Florida linebacker Jeremiah Moon expects quarterback Kyle Trask and the Gators’ offense to keep scoring.
Moon said the defense needs to stop what it’s doing and quickly change course before Florida’s season is lost.
During Saturday’s 41-38 last-second loss at Texas A&M, another big day from Trask and the Gators attack could not overcome another no-show by the defense.
“No excuse,” said Moon, a redshirt senior. “Kyle put the defense in the best situation. All we had to do is get off the field … and we didn’t do that. I say it was on defense today.
“Offense gonna keep doing their thing. They’re carrying us right now, so we gotta step up.”
Coach Jimbo Fisher’s No. 21 Aggies (2-1) moved the ball at will against the No. 4 Gators (2-1) to erase an 11-point second-half deficit and deliver Dan Mullen’s squad a crushing defeat.
A fumble by tailback Malik Davis with 3:40 remaining gave A&M the ball on the Gators 48 and the Aggies their opening. Fisher’s attack drove the football virtually unimpeded to the Florida 8-yard line to set up a 26-yard field goal by Seth Small as time expired.
“We were probably 10 yards away from being in the field-goal range, to run out the clock and kick the field goal,” Mullen said “Unfortunately, we turn it over. They had to go a lot farther … and we weren’t able to make that stop.”
Fisher’s first signature win during three seasons in College Station ended in a sports drink bath from his players and an 8-1 mark against the Gators, dating to the 55-year-old’s tenure coaching Florida State.
“It’s a good win. It’s a big win,” Fisher said. “But they’re all big wins.”
In the process, the Aggies delivered a significant blow to the Gators’ SEC title hopes.
“That one stung,” UF linebacker James Houston said. “We had aspirations to go undefeated and go to the playoffs — we still can do (go the playoffs). … But that one hurt.”
The Gators began to break open a tight game after a 37-yard touchdown pass from Trask to Kadarius Toney put UF ahead 28-17 early in the third quarter.
But Texas A&M shifted its game plan on the ensuing possession to emphasize a punishing run game led by sophomore tailback Isaiah Spiller and four senior offensive linemen. Spiller finished with 174 rushing yards on 27 carries and two second-half touchdowns.
On his second scoring run, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Spiller ran over UF linebacker Ventrell Miller during a 19-yard touchdown on fourth-and-2 to give the Aggies their first lead of the game at 31-28.
The Aggies converted 12 of 15 third downs and compiled 543 yards — the second time in three games Florida has yielded 500 yards. Last season, national champion LSU’s record-setting offense was the only one to clear that threshold, finishing with 511.
The 100 points allowed by the Gators through three games is the most by a UF team during a three-game span since 1917, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“We’re going to have to reevaluate a lot of things defensively,” Mullen said. “We’re going to evaluate some things with our personnel. Our ability to make plays and make sure we have all the right guys at the right position to put us in position to be able to make the plays we need to to get off the field.
“We can’t give up (12) of 15 conversions in a day and expect to win any game.”
The Gators should be able to win plenty of games scoring 38 points.
Trask, though, said Florida’s attack ultimately did not do enough, despite scoring on six of eight drives.
“Our goal every time we’re on the field is to score every time we have the ball,” Trask said, echoing comments he made a week earlier. “There were a couple drives that we didn’t do that, and it was just little things and lack of execution. If we do those, then we don’t even have to worry about defense.”
Trask and Co. certainly appear capable of standing up to anyone during an offensive shootout.
Trask threw for at least four touchdowns for the third time this season while Toney caught two touchdown passes as he continued his rapid evolution at wide receiver.
“He’s gonna win a one-on-one matchup every time. I 100% guarantee that,” Trask said of Toney. “He just opens up the playbook so much because he’s such an explosive and agile player.”
Tight end Kyle Pitts continued his remarkable run, catching the game’s first touchdown to give him seven this season. Pitts, however, was experiencing discomfort in his left foot during the second half, according to ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe.
Pitts’ continued health and availability will be critical for an offense shouldering such a heavy load.
At Kyle Field, it was too much to bear in the end. Florida’s defense now looks to turn the page and begin to pull its weight.
“We know our offense is high-powered. We know they can score,” Houston said. “But we don’t expect to get scored on. That is not in our defensive scheme; that’s not in our philosophy at all. Our philosophy is fast, physical and aggressive.
“The past few years the Gators have been a stronghold on defense. We’re going to get back there. We just need some time.”
©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)