Call it like it is, the Florida Gators game against Florida Atlantic was a trap game and Florida found themselves stuck on Saturday afternoon.
During the week, sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor rightly stated that every player on FAU’s roster would love to be on the other sideline on Saturday night. Florida Atlantic is a new program compared to the big three schools in the state. Florida is the state university, a perennial powerhouse in the state of Florida and have a football program that Florida kids dream of playing for.
Last week Florida beat South Carolina and finished off a perfect record against the SEC East. Next week the Gators will face an instate rival in Florida State who has beaten them two years in a row and Alabama (most likely) awaits in the SEC Championship game after that.
On paper the Owls didn’t stand a chance and the Gators came out like a group of guys who knew that. “Very disappointed with our effort,” Jim McElwain said of his teams’ performance.
“Here’s the visual. When you guys go to like a seafood market or if you go to the grocery store, you see all those dead fish on ice? That’s the energy they’re playing with right now,” said McElwain. “Now think about that visual. How excited are you to hang out with that dead fish?”
Florida was playing behind the eight ball on Saturday, dealing with injuries that forced Antonio Riles to fill in on the defensive line. Riles came to Florida as a defensive lineman but made the move over to the offensive line two seasons ago. Riles didn’t find out until Friday that he would have to make the move back to defense this week.
“They just told me to play the three-technique and go from there,” said Riles.
Florida’s offense accumulated just 69 yards in the first half against a FAU defense that was giving up an average of 428 yards a game. Treon Harris completed eight passes against an Owl defense that averaged allowing 18 completions for 243 yards per game. Johnny Townsend had more punts than Florida had pass completions.
The offense did show signs of life. Treon Harris had two 14-yard runs in the second quarter, Kelvin Taylor broke off a 20-yard scamper in the third and Antonio Callaway hauled in a 53-yard touchdown reception, which gave him 541 receiving yards on the season, second most for a true freshman at Florida.
There was also the go-ahead touchdown in overtime, a brilliantly drawn up and executed play. Despite Florida executing the overtime touchdown to perfection, FAU still had it covered and it took some nifty footwork from senior Jake McGee to make two men miss and find the end zone.
Those plays show glimmers of hope but the offense continues to struggle and the way that they are playing right now will prevent Florida from playing in anything other than these close, down to the wire, nail-bitter type of football games.
The narrow victory over FAU should show this team just that. They’re not good enough to just roll the ball out on the field and go through the motions — not many teams in the history of college football have been that good.
Saturday should serve as an eye-opener. Luckily for the Gators, the next couple of games on the schedule should serve as motivation enough to do more than just show up.
“ [We] Just get better as a whole offense all around. We just have to go in there and see what corrections we need to clean up and we’ll clean ‘em up,” Kelvin Taylor said. “Just be fundamentally sound. I mean, a lot of things we did today we just beat up on ourself, but I mean, we just gotta be more focused and just be locked in. But hey, we got the win, so you can’t never complain about that.”