The Florida Gators, once the mighty super team in the Southeastern Conference, have lost nine of their past dozen games — with two wins (Kentucky and Tennessee) aided by shaky officiating.
The Gators have dropped blowouts, nail-biters and a home game to a former FCS team that didn’t complete a pass.
Saturday, against an LSU team unranked for the first time since 2008, UF simply gave the game away.
Undone by three Jeff Driskel turnovers and an inexplicable blown coverage on third-and-25, Florida lost a dramatic affair to LSU 30-27 in The Swamp.
“We had our opportunities,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “Countless.”
Driskel and Muschamp nearly flipped the narrative on their tethered, embattled careers.
Instead, the Gators are again behind the eight ball in the SEC East and the futures of Florida’s beleaguered duo appear murky at best.
“We’re just going to look forward,” Driskel said. “We fought our hearts out. We left it all on the line. That’s all we can ask for. … We would have liked to have pulled that out, but all our goals are still in front of us.”
Florida has echoed similar sentiments the past three seasons — with fruitless results.
Despite a turmoil-filled week in Gainesville (Treon Harris allegation, and campus cops called after teammates were fighting), the Gators were energized and focused against the Tigers.
But they played with their usual unevenness and simply found ways to lose.
In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Driskel’s conference-leading ninth interception was a poor throw on a bad read.
Now, the UF third-year starter could be benched for Harris for the second time in three weeks.
“I need to stop turning the ball over,” Driskel said.
Still, Florida’s maligned quarterback again wasn’t helped by his teammates, as UF dropped several more passes (17 on the season) — namely Tevin Westbrook’s go-ahead touchdown drop with 1:50 remaining in the fourth quarter — while the playcalling was inconsistent, too.
“[Westbrook] got open and just didn’t make the play, obviously,” Driskel said. “That’s not a play that wins or loses a game.”
Maybe not, but too often in the past 12 months Florida has found itself on the wrong end of such moments.
UF’s defense was stout Saturday night, but the unit folded at key moments, yielding 41 yards on a simple fly pattern on a third-and-25. The Gators also handed the Tigers two pivotal first downs with penalties.
“We didn’t communicate,” Muschamp said of the busted coverage. “Ten guys got it and one didn’t.”
The Gators host Missouri on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2), with Muschamp desperately needing a win to cool the fans’ disenchantment and to keep his team afloat in the division hunt.
“It’s an empty feeling,” sixth-year senior Andre Debose said after the loss.
Junior wideout Latroy Pittman was released from the hospital Saturday night, UF announced Sunday.
“Everything checked out,” the school tweeted.
Pittman was carted off the field during the final minute of UF’s loss, drilled on Driskel’s interception in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.
In a scary scene, the wideout laid motionless on the field for several minutes before giving the crowd a thumbs-up as he exited on a medical backboard.