Florida’s offensive attack scored only twice in six red-zone tries and turned the ball over five times. Meanwhile, the defense successfully put out a lot of fires during a 21-16 loss to Miami Saturday.
“Championship effort,” UF senior receiver Trey Burton said when asked about the defense’s performance. “I can’t imagine being on the defensive side of the ball and not having the offense produce and score points. I just have to give it up to them because they were playing so hard and at such a high level.”
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Burton was one of many offensive players to who took responsibility for the Gators’ loss.
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin’s unit helped silence a Hurricanes offense that entered Saturday’s game on a tear. Miami had amassed more than 500 yards of total offense in three consecutive games dating back to last season.
The Gators looked like the Hurricanes’ next victim after a rough first quarter.
Florida surrendered 14 points and 143 yards on 18 plays. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris completed 8 of 11 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns. The big play was the Hurricanes’ second score, a 52-yard Morris touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett.
“Gave them a big play,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “You give a team belief. Certainly, that’s what we did defensively early.”
But once the second quarter began, Florida clamped down on Miami’s offense.
The Hurricanes tallied only 69 yards on their final 35 offensive snaps. Following Dorsett’s 52-yard touchdown catch, Miami lost 2 yards on its next 17 plays.
“We got very discombobulated defensively. The big play should not have been there,” Muschamp said. “… But I thought we rebounded and came back and played through some adversity.”
Florida’s defense gave the offense plenty of chances to score, forcing seven three-and-out possessions and holding Miami to 1 of 11 third-down conversions. The Hurricanes tallied double-digit yardage on only three of their 14 offensive drives.
Ronald Powell was one of seven Gators to record tackles for loss, recording a game-high three for 18 yards. UF also got key contributions from returning suspended players Antonio Morrison (team-best seven tackles) and Loucheiz Purifoy (blocked punt).
The lone knock on the Gators’ defense other than an off first quarter was that it recorded one turnover, a statistic magnified by the Florida offense’s five giveaways.
But UF’s one takeaway was a critical play.
Early in the fourth quarter, freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III picked off a third-down pass from Morris and would have returned it for a score had he not stepped on out of bounds with his left foot.
“He’s a good football player,” Muschamp said of Hargreaves. “I’ve been around a lot of guys that have come in and had an impact as freshmen. He’ll continue to be a really good player as the year moves on.”
But no returning player or emerging freshman was enough to offset Florida’s offensive futility. UF suffered its earliest loss in a season since falling to Tennessee in Week 2 of the 2004 campaign. The Gators had chances, but the offense could not keep up with the defense.
“The defense did a good job of getting the ball back today,” Driskel said. “They made a bunch of stops against a good offensive team. … We were moving the ball, we just turned the ball over.”