Games with big buildups don’t always live up to the hype. This year’s “Cocktail Party” did. The Gators fell to Georgia 36-17 in a game where the final score doesn’t represent how close it truly was.
The contest was filled with highs and lows for both teams with the more talented Bulldogs ultimately able to wear down a feisty Gators squad in the fourth quarter.
For the first 52 minutes, Florida showed it deserved its Top 10 ranking.
Just as they had done in wins over Mississippi State, LSU and Vanderbilt, the Gators faced adversity throughout. Despite turnovers, penalties and big changes in momentum, Florida found itself in the same position as the previous three games: coming from behind to take the lead in the second half.
Only this time, when the Gators needed a play from their defense, it was not made.
Give Georgia credit. The Bulldogs converted numerous key third downs in the fourth quarter and were able to wear down the Florida defense, much like the Gators had done to their opponents in the weeks prior.
One reality became clear in the loss: Feleipe Franks is a great story and is playing better than many anticipated, but he is not the long-term answer to run Dan Mullen’s offense.
Mullen favors big, physical quarterbacks who like to take on contact and run the ball which opens everything down the field. Franks is simply not that guy.
For the second week in a row, Franks had costly turnovers in critical situations. Unfortunately, the confidence that Franks seem to garner in the Gators five game win streak appeared to fade away in Jacksonville on Saturday night.
There were plays to be made and, for the most part, Franks was unable to make them.
Franks will be the quarterback of this team for the remainder of the season, but you can expect there to be serious challenges from Emory Jones, Kyle Trask, and incoming commit Jalon Jones this off-season.
Mullen needs to find the guy at quarterback, not a guy, which is what I now believe Franks to be.
Once the sting of this loss wears off, it will be important for Gator fans to take a deep breath and think about what this season has been so far. Many picked Florida to finish third or worse in the SEC East. Many, after the Kentucky loss, were questioning if Dan Mullen was the right guy to lead the Gators into the future. Many thought this Gator team was a seven, or eight-win team at best.
The Gators, despite Saturday’s loss to the Bulldogs, have surpassed those expectations. Florida sits at 6-2, a far cry from the 4-7 campaign in 2017. The Gators will return to a bowl game this year and Florida will be the favorite in its four remaining contests.
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