Florida football turns the page to face Texas A&M on Saturday (noon, ESPN) after its most lopsided loss of the season.
The Gators (4-4, 1-4 SEC) were outgained 555-371 in a 42-20 loss to No. 1 Georgia that exposed familiar issues on offense and defense. These included an inability to get off the field in the third down on defense and an inability to sustain attacks. Florida allowed Georgia to convert on 6 of 12 third-down attempts and had one drive of 10 plays or longer, a 13-play, 75-yard TD drive to start the third quarter.
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Texas A&M (3-5, 1-4 SEC), in its fifth season under former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, is dealing with its own issues. The Aggies showed signs of life as they nearly bounced back from a 31-28 home loss to No. 10 Ole Miss. Freshman quarterback Connor Weigman threw 4 TD passes for Texas A&M in the loss and is expected to start again Saturday.
“Jimbo has a really good team at A&M, a very talented group — personnel, rosters, depth, certainly height, length, proven speed,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “There aren’t many chinks in the armor when you look at the personnel.
Here are three things the Gators learned from the Georgia loss:
The pass defense remains inconsistent
Florida had two interceptions against Georgia, with linebacker Amari Burney and safety Jadarrius Perkins picking off passes from Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV. But Florida still allowed Bennett to throw for 316 yards and 2 TDs.
Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey made a 29-yard catch in man coverage against Florida cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. in which he appeared to bounce off Marshall’s back. But instead of blocking an offensive pass, it was called blocking while blocking. McConkey’s 7-yard TD catch with 17 seconds left in the first half gave Georgia a 28-3 halftime lead.
This season, Florida’s passing is 11th in the SEC, giving up 253.3 yards per game
“It goes back to film study and executing every down,” Florida linebacker Jaydon Hill said. “Every dip is money down in my eyes. They say third down, money down. I feel like every dip is money down.”
Florida needs to catch blitzes
Florida’s offensive line was a strength in pass protection entering the Georgia game, as the Gators had allowed just five sacks in the first seven games.
But against Georgia’s elite, physical defensive front, the Gators allowed three sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. Georgia’s blitz on a 4th-and-6 play from Florida’s 49-yard line early in the fourth quarter led to quarterback Anthony Richardson throwing an incompletion and turning the ball over on downs with the Gators trailing 35-20.
“Some individual struggles, some communication, some technique,” Napier said. “I think everybody contributed to those games.
Fixed ends remain invisible
Florida is still getting little from its tight ends in the passing game. Double Zs – Tight ends Keon Zipperer and Dante Zanders combined for one catch for four yards in the loss at Georgia.
Georgia tight ends Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington, by comparison, combined for eight catches for 201 yards and 1 TD.
A reliable, pass-catching tight end could add another element to Florida’s offense, but to date, Zanders and Zipperer have combined for 19 catches for 219 yards and 1 TD.