fourth down Hardin's 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
By that point in the fourth quarter, with the Gators still without any points on the board, the shutout statistics popped up on the broadcast and in Twitter feeds everywhere. Florida had not been shut out since October 29, 1988, when the Auburn Tigers defeated them at home by a 16-0 score. And Florida hasn't been shut out since then, either, thanks to CeCe Jefferson, who sacked Sean Maguire and forced a fumble. Gators and Seminoles both scrambled for the fumbled ball as it rolled into the end zone, with it eventually being recovered by FSU and counted as a safety. Florida was finally on the board with two points. It was fitting that the defense would prevent a shutout.
The next scoring drive Florida State put together "put the game on ice". The announcers phrased it as such. After hearing them mention the Jim McElwain "dead fish on ice" analogy over and over during this game, I thought that phrasing was apropos. Dalvin Cook broke free for a 15-yard run to put the Seminoles up 20-2, a weird, sad score that seemed like it would hold as the final. But then, with only 20 seconds left, Cook again dashed 29 yards to the end zone again and twisted the knife. It was garbage time, to be fair, but it pained me to see the Florida defense, which has played so well all season and had kept the Gators in every game, having those yards and scores rolled up on them at the end of this one.
Despite Kelvin Taylor (136 yards!) running his hardest, and the Florida defense holding Florida State to 304 yards, the Gators could not overcome the offense falling to convert any drives into points. Funny thing: You basically cannot win a game in which your offense fail to score points. And while Florida did manage to snag a pair off of a safety, that is not a winning number.
Next week, the Gators travel to Atlanta to face Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. This should be an immensely joyous occasion for Florida fans — but given this performance tonight I cannot imagine any Gators are not presently dreading that showdown.
It's a shame for this to be the culmination of what was a pretty extraordinary season. I will reflect on the 2015 Gators fondly, and while this reflection is premature — they still have two more games with which to write the final chapters to their saga — I will remember this team as one that fought and overcame the poor odds handed to them. This team improbably won 10 games with a new coaching staff, quarterback controversies, ill-timed injuries, and a patchwork offensive line.
But, tonight, the bloom is off the rose a little. This is a fresh wound. This performance will hurt me and haunt me a little.
I imagine it will do the same for most of you, too.