The Florida offense has struggled all season. Even before starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went down in the early stages of game three, the offense wasn’t looking like it had progressed much from a year ago.
Then the injuries started mounting, even on both sides of the ball. Florida is now down to its third string quarterback in Skyler Mornhinweg and 4th and 5th best offensive tackles. They are missing their starting running back, the list goes on.
All of that shouldn’t have mattered Saturday.
“Today is not an excuse,” Mornhinweg said following the game. “We have guys, they have guys. We just have to go make plays. A lot of that falls on me, so I have to do a better job.”
The locker room following the game was what you expected. A ot of players in disbelief for a season that has gone so wrong and because things just shouldn’t be like this.
“We are upset,” Mornhinweg said. “We should have won the game. We go into every game expecting to win. We are confident in our abilities and confident when we go out and play. We expect to win every game.
In the beginning it appeared Florida would maybe win a nice easy game. They drove 63 yards in the opening drive and even though they settled for a field goal, making that field goal was somewhat of a good feeling as well because of past issues in that department. Then, they got a short field due to a muffed punt and failed to convert a field goal, but followed that up with a short field touchdown drive of 14 yards after another turnover. Florida was up 10-0 just inside the second quarter.
“Coach Pease dials up some great openers,” Mornhinweg said about the start of the game. “It was a good game plan.”
But the freshman quarterback says he had a few opportunities himself to make plays during the game and didn’t do so.
“The offensive line did a great job, the running backs did a great job too,” he said. “I think I just need to open up a little more with my throws and that is all on me.
“I have to do a better job. The receivers are running good routes. I just need to make some plays.”
Mornhinweg did have a couple of nice highlights in the game. On the first touchdown, the Gators called pass. He dropped back and didn’t see anyone open. He rolled right toward the sideline to buy some time and Solomon Patton ran across the back of the end zone to help his quarterback who threw to the gators leading receiver for the short score.
At the start of the fourth quarter with Gators down 20-10, Mornhinweg ran play action and just as he was hit, he lofted the ball deep to Patton who was running a post pattern and wide open. Mornhinweg was clobbered on the play, but Patton run under the pass for a 46 yard touchdown strike.
“Coach Pease dialed up a great call there,” the freshman said. “Solomon ran a great out and I just laid it out there. It was a great play for us. We were pumped up and ready to go.
It was a big momentum swing and the Gators fought from 10 down to tie the score. Unfortunately the defense failed to stop Georgia Southern on the very next play and Florida was forced again to play from behind 26-20.
With a little bit of success just behind them, the offense trotted back on to the field and mounted another drive. They needed a touchdown and extra point to win the game. They came up just short on 4th and 3 with an errant pass to Patton.
“We knew we just needed to go back out there and score,” Mornhinweg said of the last drive. “That is what offense does. We gave our selves a shot at the end but we need to execute a little better. We have to respond and just go out there and play.”
In only his second start, Mornhinweg showed some nice things and some others that weren’t so pretty. His long touchdown throw was maybe the best open field deep pass of the season. He showed some nice pocket awareness at times and escaped trouble a few times. But, there were a few throws that he made in traffic or didn’t hit his receiver well that could have gone the other way.
“I think I am getting better every week and working hard every week,” he said. “We are game planning on the field very hard. Coach Pease has been working me really hard and I think I am getting better.
“We put ourselves in good spots during the game. I just have to execute better in the end.”
With one game left on the schedule against second ranked Florida State, there is only one thing that Mornhinweg and his teammates can worry about. They have to put this game behind them somehow.
“We’re upset over the loss,” he said. “We’re the Florida Gators and should be winning every game. We have to regroup and get ready for Florida State.”