GAINESVILLE -- Balance is overrated.
That’s what No. 3 Florida has shown on offense this season, rushing on nearly 70 percent of its snaps and all but ignoring the passing game.
Against LSU two weeks ago, the Gators won by dominating the Tigers up front and pounding them in the second half with 30 runs (and only four passes) until their defense wilted in the Gainesville heat.
“We can do that against anybody, really,” offensive lineman Jon Halapio said. “We can wear down anybody. I feel pretty strong about that.”
That has worked so far. But can it continue?
Through six games, the passing statistics are staggering: Florida is last in Southeastern Conference and 118th nationally in passing yards with an average of 145 per game. In the past two games combined, quarterback Jeff Driskel has thrown for just 138 yards — total. Against Vanderbilt last weekend, UF didn’t complete a pass in the second half.
But when it comes to Driskel, those numbers mean little.
“I didn’t realize we were last in passing,” he said Monday. “We’re first in the [SEC] East. That’s all that matters. We’re undefeated. We haven’t dropped a game yet. If you’re winning, everything’s all right.”
According to Muschamp, Florida is playing to its strengths.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what your players can do,” he said. “That’s what good coaches do is they identify who they are and understand what they can and can’t do.”
The Gators have a dominant defense that is allowing just 12.3 points per game. They have one of the SEC’s best running backs in Mike Gillislee, who is on pace for the first 1,000-yard rushing season at UF since 2004.
And they have a sophomore at quarterback throwing to a lackluster receiving corps that has just one member with a 100-yard game this season.
According to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who rose to prominence at Florida running a pass-happy spread offense known as the “fun-and-gun,” that’s the formula for success in today’s college football landscape, especially in the SEC.
“There’s all kind of ways to win the game. The best one is to play outstanding defense and special teams, and run the ball,” he said. “There’s been a lot of champions that ran the ball. … You don’t have to throw the ball to win championships.”
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who Muschamp called “not a stat guy,” said it’s as simple as doing what’s working until the opponent can stop it.
Against Vanderbilt, Driskel scored all three of his rushing touchdowns on the same zone-read designed run. Each time, he went untouched into the end zone. Pease kept calling it.
“When we go in and you hit 10 plays for explosive plays, the bottom line is run them again. Run them again,” Pease said. “Let’s not get greedy here as a coach and say, ‘I don’t like that, I’m throwing the ball because that’s what we all love to do.’ If Jeff Driskel can carry the ball 70 yards and outrun everybody, he’s getting the ball.
“I’m not going to be stubborn as far as playing off numbers every week. I’m going to do what’s best for this team and what they create for us to be productive and score points and win football games.”
Still, Pease said he craves balance and understands the importance of an effective passing game.
“You’ve got to be good at it,” he said. “Here’s what’s going to happen: If you are not balanced in what you do, they’re going to start loading things up.”