Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gators suffer from slow starts and penalties

GAINESVILLE — The Florida Gators are on a three-game losing streak, and their most obvious problems are well-documented. The offensive line struggles to block well enough to protect a quarterback with very little experience and open up a credible run game; the defensive line can't consistently stop the run; the defensive backfield has trouble tackling, and the kickers are still battling for the job eight games into the season.

But two other major problems contribute to Florida's woeful season: slow starts and costly penalties.

In eight games, the Gators have been outscored 62-29 in the first quarter, 41-13 in their four losses. Florida trailed Georgia by 14 in the first 5:41.

"It's certainly impacted the games as far as how we have relied on our defense in some obvious situations," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "You don't put your finger on one thing and say it's this. … We've just got to go back and put our guys in better situations to play. And that's on us as coaches. We've got to put our guys in better situations to feel more comfortable and react as opposed to think in some situations. That's the best way I can summarize it because in every game it's been a little something different."

That sluggish start isn't limited to just defense. Florida hasn't scored a touchdown in the first quarter of an SEC game since Sept. 28 against Kentucky, and players said it can be a carryover effect from the defense.

"When the defense starts slow, it doesn't help at all to start slow as well, so we've tried to find ways to pick them up," quarterback Tyler Murphy said. "We didn't do that in the first half (vs. Georgia). We got things going a little too late. You have to pick up the urgency. You have to make plays or you're going to lose the game."

And that problem is compounded by costly penalties. Florida is last in the SEC in total penalties (62), total yards in penalties (497) and penalties per game (7.8).

"It's something we coach every day; obviously we're not doing a very good job," Muschamp said. "It's something we emphasize, something we talk about, we talked about this is an emotional game. There's going to be some things that we've got to learn to walk away from those situations and it's something I'm going to address with the team again (this week)."

Penalties have cost the Gators scoring opportunities and helped opponents' drives in multiple games this season including Miami, LSU, Missouri and Georgia — all losses. Against Georgia, a fourth-quarter unsportsmanlike conduct call after the Gators had stopped a fourth-down attempt took Florida out of potential field-goal range on a drive that eventually stalled. And a personal foul after the Gators stopped Georgia on third and 5 gave the Bulldogs a first down on UF's 13-yard line and a chance to run out the game clock.

"We have to be more disciplined in that point, especially when we're making a good comeback," senior safety Jaylen Watkins said. "Every moment is critical. It's a combination of not being disciplined and the high emotions of the game."

Saturday, UF hosts a Vanderbilt team that has given up an average of 45.3 points in its four losses. Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he hopes the way his team played in the second half last week will carry over.

"You've got to look and say, 'Okay, that's the way it's got to be from the beginning,' " Pease said. "Offensively, you can't wait for something to happen. You've got to go create your own. I think sometimes we're always waiting for something, a turnover or somebody else to do something. You've got to go create your own."

Antonya English can be reached at


Total penalties

(most in SEC)


Total penalty yards (most in SEC)


Flags per game

(most in SEC)


Pen. yards per game (most in SEC)

Saban's 'pressure'

The agent for the Alabama coach told Texas regents that theirs was the only job he'd leave the Tide for, a report says. 4C

Gators suffer from slow starts and penalties 11/05/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 10:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. USF baseball heads to Gainesville for regional play


    TAMPA — Had USF's players and coaches been less confident in their NCAA Tournament resume, Monday's selection show might have induced fidgeting, perhaps even frustration.

    South Florida coach Mark Kingston looks on during 2017 American Athletic Conference game Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Clearwater during the American Athletic Conference. The Bulls won 7-6.
  2. Rays call up Jose De Leon to add depth to bullpen tonight


    The Rays decided that after playing 15 innings Sunday they could use some depth and length in their bullpen after all and are calling up RHP Jose De Leon from Triple-A.

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is still slated to start tonight, even after throwing 12 pitches to get the final three outs - and the save - in Sunday's …

    The Rays have recalled Jose De Leon from Triple-A Durham.
  3. Tiger Woods arrested in Florida on DUI charge, released

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested early Monday on a DUI charge in Jupiter, Florida, and spent nearly four hours in a county jail before he was released.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  4. After state, academics will trump athletics for King ace Brian Lee


    TAMPA — Brian Lee can still see himself on the pitcher's mound at Venice High School. Four years ago he was a freshman left-handed reliever just trying to keep King's state championship dreams alive.

    Pitcher Brian Lee participates in a practice at King High in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, May 26, 2017.
  5. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside


    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)