GAINESVILLE -- Listening to Will Muschamp speak Saturday afternoon after Florida picked up its eighth victory of the season, it would have been hard to deduce that his team had actually won the game.
Following No. 7 Florida’s 14-7 victory against Missouri, among the first words out of his mouth were: “This is who we are,” “It ain’t always pretty,” and, “We need to continue to improve and become a more explosive offense.” That last statement is key.
The Gators escaped with a win Saturday despite one of its more anemic offensive showings of the season. And although they still have an outside shot at making it to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, Muschamp is aware that things on offense must start trending upward.
“I’m a realist, and I believe in being honest and calling it the way it is — when it stinks, it stinks,” Muschamp said. “I think if we go back to last year and you pull your tape recorders out I probably said it a couple times.”
Last season’s Gators finished the season ranked 105th nationally in total offense and 89th in passing offense, struggling to move the ball through the air and on the ground with quarterback John Brantley at the helm. This season, with sophomore Jeff Driskel under center, not much is different.
Florida is actually worse at throwing the ball this season, ranking 118th nationally with an average of 140.1 yards per game. Georgia Tech, with its triple-option attack, and all three service academies are among just the six teams with a worse per-game average. Thanks to the inefficiency through the air, the Gators have converted on just 37.5 percent of third downs and have been outgained in the first quarter of every game this season.
“It gets frustrating,” center Jonotthan Harrison said.
The Gators had been extremely run-heavy entering Saturday, choosing to put the ball on the ground on 78 percent of their first-down opportunities. That changed against the Tigers, as Driskel and the offense threw the ball on the game’s first three plays and three of the team’s first four first downs. But Muschamp pointed to play that highlighted the unit’s struggles to date.
With Florida moving on its first possession of the game and facing a third-and-7 from the Missouri 48, Driskel looked for freshman wide receiver Raphael Andrades on a crossing pattern. The pass was rushed slightly by pressure in Driskel’s face, but the aim was true and it hit Andrades in the hands only to fall to the turf, forcing a punt.
“Consistency of our performance down-in, down-out and position-by-position is not there,” Muschamp said. “That’s where we’ve got to get some more production.”
Andrades, rated a three-star prospect and the 99th-best wide receiver in the 2012 recruiting class, has seen time because the rest of Florida’s receiving corps has been largely unimpressive. The group does not have a member with more than 17 catches or 195 yards this season. Couple that with an offense line that has allowed 26 sacks and it’s clear Florida has issues.
Driskel said it’s simply been a case of what has been needed to win.
“We haven’t taken that many shots this year because we haven’t had to,” he said. “When you have a defense that plays like our defense does, you just focus on not turning the ball over.”
Although that template has worked to success eight times this season, the results were ugly when it didn’t. Florida scored just nine points against Georgia in a turnover-fest two weeks ago, and that game put the Gators out of the driver’s seat in the SEC East.
And Muschamp, who said that he “just wants to get to Atlanta,” also acknowledged the need for improvement because if Florida showed up to the Georgia Dome with the offense it put on the field Saturday, things would definitely not be “pretty.”
“We need to continue to broaden what we’re doing,” Muschamp said. “People in this league catch up very quickly with you. … You’ve got to win those one-on-ones because you’re not going to fool them very long.”