JACKSONVILLE - As he was leaving the field, Florida coach Will Muschamp paused briefly to scream at a fan.
Muschamp even pointed his finger for effect.
The coach’s reaction was somewhat fitting given that his team made so many mistakes in a 23-20 loss to rival Georgia on Saturday.
“I don’t spend two seconds thinking about that,” Muschamp said when asked about engaging the fan. “I just move on. We have to coach our football team and control the things you can control, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Now, Muschamp has to find a way to get the Gators bowl eligible for the 23rd consecutive year.
It’s no sure thing, especially if Florida (4-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) continues to self-destruct.
Here are some of the things that went wrong against Georgia:
TXT Body copy bullets: Florida gave up 259 yards in the first quarter and trailed 17-0.
TXT Body copy bullets: Solomon Patton was flagged for a personal foul on a third-down play, turning a 25-yard field goal attempt into a 40-yarder that Frankie Velez pushed right.
TXT Body copy bullets: Trailing 20-3 late in the first half, Muschamp opted to go for it on a fourth-and-10 play at the Georgia 40. Tyler Murphy’s pass to Quinton Dunbar lost 3 yards and gave Georgia the ball back near midfield with 1:07 remaining. The Bulldogs picked up three first downs, setting up a 32-yard field goal as time expired.
TXT Body copy bullets: Offensive tackles Tyler Moore (false start) and Trenton Brown (illegal formation) had costly penalties on the same drive. Brown’s 5-yarder erased what would have been a 27-yard gain on third down.
TXT Body copy bullets: Linebacker Neiron Ball removed his helmet after Florida stopped Todd Gurley on a fourth-down run early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 23-20, Florida would have taken over at Georgia’s 39-yard line. Instead, it was the Florida 46.
TXT Body copy bullets: After getting new life when Georgia was flagged for having too many men on the field on a fourth-down play, the Gators oddly went to the wildcat formation, which has been mostly disastrous all season. Trey Burton pitched to Patton, who lost 2 yards. Murphy was sacked two plays later, ending a crucial drive in a close game.
TXT Body copy bullets: The Gators stopped Gurley on third down in the closing minutes, but Darious Cummings was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Bulldogs ran out the clock from there.
Florida was flagged seven times for 70 yards, with several more offsetting penalties.
“It’s hard to see some of that,” Muschamp said. “Whatever they call, they call. In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we’ve led the SEC in penalties — 20 out of 24 (years) either first or second. That was long before I got here. So it’s interesting, but it is what it is.”
The bigger problem for Florida was falling behind 20-0. Georgia scored on its first four possessions and looked like it would roll.
But the Gators rallied, taking advantage of a fumble, a safety and some questionable play calls to seize momentum in a weird, wacky and an unbelievably chippy game.
Florida cut it to 23-20 early in the fourth, putting Georgia on its heels after a failed fourth-down run followed by a huge defensive penalty.
“We definitely believed we could come back and win it,” Murphy said. “We had so much momentum.”
But the Gators faltered down the stretch and were left with their second three-game losing streak in Muschamp’s three years, raising speculation about his future in Gainesville.
Muschamp also fell to 0-7 in the series. He was 0-4 as a Georgia player between 1991 and 1994 and now he’s 0-3 at Florida.
“Same mood. People down. We’re not going to quit, though,” running back Mack Brown said. “We got the Gators on our helmet and the names on our back. Our parents taught us better, our coaches taught us better. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to (fight) ’til the last game of the season.”
The victory kept Georgia (5-3, 4-2) in contention in the SEC’s Eastern Division.
Gurley scored twice in his first game in more than a month, helping Georgia to its first three-game winning streak in the series since 1989.
The sophomore, who missed the last three games because of a sprained left ankle, totaled 187 yards in his return. He found the end zone on a 5-yard run and a 73-yard reception — both in the first quarter.
“He helped a little bit, didn’t he?” Georgia coach Mark Richt joked. “He played so well those first couple of series.”
Gurley did so much that he felt queasy. He sat on the bench and stared at the ground before slowly walking to the locker room for treatment.
“We settled him down and he was fine after that,” Richt said.
Georgia looked nothing like the team that lost consecutive games to Missouri and Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs scored on the game’s opening possession and then shocked Florida when Aaron Murray (Plant High) found Gurley across the middle for a 73-yard catch and run.
The Bulldogs piled on from there, making it 23-3 with a 32-yard field goal just before halftime.