12th-ranked Gators fall at Miami, 21-16
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Once again, Florida flopped against Miami.
It just wasn’t intentional this time around.
The 12th-ranked Gators dominated just about every statistical category — including turnovers, and that ultimately was what decided everything. Florida turned the ball over five times, came up empty on four red-zone trips and wound up losing 21-16 to the Hurricanes on Saturday in what’s widely expected to be the last time the one-time traditional rivals meet for a long, long time.
“I can’t give it to Miami,” Gators offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison said. “It is on us.”
Stephen Morris threw two first-quarter touchdown passes to put Miami ahead, and the onslaught of Gator mistakes ensured that the Hurricanes stayed there. The win almost certain assures that the Hurricanes — dogged for the last 26 months by a still-unresolved NCAA probe — will return to the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2010.
“It’s been such a hard road,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “We’ve just been battling this thing and obviously they’re one of the teams they’ve been battling during this thing. I think you guys can figure that out. It was just a very cathartic moment. It was a great moment for our guys, all those guys that not only chose the University of Miami during this but stood there and fought.”
In 1971, the Gators executed what’s forever known as the “Florida Flop,” when the defense fell to the ground and let Miami score, just so the offense could get the ball back and allow John Reaves to break Jim Plunkett’s record for NCAA career passing yards.
This one will just go down as an all-day flop.
Jeff Driskel completed 22 of 33 passes for a career-best 291 yards and a late touchdown for Florida (1-1), which had gotten off to 2-0 starts in each of the previous eight seasons. But he had two interceptions, fumbled once and was stopped on a fourth-down try for another giveaway, all part of a messy effort by the Gators.
“It started with me,” Driskel said. “I was careless with the ball.”
Duke Johnson added a 2-yard touchdown run for a 21-9 lead with 3:29 left for Miami (2-0), which has won four straight dating back to last season, the longest such streak for the Hurricanes since 2008.
The offensive numbers were ridiculously one-sided, in favor of the Gators. Florida outgained Miami 413-212, had a 22-10 edge in first downs, outran the Hurricanes 122-50, enjoyed nearly a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession and held Miami to an abysmal 1-for-11 effort on third-down chances.
And the Gators still lost, only blaming themselves afterward.
“You cannot keep shooting yourself in the foot, especially on the road,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Miami had 143 yards in the first quarter, averaging 7.9 yards per play. The rest of the way: 69 yards, 2.0 per play. It was Miami’s lowest yardage total in a victory since Oct. 26, 1996, when the Hurricanes managed only 162 against then-No. 12 West Virginia.
“There was nothing easy on that field,” Golden said. “For either team.”
For Florida, that was particularly true when it got inside the Miami 20.
The one touchdown Florida had in the red zone was a gift, set up by a blocked punt in the first quarter. The other Florida trips deep into Miami territory ended thusly:
— Interception by Miami’s Rayshawn Jenkins.
— Driskel stopped on downs by Miami’s Denzel Perryman and Olsen Pierre.
— Fumble by Trey Burton that was forced by the Hurricanes’ Jimmy Gaines.
— Field goal by Florida’s Austin Hardin.
— Interception by Miami’s Tracy Howard.
“I’m putting it on myself,” Burton said. “I made many mistakes.”
Driskel was sacked by Miami’s Tyriq McCord deep in Florida territory with 4:32 left, setting up the touchdown by Johnson that figured to put the game out of reach.
Still, the Gators had a chance. Driskel — who also ran for a score — found Solomon Patton for a 21-yard touchdown with 2:08 left to get the Gators within five. Miami recovered the ensuing onside kick and wound up punting the ball away, but Florida went nowhere at the end, and Miami had a celebration that was long in the making.
The Hurricanes had lost 12 of their last 14 games against teams ranked No. 12 or higher, often getting blown out.
“This is why you come to The U, to play the Florida Gators,” McCord said.
The Gators reached the Miami 28 on the game’s opening drive, then wound losing the ball on a fumble by Matt Jones. Morris took advantage, finding Herb Waters with a 7-yard touchdown pass that opened the scoring.
Morris connected with Phillip Dorsett for a 52-yard score and a 14-6 lead for Miami late in the quarter, becoming the first quarterback to have two opening-period TD throws against the Gators since JaMarcus Russell did it for LSU in 2005. After the Morris-to-Dorsett play, not counting an end-of-half kneeldown, the Hurricanes ran six plays in about 17 minutes.
The Gators ran 30 in that span, and didn’t get a single point out of them.
“The first series we didn’t do a very good job,” Muschamp said. “Once we got some things corrected, we played a lot better. ... At the end of the day, we gave them too much momentum. We gave them what they needed.”