ORLANDO, Fla. — Michigan manhandled the Gators 41-7 in Friday’s Citrus Bowl, a game that will leave a bad taste in the mouths of the Florida football team throughout the offseason. Below are the grades UF deserves based on its bowl performance.
Florida was able to move the ball in the first half and actually had more offensive yards than Michigan heading into the locker room. However, the Gators left points on the field and quarterback Treon Harris committed a costly turnover in the red zone. Michigan’s defense took control in the second half, limiting UF to 23 yards and forcing the Gators to go three-and-out on three of their last four drives. For the second consecutive game, Florida’s offense only produced one touchdown after scoring zero points in the regular season finale against Florida State. It’s time to hit the reset button, starting at QB.
After a Wolverines player proclaimed they’d show their defense was better than Florida’s, Gators defensive end Jonathan Bullard said his unit would do its talking on the field. To paraphrase Jim McElwain: their actions spoke so loudly you couldn’t hear what they were saying. UF’s defense played absolutely awful, as the Gators allowed their most points and yards of the season. Michigan scored a touchdown or field goal on six-straight series. “Credit Coach (Jim) Harbaugh,” Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor said. “His offensive system is tremendous.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Another fake field-goal attempt failed for Florida, as punter Johnny Townsend’s pass was picked off and led to Michigan’s first touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway finally saw some action returning kicks and gained 37 yards on his first one. That was the only positive on special teams, aside from Townsend’s punting (54.0 avg.).
Florida was outplayed more than it was outcoached against Michigan, but the UF staff did a poor job of getting the players mentally prepared for the game. Tabor said the team’s mindset wasn’t right, and McElwain felt his players became complacent. From a scheme standpoint, the Gators once again had receivers running open on offense and defensive backs in position in their secondary. UF just didn’t make any plays Friday. “We had good practices. I just really think they out-physicaled us,” McElwain said. “It happens. You know what you do is you pick yourself back up and get better, and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Citrus Bowl was an embarrassing finish to what was once a promising season for the Gators. Their offense fell into a downward spiral after the suspension of quarterback Will Grier, and the defense checked out by the end of the year. Though Florida won the SEC East title in 2015, the Gators still need to improve and upgrade a few positions before they can become a legitimate championship contender.