Florida football notebook: Billy Napier expresses disappointment after mistake-filled opener

By OnlyGators.com Staff
September 4, 2023
Florida football notebook: Billy Napier expresses disappointment after mistake-filled opener

Image Credit: Maddie Washburn, UAA

The Florida Gators opened Week 2 of the 2023 season with one word circling head coach Billy Napier’s mind: “disappointed.” In that way, Napier echoed the sentiment of Gators fans who certainly felt dejected coming off Florida’s mistake-filled 24-11 loss to No. 14 Utah.

“Obviously very disappointed with the performance of our team,” Napier said. “The lesson here is that execution wins. Having the discipline to execute in the moment is something that this game requires. There’s no question that we can help our players by coaching better, and certainly we can play better at times.”

While there were some silver linings to Thursday’s loss — improved third-down defense, notable individual efforts — the Gators were largely inefficient offensively and relatively atrocious on special teams. In both phases, the team committed discipline-lacking penalties; on special teams, Florida’s coaches and players made fundamental mistakes that should have been worked out long ago.

Napier appeared to recognize and accept the latter.

“The big issue for me is the self-inflicted wounds,” he said. “The Gators beat the Gators in a lot of ways — not that Utah wasn’t deserving to win. We like to control the things we can control, and we didn’t necessarily do that. Red zone miscues, protection issues, we had a few plays on special teams that were significant in the game.”

Napier chalked up some of those mistakes to surprising Week 1 nervousness, noting that Florida had played quite clean football during scrimmages and practices throughout training camp. Not only that, there was an effort to inject crowd noise into practice that was supposed to negate any jitters that may have been caused by the Utes.

To his dismay, it did not bear fruit, and now, the Gators are focused on learning from the experience.

“We look forward to getting this taste out of our mouth,” he said.

Napier later added: “There’s no single individual to blame here other than me. Ultimately, the buck stops here. We’re going to go fix it.”

Not-so-special teams

Addressing the most embarrassing moment of Florida’s loss — being penalized on fourth-and-1 at midfield for having two players wearing the same jersey numbers on a punt return — Napier called it a “really, really unique situation” that has been rectified internally. He also brushed away the notion that the miscue was caused due to the staff’s configuration. (The Gators are one of few FBS teams nationally that do not have an on-field special teams coordinator.)

“No, it was a very specific error. It had nothing to do with what we do year-round. It was a very specific mistake within the game. It has nothing to do with infrastructure or job description or assignments,” he said. “It was one very specific mistake, and one that we will learn from going forward. Every week we make mistakes, and we adjust and adapt.”

While that may have been the case for the singular penalty, it was hardly the lone area in which Florida struggled on special teams Thursday. Returners made fundamental punt fielding errors, and the Gators both missed a short field goal and shanked a punt.

Florida’s disappointing performances on special teams date back to the 2022 season, and even if Napier’s assessment of the singular penalty miscue is accurate, the program not having a true special teams coordinator may be affecting the unit in other areas.

Addressing offensive concerns

Why did the Gators not run the ball much with their two talented ball carriers? “That’s something that we could have been a little more committed to, there’s no doubt about it,” said Napier, noting that Florida’s steadily increasing deficit — and Utah’s defense — also impacted its play calling approach. He further clarified that all positions on offense — not just the front five — contributed to the struggles running the ball and in pass protection.

Napier also deflected a question about why the offense — dating back to last year’s bowl game — has not been successful at its base responsibility: scoring points. The Gators have scored just 14 points in their last eight quarters, and between those two games, the offense was also stunningly inefficient during the program’s spring game.

Notes from Napier

  • On early struggles: “Success is a dirty process.”
  • On how he’s handling the losing: “I’m committed to not getting used to it.”
  • On freshman wide receiver Eugene Wilson III: “There’s no doubt he’s really unique with the ball.”
  • Sophomore safety Miguel Mitchell was one of Florida’s best players of the game.
  • Junior EDGE Princely Umanmielen may not have filled up the stat sheet, but he did impact the game and will have no problem continuing to do so.

Join The

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux