GAINESVILLE - One last disaster.
Florida wrapped up its miserable season with another ugly performance by the offense and lost 37-7 to No. 2 Florida State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. For the first time in 23 years, there will be no bowl for the Gators. The loss was the closing act of one of the worst seasons in program history and perhaps Brent Pease’s run as offensive coordinator.
All the usual blemishes were evident, starting with the porous offensive line and minimal passing attack. The statistics were difficult for UF coach Will Muschamp to digest: 193 total yards, 1 for 11 on third down, two lost fumbles.
The Gators (4-8) barely avoided the additional embarrassment of suffering their first shutout in 25 years.
“Very frustrating, difficult day that ends a very frustrating, difficult season,” said Muschamp, who now is 22-16 at Florida. “That’s the best way I can sum it up.”
It might have been the final frustrating, difficult day on the job for Pease. He has not received assurance on his future, and his side of the ball has been an aggravating topic from the players all the way up to athletic director Jeremy Foley.
Florida came into the game ranked 110th nationally in total offense and 111th in scoring. In Muschamp’s three seasons as coach, the highest it has been ranked in yardage was 104th last year. The Gators finished this season at 18.8 points per game, their lowest average since 1979.
Foley, who has adamantly supported Muschamp, said the offense is the main issue his head coach must address going into the off-season.
“I don’t think it’s any secret,” Foley said prior to the game. “I’m not being disrespectful to anybody, but if you look at some of the games we’ve lost, we haven’t scored many points.
“That has to get fixed. And that’s going to be Will’s responsibility. If you ask him today, it’s his biggest concern. We’ve got to fix that side of the ball.”
The players stuck together through most of the turbulence, but the frustration reached a boiling point in the loss to FSU (12-0). Of Florida’s 10 possessions, three lasted longer than five plays.
“Everybody started looking at the scoreboard and saying, ‘Dang, the offense is just three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out,’” defensive end Jonathan Bullard. “But it’s not all on them. We let (FSU) get 37 points. We’ve just got to regroup.”
Bullard was pleased to hear that Muschamp plans to reexamine the offense after UF failed to score more than 20 points any week during its season-ending seven-game losing streak.
“Give us 21 a game,” he pleaded. “If they can do that, then I would put the blame on us. Hopefully they change for the better, because what we’re doing right now just ain’t working.”
That starts with Pease, who said last week of his potential firing, “if it’s coming my way, then it’s coming my way.”
Based on the numbers, Pease and some position coaches are on shaky ground. Muschamp said Saturday he has yet to make any determinations on staff and has no timetable for doing so.
“There have been some things that have happened that are very difficult to overcome,” he said, referring to starting quarterback Jeff Driskel breaking his leg in Week 3 and the team losing five other offensive starters to major injuries. “But schematically, there’s no question we need to take a look at ourselves.”
Saturday’s loss was a continuation of how the past two months looked for the Gators.
Third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, playing only because Driskel and back-up Tyler Murphy were out, completed 20 of 25 passes for 115 yards. Kelvin Taylor, a freshman from Glades Day School, was the top running back at 25 yards on six carries.
Muschamp said the Gators planned to run about half their plays using receiver Trey Burton as a Wildcat quarterback — a maneuver they abandoned at different points this year. It produced a 50-yard run by Burton early in the game, but he exited with a shoulder injury on the next play.
Florida’s only touchdown came on a 5-yard pass from Mornhinweg to fullback Hunter Joyer when the team trailed 27-0 with 13:39 remaining.
After watching another dismal game, Muschamp eagerly turned his attention to next season.
“Roll your sleeves up and go to work,” he said. “That’s all we’re going to do.”