November 26, 2011
Florida State 21, Florida 7.
Like me, most of you are old enough to remember Florida-Florida State as an annual clash of titans with ludicrous talent at every position and national implications in every meeting. Before tonight, you'd probably made peace with its descent from perennial blockbuster to unranked tussle for instate bragging rights. Danny Wuerffel and Warrick Dunn are not walking through that door, etc. You know that. But there was no way anyone could have steeled themselves against this, arguably the ugliest game of the season.
Ready? Don't say you weren't warned…
Florida gained 190 yards of total offense, its worst output in more than 20 years. Not to be undone, Florida State gained exactly 100 yards — a little less than one-quarter of its season average — on an average gain of 1.7 yards per play. The Gators countered with four turnovers, three of them leading to the Seminoles' only touchdowns: The first two on "drives" covering 20 yards and 4 yards, respectively, the third on a late interception return by Terrance Parks that cut out the middle man.
Up 21-0, FSU obliged with a fourth quarter fumble that set up Florida's only points, on a one-play, 11-yard "drive" that provided the final score. FSU's longest drive of the night covered 20 yards, against a defense that gave up 446 yards and 32 points last week against Furman.
Between them, both offenses accounted for 18 punts, 12 three-and-outs, 6 sacks, 5 giveaways, 4 third-down conversions, 3 drives that crossed midfield — none of which ended in points — and a turnover on downs. Playing in his final home game, once-hyped quarterback John Brantley was picked off three times in his first 11 passes and knocked out of the game just before the half, yielding to true freshman Jacoby Brissett the rest of the way. Brissett completed 5 of 14 passes (35.7 percent) and served up the pick that Parks took back for the icing touchdown. Their combined pass efficiency rating, 70.9, was the worst at Florida since Steve Spurrier returned to the campus in 1990.
At one point, all-purpose QB Trey Burton attempted a simple sneak on 4th-and-1 and wound up losing 14 yards. This actually happened:
Appalling as it was, though, the flop was only the final, thudding crash at the bottom of a free fall spanning nearly two months. Since the calendar turned to October, the Gators offense has failed to score more than one touchdown in any of its six losses at the hands of Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State, and that includes long bombs against 'Bama (on the first play from scrimmage) and LSU (in garbage time) and tonight's gift-wrapped score from FSU. A sustained touchdown drive? Forget about it.
Granted, those are some pretty nasty defenses: Aside from Auburn, the other five all came into this weekend ranked in the top 15 nationally in total and scoring defense, and Florida was shorthanded in one way or another against all of them. The defense didn't help much by creating fewer turnovers than any other team in the SEC. But the Gators didn't hire Charlie Weis to make excuses against top competition. The Gators expect to be the top competition. At the end of Weis' first year, they literally can't score two touchdowns in an SEC game.