After Luke Del Rio missed a half-dozen passes in his Florida debut against Massachusetts, coach Jim McElwain said his quarterback had “a couple” bad passes against Kentucky on Saturday.
It was more than that if you ask Del Rio.
Even with 320 yards through the air and four touchdown passes during Florida’s 45-7 rout of Kentucky, Del Rio acknowledged he still has room to grow two weeks into his first year as a full-time starting quarterback.
“I expect to make plays,” the quarterback said. “I definitely left some plays out there.”
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Said McElwain: “Here’s the amazing thing as you go through no matter what you do, you actually have to fail to learn. Think about what I just said there, and all the great ones failed more than they won. It’s because they’re willing to go out there and do it, right? Learning from failure is the key.”
Del Rio is quick to point out the failures. As the redshirt sophomore stood before the media Monday, he had no problem rattling off the list of passes he missed against the Wildcats.
He was late on a hitch route in the end zone to Brandon Powell.
He missed a deep pass to Freddie Swain in the third quarter after he failed to set his feet.
And then there was the interception -- the first of his career -- where he threw behind C.J. Worton. The pass bounced off the receiver’s hands and straight to Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity.
“I need to do a better job with my mechanics, sticking to my reads, not trying to anticipate what the defense is doing,” Del Rio said. “You want to do that but at the same time stay within your reads as you try to guess what they’re in.”
But with the mistakes, Del Rio he said he’s ready to learn from them.
McElwain is there to make sure he learns, too.
After every game, every drive, every practice, McElwain is there to tell Del Rio what worked and what didn’t.
“He gets after me pretty good,” Del Rio said. “Yeah, you can ask guys during practice, he’ll get after me. I expect it though. I came here to play for him. I knew what kind of coach he was and is. I never really want to play for a coach that’s like, ‘Ah, it’s OK, get the next one.’”
Even with the room to grow, Del Rio showed promise in his first SEC game.
He orchestrated a balanced offensive attack, with the Gators accumulating 564 yards (320 passing, 244 rushing) against Kentucky, a single-game best in an SEC game under McElwain and the most yards in a conference game for UF since 2001. It was Florida’s first SEC game where the Gators had at least 300 passing yards and 200 rushing yards since a 51-31 win over South Carolina on Nov. 10, 2007 -- a span of 75 conference games. Del Rio also was not sacked in the game, a first in SEC play for the Gators since Florida’s game against Georgia in 2014.
“To be honest, I did the easy part,” Del Rio said. “I was back there with all day to throw. You guys watched the game. There was nobody around me. So the offensive line did such a tremendous job.”
Florida’s Sept. 24 matchup with Tennessee is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start. It will be televised on CBS, which marks the 19th time in the past 21 seasons that the networked picked up the Florida-Tennessee game.