Saturday, December 16, 2017
Colleges

Gators seniors limp to disappointing finish

GAINESVILLE — Florida's senior class entered Saturday's matchup against No. 2 Florida State with its hopes of reaching a bowl game already dashed. At this point, all it wanted was to leave UF on a high note.

But there was no redeeming end for these seniors, as the Gators fell 37-7 on senior day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"We already had a bad year, but our goal was to send them out the right way," sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard said. "I'm sad we didn't do that."

The loss, Florida's seventh in a row, was reminiscent of the Gators' entire season. A team plagued by injuries all year saw senior receiver Trey Burton leave in the first quarter with a left shoulder injury.

"With Trey's injury, it was a microcosm of what's kind of occurred," coach Will Muschamp. "It's very frustrating."

On the second play of Florida's second drive, Burton injected the Gators with confidence. In the wildcat formation — a package synonymous with Burton throughout his four years — he rushed for 50 yards to the FSU 33-yard line. But two plays later, Burton was injured on another rushing attempt.

He missed the remainder of the game, returning to the sideline wearing street clothes and a bag of ice draped over his shoulder.

"I kind of felt like I let my team down a little bit," Burton said. "Obviously, that's something I can't control."

Afterward, Muschamp said Burton would have played a bigger role than usual in the offense had he not been injured.

"Trey at quarterback was probably going to get 30-35 snaps in the game, so you're talking about 50 percent," Muschamp said.

In the absence of Burton, many of the other senior contributors on offense were mostly ineffective.

Senior Solomon Patton, the team's season leader in receiving yards with 556, caught five balls for only 2 yards.

Redshirt senior offensive linemen Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison and Kyle Koehne also could not jump-start the offense. The Gators rushed for 78 yards and finished with only 193 total yards.

When Florida honored its seniors in a pregame ceremony, former defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who tore an ACL in his knee in September, walked out of the tunnel last.

As Easley watched his team struggle, he saw a group of seniors who had been to the Sugar Bowl and earned wins in the Outback Bowl and Gator Bowl end their college careers with a thud.

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