The Florida Gators' nightmarish 2013 season has reached its rock bottom.
Skyler Mornhinweg's last-ditch pass on 4th-and-3 was knocked down, as Georgia Southern survived a fourth-quarter comeback effort to score a 26-20 victory over the Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
At one point late in the third quarter, it seemed Will Muschamp's team had already played itself out of the game. William Banks scored a three-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 20-10 lead, the Gators offense was in shambles, and the Gainesville crowd was not shy about letting the team hear its displeasure.
With possible bowl eligibility and maybe even Muschamp's job on the line, Florida came roaring back. Solomon Patton returned a Georgia Southern kickoff for 54 yards down to the Eagles' 37-yard line, and the Gators followed with an eight-play drive that culminated in a Francisco Velez 22-yard field goal.
Within a touchdown, the Gators defense came up with a fourth-down stop on a Banks run inside Florida territory and continued gathering momentum. Mornhinweg, who at one point had 14 passing yards over 13 attempts, found Patton for a 46-yard score to tie the game at 20-20 with 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But as was the story throughout the entire game, Georgia Southern's rushing attack took over the contest. The Eagles, who were attempting to drain as much time as they possibly could, instead needed only five plays to cover 75 yards. Jerick McKinnon rushed off the right end for a 14-yard touchdown to give Georgia Southern a 26-20 lead, but the game was left to hang in the balance after Younghoe Koo missed his second extra point of the game.
Again with its back against the wall, Florida attempted to save its skin. The Gators took the ball with 2:57 remaining and two timeouts, subsequently driving all the way down to the Georgia Southern 17-yard line. But Mornhinweg's final three passes went incomplete, including a third-down throw to Quinton Dunbar in the end zone that could have won it had the young quarterback been accurate.
Instead, Georgia Southern became the first FCS school to defeat Florida in school history—and did it the old-fashioned way.
"There was a never a doubt in their minds," Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said, via the Associated Press. "We didn't play a perfect game. We put ourselves in bad situations, but nobody panicked."
The Eagles, running options on almost every down, did not complete a pass and threw just three times with Ellison. Rather, they rushed for 429 yards, becoming the first team in over a decade to scamper for that many yards against the Gators.
"Very disappointed for our program, an embarrassment (to be) in this situation," Muschamp said. "It's all disappointing. It's hard to measure it at this point."
Following a blueprint that's helped them all season long, McKinnon, Ellison and Banks proved unstoppable for Muschamp's defense. McKinnon rushed for 125 yards on only nine carries, including a 66-yard jaunt on Georgia Southern's opening drive of the second half that finished with a Ellison sneak from one yard out. That score gave Georgia Southern a 14-10 lead with 12:24 remaining in the quarter and was the second score on a 20-0 run after the Gators opened with 10 straight points.
Ellison rushed 15 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Banks, meanwhile, added 94 yards on 11 carries, as the Eagles compiled three runs of more than 40 yards.
On the other side, Florida's offense struggled mightily. The Gators' only positive results came after Georgia Southern mistakes, including Mornhinweg's 14-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter off an Eagles fumble. It was a microcosm of the season for Muschamp's team, which has now lost six straight games and failed to score more than 20 points in any one of those matchups.
After the game, the Gators coach seemed exasperated at his team's inability to put points on the board:
"Our struggling offensively has affected our entire team." -- Muschamp on offensive woes— Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) November 23, 2013
"It's a combination of things. It's just hard right now.'' -- Muschamp on offensive struggles.— Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) November 23, 2013
Bet up to more than a four-touchdown favorite before kickoff, Florida couldn't even muster the amount of points it was favored. Muschamp will get the distinction of being the first Gators coach to have a losing record since Charley Pell in 1979.
With a matchup coming against Florida State next week, things will only get worse before they get better in Gainesville.
Florida will look to salvage what's left of its season next week when Ben Hill Griffin Stadium plays host to No. 2 Florida State. Georgia Southern's season is over.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: