UF Football

Loss doesn’t deter Florida Gators' title hopes

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel passes under pressure from Miami's David Gilbert in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel passes under pressure from Miami's David Gilbert in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

Then-No. 12 Florida’s harrowing 21-16 loss to then unranked in-state rival Miami on Saturday was a much-needed statement win for the Hurricanes, but it also didn’t ruin UF’s season.

The Gators’ championship aspirations weren’t sunk with a single turnover-riddled stinker.

“We still have a lot of games to play this year,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “We’re not out of anything yet.”

No they’re not.

The loss to Miami — which jumped to No.15 in The Associated Press poll — despite all its glaring warts, means nothing in the Southeastern Conference standings. The path to Atlanta is still in front of the Gators, who dropped six spots to No 18 in the poll.

Saturday’s defeat was Florida’s first in the month of September since a 2008 loss to Ole Miss — the day of Tim Tebow’s famous “Promise” speech — and while there weren’t any pronounced declarations deep in the bowls of Sun Life Stadium, several Florida players exuded faith that things (see: offensive ball security) will improve over time.

“I’m not going to be that bold and say nobody can beat us, but if we don’t beat ourselves, we have a really good chance to beat a lot of teams we play,” linebacker Michael Taylor said.

Florida coughed up the ball five times — two interceptions and three fumbles — and again played without much poise, committing 10 penalties for 70 yards.

The Gators dominated the stat sheet — time of possession, total yards, first downs, third-down conversions — but it didn’t matter. Florida self-destructed in (or near) the red zone, scoring a total of nine points in seven trips inside Miami’s 28-yard line.

UF’s young defense once again proved elite facing a prolific offensive attack, but the dominating effort was for naught after so many miscues.

“[There’s] no disbelief. We have to keep the faith,” starting center Jon Harrison said. “We have to keep believing in the team or else the team will collapse.”

Driskel set career highs in attempts (33) and yards (291) but was plagued by poor accuracy and decision-making deep in UM territory.

He tossed a pair of interceptions inside’s UM’s 15-yard line.

“It’s very unfortunate, but you can’t beat [Driskel] down, you can’t criticize him about everything,” Harrison said. “There’s no ‘I’ in team. Football’s not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. You can’t pass all the blame on Driskel.”

The Gators don’t play again until Sept. 21 when they host Tennessee, but their first bye week offers a nice opportunity to fix a lot of obvious issues.

“We’ve got a good group in there — in that locker room,” coach Will Muschamp said. “They’re hurt right now. They’re disappointed. You lose as a team and win as a team. I told the team in the locker room, we gave that team way too much momentum giving them the lead early in the game defensively. That’s what they needed. We gave them what they needed early in the game.”

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