Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 37-7 Sunshine State Showdown loss to Florida State.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
In a game without much offense - especially considering Florida's game plan was supposedly centered around senior wide receiver Trey Burton playing quarterback - redshirt freshman signal caller Skyler Mornhinweg stood out. Though he did fumble the ball twice, both came due to great defensive plays by Florida State. Otherwise, Mornhinweg completed 20-of-25 passes for 115 yards and his first career touchdown. Look, he's a third-string quarterback playing in a game plan not designed for him behind an offensive line without its three primary tackles. He did the best he could and played pretty decent all things considered.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
There is a noticeable difference in the Gators defense when sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard on the field. He did not do anything world beating on Saturday, but he helped Florida immensely in stopping the run and did get some good pressure on Jameis Winston at times. Others made more important plays in the game, but Bullard's return was the most noticeable change from the previous week.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE GAME
Freshman punter Johnny Townsend had the best game of his young career on Saturday, punting six times for 265 net yards including a long of 54 and one downed inside the five-yard line. Townsend actually had another perfectly placed punt in the game but saw it roll into the end zone for a touchback. For most of this season, Townsend has only been marginally better than Kyle Christy, so he definitely stepped things up against the Seminoles.
STAT LINES OF THE GAME
212, which represents the total receiving yardage of Florida State pass catcher Kelvin Benjamin. It is also the most a single receiver has ever posted against Florida in school history - another not-so-great record set this season. Granted, Benjamin got away with some major offensive pass interference while on his way to one of his three touchdowns, but he still abused junior Loucheiz Purifoy at times and freshman Vernon Hargreaves III could not keep up either.
ON THE RISE
Freshman wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood caught four passes on the afternoon and looks to be the most reliable of UF's five first-year wideouts. He will be an important part of the Gators' offense next season and is someone to absolutely keep an eye on during the spring.
ON THE BUBBLE
It's tough to point out one particular person who failed on Saturday because there was just so much mediocre play coming from Florida…but junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings is seemingly unable to go through a game without committing a significant penalty and ruining an opportunity for UF. The entire team certainly has discipline issues, but Cummings is someone who shows up a lot when the flag is thrown.
Florida only lost by 30 and kept things really close in the first quarter. The Gators actually should've led 3-0 after Burton took off for that 50-yard run early in the game…if they had any semblance of a quality kicker on their roster. UF's defense worked hard early but got tired, so give the team confidence for trying after seemingly not doing so against Vanderbilt or Georgia Southern.
The loss was not nearly as bad as last week's to Georgia Southern, but Florida being no match whatsoever for Florida State has to be a major concern for the team. The last time that happened (granted, the opposite way), Bobby Bowden was at the end of his career and forced into retirement soon afterward. UF simply cannot allow this to happen again next season even with Winston still behind center for FSU. Rivalry games are important - especially in-state- and the Gators have to figure out a way to ensure the disparity between the two programs is lessened a great deal in the offseason.
PLAY OF THE GAME
On the second play of Florida's second series, Burton took a zone read up the middle for 50 yards down to Florida State's 33-yard line. The Gators would fail to take advantage of that explosive play by netting just one more yard on the drive and settling for a 49-yard field goal attempt that was badly missed by redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin.
THE GOOD NEWS
The season's over.
THE BAD NEWS
No bowl for the first time in 23 years, losing season for the first time since 1979, blah, blah, blah. You've heard it all before and will see it plenty more before the 2014 season begins. The truth is that the bad news is the same as the good news. The season is over…way earlier than it should have been.
A LOOK AHEAD
Coaching changes will be next on the docket for the Gators, which are expected to make a decision on members of the offensive staff as early as Sunday or Monday. Florida absolutely must close strong in recruiting and find a way to inject some talent into this squad, especially players who will be able to enroll in spring and get a full offseason of work with the team. Spring practice will be more important than ever for the Gators considering they will not be afforded the 15 bowl practices that can seriously improve a team from one year to the next.