Three things we learned from Gators 24-19 loss at FSU

Muschamp's teams were 5-14 against ranked opponents

Three things we learned from Gators 24-19 loss at FSU:

1. The Will Muschamp Era concluded in fitting fashion.

In the end, the Gators came up short once again because of a toxic mix of missed opportunities, costly penalties and offensive ineptitude.

Muschamp's defense forced FSU quarterback Jameis Winston into a career-worst performance, including four interceptions, and held the Seminoles offense to two touchdowns.

But Winston went on to become the nation's first quarterback to win with four picks during the 2014 season.

The Gators failed time and again to capitalize.

UF made it inside FSU territory three times during the game's opening 13 minutes, but came away with three field goals and a 9-0 lead. The Gators best chance to cash in for a touchdown and take a 16-0 lead ended on one play - a pick-six after the ball bounced off the hands of tight end Tevin Wesbrook and a Seminoles linebacker returned it 94 yards.

The play begged the question why Westbrook even was targeted, given his dropped touchdown cost the Gators the LSU game.

The head-scratchers did not end there. Down 24-19, with 1st-and-10 at midfield and two timeouts, the Gators called four straight passing plays downfield for Treon Harris.

Harris finished the day 13-of-32 passing, missing his final seven throws. It was not like he had been on the mark. But the Gators pretty much had abandoned the run game by then and seemed to be hoping for a miracle.

Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones combined for nearly 400 yards against Georgia, but finished with a combined 66 rushing yards against Florida State.

The Gators also finished the game with a season-high 105 yards in penalties.

Freshman defensive lineman Gerald Willis threw a forearm at Jameis Winston five yards out of bounds, leading Muschamp to toss him. At the end of the third quarter, receiver Latroy Pittman picked up two penalties for 25 yards. Those flags a go-ahead field-goal attempt into a 52-yarder, which Austin Hardin missed.

Florida's final game under Muschamp drove home the point once more why it is time for a coaching change. The Gators could have pulled off the upset and give their beloved coach the last laugh.

Instead, Gator Nation was left to cringe as UF fell to 5-14 against ranked opponents on Muschamp's watch.

2. Tevin Westbrook will not end up on Will Muschamp's Christmas card list.

The locker room scene after Muschamp's final game is pretty much what fans might expect by now.

"We cried for him, we hugged him, we just told him that we loved him," senior center Max Garica said. "That’s pretty much all you need to know.”

But the feeling was not mutual for all of Muschamp's players.

Westbrook's costly bobbled pass drew the ire of Muschamp on the sideline. Three hours later, Coach Boom had not cooled down.

Westbrook's dropped touchdown against LSU cost the Gators the game and demoralized the team and veteran quarterback Jeff Driskel. A 42-13 no-show a week later against Missouri set the wheels in motion for Muschamp's firing.

It is no surprise then Muschamp was unforgiving when asked about Westbrook's gaffe at FSU.

"He's had some opportunities to make some catches," Muschamp said. "In that situatoin, catch the ball. That's really the message: catch the ball. You can argue about it's thrown in traffic or this, that and the other.

"We put you on scholarship at Florida. Catch it."

3. Gerald Willis is the biggest disappointment in the 2014 class.

Willis arrived as a five-star recruit the Gators lured away from LSU. He was expected to be an impact player, in the mold of Dante Fowler Jr. and Jon Bullard in 2012.

Instead, Willis has been a headache. If Muschamp were back next season, Willis would not be.

Willis' forearm-shover of quarterback Jameis Winston at least five yards out of bounds redefinied the term "cheap shot."

Coaches jettisoned Willis to the sideline.

"If I was still head coach, he'd be kicked off the team. Ridiculous."

Willis also got into a fight with third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg over cleats on Oct. 13, the same day national new broke that Treon Harris was linked to a sexual assault. 

Mornhinweg ended up needing stitches.

The next Gators coach will have to decide if Willis is worth the trouble.

Email Edgar Thompson at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com. Read the Swamp Things blog at www.orlandosentinel.com/swampthings. Follow our UF coverage on Twitter @osgators.

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