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Florida Gators lose third in a row, 10-7 to Mississippi State Bulldogs

GAINESVILLE — Until Saturday, Florida hadn't lost a homecoming game since 1988, when those garish orange jerseys were in vogue and Emmitt Smith was a sophomore.

Speaking of Smith, yes, his collegiate eligibility has been exhausted. Otherwise, even a 41-year-old with 15 years of NFL tread might be a welcome sight in the beleaguered Gators offense. Or its kicking game.

On a breezy night that swerved smack into the apocalyptic, the Gator offense became more anemic, the boos more resounding and the injury report more bloated.

A wide right 42-yard field goal by punter-turned-kicker Chas Henry — his second miss of the night — with four seconds to play preserved Mississippi State's 10-7 win before an audience of 90,517.

"We're not very good right now," coach Urban Meyer said — several times — afterward.

Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC), loser of three in a row in the regular season for the first time since the Galen Hall era, is all but assured of dropping out of the Top 25 for the first time in Meyer's six-plus seasons.

The Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2) ended a 16-game losing streak at Florida Field dating to 1965.

Only South Carolina's 31-28 upset loss at Kentucky keeps Florida in legitimate contention for the SEC East. Unless the offensive stench dissipates, those chances will regress from legitimate to mathematical in a hurry.

When asked if some major offensive changes could be forthcoming, Meyer said, "I think so."

"If that's what Coach Meyer thinks we need to do, we're all for it," said quarterback John Brantley, who passed for 210 yards but was sacked three times and stymied by a pocket that frequently caved on him.

"We've got Coach Meyer's back. We've got offensive coordinator Steve) Addazio's back. Whatever they want to do, we're on board."

Additionally, Meyer indicated, key players (tailbacks Jeff Demps and Mike Gillislee, kicker Caleb Sturgis, wideout Andre Debose) must get healthy, and, perhaps more important, these Gators must find ways to win.

"If you look back, there's some big-time wins around here where guys stepped up and made a play," he said. "And we just have to do that."

Stymied by Mississippi State's blitz-from-all-angles scheme that might have perforated Brantley's flap jacket, Florida managed 138 total yards — 17 on the ground — in the first half.

After one quarter, Brantley had 5 passing yards and — for the sixth time in seven opening quarters this season — the Gators had a zero on the scoreboard.

Meantime, the Bulldogs, dissecting the heart of Florida's defense with simple dives and keepers out of coach's Dan Mullen spread offense, built a 10-0 first-quarter lead. The Bulldogs capped an 11-play, 64-yard drive on quarterback Chris Relf's 6-yard run with 45 seconds left.

Florida's only tangible sign of potency came on its first possession of the second half. Buoyed by a liberal infusion of wildcat formations and counters, not to mention a Demps sighting, the Gators drove 80 yards in 13 plays, capped by Omarius Hines' 5-yard scoring run.

Demps, nursing a sprained left foot for roughly the past month, ran for 26 of his 36 yards on three carries on the drive. But all that posterity will recall is his fumble after catching a Brantley pass at the Bulldogs 17 with 7:50 to play in the game.

Still, the Gators got themselves in position to tie with an efficient two-minute drill that began at their 4. Brantley, going underneath as Mississippi State swarmed the secondary, went 9-for-12 on the drive before flinging the ball away on third and 5 at the 25 while being chased out of the pocket.

That set the stage for the miss by Henry, thrust into kicking duty by Sturgis' back injury.

"We're a real close bunch," Brantley said. "We've all got each others' backs. We all love each other. Whether it's a win or loss, we're all going to stick together and keep playing and have each others' back."

Mississippi St. 10

No. 22 Florida 7



. fast facts

Unfamiliar feeling

The Gators have lost three in a row for the first time since 1999, and it's their first consecutive losses in Gainesville since 2003:

1999

Nov. 20FSU 30-23

Dec. 4 Alabama 34-7 *

Jan. 1Michigan St.37-34 %

2003

Sept. 20Tennessee24-10

Oct. 14Ole Miss20-17

* Neutral site, SEC title game

% Neutral site, Citrus Bowl

Florida Gators lose third in a row, 10-7 to Mississippi State Bulldogs 10/16/10 [Last modified: Sunday, October 17, 2010 12:36am]
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