October 2, 2011

Mistaken Identity

A young, but talented, Florida team seemed to have forged an identity through its first four games.

The Gators were a smash-mouth running football team that stopped the run and played near-perfect special teams.

No. 3 Alabama (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) left No. 12 UF (4-1, 2-1 SEC) with a case of split-personality disorder after the fifth game of the season.

The Crimson Tide overwhelmed the Gators 38-10 in The Swamp on Saturday night, handing UF a beat down for its first loss of the year for the season straight season.

"They got a good football team, we knew that going in, and you can't afford to make some of the costly mistakes," UF coach Will Muschamp said after the game.

On offense, Florida was held to 15 rushing yards on 29 carries.

On defense, Alabama running back Trent Richardson gashed UF for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. And Eddie Lacy chipped In 32 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

And on special teams, the Gators committed two penalties that led to re-kicks, missed the first field goal of the season and allowed Marquis Maze a 70-yard return to set up a Richardson touchdown run in the first half.

"I don't think there's any question you're frustrated," Muschamp said. "If you're a competitor you should be."

Richardson frustrated UF's run defense, which came into the contest allowing 56 yards per game, good for third in the SEC and fifth in the nation, all night long.

The powerful back consistently broke tackles and pushed the pile for extra yards from the beginning of the game to the end, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

"It takes 11 hats to bring him down," UF defensive tackle Jaye Howard said. "He's a great player, I give him that."

Howard said that the defensive line didn't do a good enough job shedding blocks against Alabama's big, physical offensive line.

"We didn't control the line of scrimmage tonight," Howard said. "There are times we looked good, and there are times they just ran right through us."

UF was unable to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The gaping holes that were available to Florida's running backs through the first four weeks were suddenly closed against Alabama. The Gators came in averaging an SEC-best 259 rushing yards per game, but quarterback Jeff Driskel led the team in rushing yards with 18 on Saturday night. Running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were held to eight yards on 14 carries.

Rainey said UA's defense was taking away the outside run, which prevented UF's speedy runners from taking the corner and breaking long gains.

"We didn't run the inside run very well either," Muschamp said.

Florida will have to figure out how to get back their identity by the time next Saturday's contest with No. 1 LSU (5-0), who is built similarly to Alabama with a hard-nosed attitude predicated on stopping the run and running the ball.

No one would fault the Gators for dropping back-to-back games to two top-five teams in their first season under a new coaching staff.

But UF's players aren't OK with losing no matter who the opponent is.

"We don't take any loss as acceptable," sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. "It's definitely not up to our standards in our opinion. We feel like we gotta get a little better."

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