Gators forced to discovery mode

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks throws during the first half Saturday against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer] Whether it’s a last-second touchdown pass for a victory or a missed extra point that leads to a loss, every game is revealing, every game is a learning experience.

So, where do the Florida Gators go from here, coming off a tough one-point loss at home to LSU and now facing maybe an even tougher opponent in The Swamp on Saturday in Texas A&M?

“You’ve got to do a really good job. We’re going to find out a lot about leadership as to where we go,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “We need to come back, have a good week, get ready to put this one to bed and get ready to play our next opponent. Another talented group coming in again.

“There’s going to be good things in every game, whether it’s a win or loss. There’s always things to build on, there’s always things to work on. It’s tough. It is what it is. Not real happy about it obviously and neither are our guys. But we’re also going to find out about this team a little bit, too.”

The young Gators discovered how quickly and dramatically momentum can change in the 17-16 loss to LSU. UF had all the momentum after back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, but then lost it when Eddy Pineiro’s extra-point attempted sailed wide left after the potential game-tying touchdown late in the third quarter.

From that point on, the Tigers dominated the game and prevented the Gators, who fell out of the college football rankings Sunday, from making even a threat of a comeback. In the fourth quarter, LSU’s offense controlled the ball and the Florida offense could muster only one first down and 37 total yards.

The disappointing loss puts the Gators in a precarious position in the SEC East race heading into the heart of the schedule. After Texas A&M on Saturday, UF faces division leader and undefeated Georgia in Jacksonville two weeks later.

This two-game stretch is crucial, and could define the Gators’ season.

“The leaders that we have, we’re going to keep everybody together,” junior defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. “We got to keep each other motivated, not have our heads down about this loss because we still have a whole season left to go.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks was not hanging his head after Saturday’s loss, even though it was another tough day for him and the offense. Franks threw for only 108 yards, was sacked five times and had poor time management on UF’s last drive, which started with 4:01 remaining.

The Gators made only one first down on the drive and turned the ball back over with only 1:39 to play when Franks’ fourth-down pass from the UF 25 was tipped and fell incomplete.

“Coach Nuss (offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier) and them tell me there’s going to be ups and there’s going to be downs, and it’s just how you respond when you’re down,” Franks […]