The Florida Gators’ offense looked listless on Saturday night against its instate rival the Florida State Seminoles. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise; Florida has looked like a kid who didn’t study for the SAT sweating through the exam without an answer for the past month on offense.
It’s been ugly. Florida’s managed just 514 total yards of offense the past two weeks, a number that pales in comparison to Johnny Townsend’s 809 yards over 18 punts in that span.
Senior tight end Jake McGee said it makes him “sick” to see the job and effort that the defense plays with, only to be forced back on to the field after truncated offensive drives.
The major shift in the offense has been since former starting quarterback Will Grier was suspended prior to the LSU game. In the six games that Grier played the Gators averaged 384.6 total yards per game and 246 passing yards. In games without Grier both numbers dip to 319.1 and 183.8, respectively.
The shift in the defenses that Florida is facing has been drastic. Teams are playing zone, forcing Harris to read the defense, something he has yet to show that he can do consistently or reliably.
“I think maybe might have looked at the rush a little bit,” McElwain said of Harris’ play against Florida State. “We had some guys created some pretty open receivers, but we’ve got to deliver it.”
Everything on the football field is intertwined; as the passing game takes a hit with subpar quarterback play, everything is brought down with it. Florida’s is rushing for less yards per game since Grier’s suspension and the answers that were once there are long gone.
One answer is apparent; Treon Harris is not Florida’s answer at quarterback. The problem with that is the true answer lost an appeal and won’t be eligible to play until October of 2016 and the next answer, Luke Del Rio, is sitting out this season after transferring to Florida.
The quarterbacks left on the roster, Josh Grady and Jacob Guy, aren’t the answers. Jim McElwain has been called a “quarterback whisperer” this season. He’s an elite offensive mind and watching his offense unravel has been a shot to his pride. He’s called it embarrassing and if either of the two available backups was even close to Harris, a change would have been made.
There is no answer.
The book on Treon Harris is out there. Force Florida into passing downs, play zone defense and dare Harris and the Gators to pick you apart. They’ve shown they’re incapable of doing that and the road doesn’t get easier next week.
Jim McElwain has spoken of “glass eaters and fire breathers” when talking about tough opponents this season and the biggest and baddest of those awaits in Atlanta. Florida’s offense couldn’t move the ball against FAU or FSU, good luck moving the ball against Alabama.