The Florida Gators offense has sputtered this season in finding an identity. The arrival of Kurt Roper brought hope that the Gators would be able to spread the field and the putrid offenses of the past were just that — in the past.
The Gators have the 85th ranked offense in the country and the 107th ranked passing offense to accompany that. However, they can run the football and are averaging 201 yards a game on the ground against conference opponents this season.
“Obviously, that’s the natural inclination to believe aggressiveness is throwing the football. But for us, aggressiveness comes on perimeter runs, quarterback runs and different things like that,” offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “Trying to get outside of the tackle box, per se. That’s just kind of who we’ve we morphed into and who we’ve become this season.”
This is where the Gators will need to excel if they want to execute and come away with a win in Tallahassee this weekend.
The Noles rush defense is no slouch, rated No. 48 in the country but they hadn’t faced a rushing offense ranked higher than Florida until last weekend against Boston College. The Eagles gashed the Noles for 240 yards on the ground at 4.7 yards-per-rush. The Noles have given up more than four yards per carry in seven of their eleven games this season. In comparison, the Gators have allowed only Alabama and Georgia to rush for more than four yards-per-carry.
Sticking to what Florida does well has served them in their wins this season — most notably against Georgia when Florida ran for 418 yards. Georgia’s defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt spent last season with the Noles and he couldn’t get his team to set the edge against Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones and the duo ran wild.
Seminole fans took a lot of pleasure in watching Florida run all over their defensive coordinator but Pruitt is a coach that is well respected among his players, current and former. Florida State will need to take a page out of Eastern Kentucky’s playbook as well as learn from the mistakes that Georgia made to stop Florida’s talented rushing attack.
Against the Gators Georgia failed to set the edge. This responsibility did not solely fall on the shoulders of Ray Drew and Leonard Floyd but those two in particular struggled against Florida.
The Seminoles offer up their own challenge along the defensive line with two familiar names to those who follow recruiting.
“They’re hard to block is what they are,” Roper said. “I think 15 [defensive end Mario Edwards] has really improved every year that you’ve watched him. He’s a powerful, physical guy that’s hard to keep blocked.”
On the season Edwards has 38 tackles and a team high 11 for a loss. He’s a physical force that will give the Gators’ offensive tackles all they can handle and the fun doesn’t stop there for Florida with a name that was almost listed in Florida’s media guide a few years back.
I think 44 (defensive end DeMarcus Walker) is the player everybody thought he was going to be in recruiting,” said Roper. “He’s coming along that way. He’s a physical guy, a big guy, defensive end.”
Walker has totaled 27 tackles on the season including five for a loss and one sack.
Those two will be responsible for setting the edge and preventing Florida from being able to run off tackle. If they can do that, Eddie Goldman — who leads the team in sacks — will be waiting for the running backs up the middle.
The Gators are highly motivated. They’ve rallied behind their head coach who will lead them out on to the field one last time this Saturday in Tallahassee but that fire and motivation alone will not be enough to end a 27 game winning streak from the school out west.
The Gators need to trust their offense, pound the ball on the ground and keep the ball out of the hands of Jameis Winston and the Seminole offense.