UF coach Jim McElwain and the Gators entered their bye week with a 5-1 record and ranked No. 15, with a one-game advantage in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
And yet McElwain said his offense has still barely scratched the surface of what he believes it is capable of producing.
“They’re very average,” McElwain said.
That’s about right on the money.
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Six games into the season, Florida ranks seventh in the 14-team SEC in total offense (426.5 yards per game) and eighth in both rushing (181.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (30.3 points pergame). UF is fifth in the league in passing offense, averaging 244.7 yards.
Drives essentially seem to stall after the offense deals with any form of a challenge — a sack, a false start or an underthown pass puts them into a tailspin.
“It’s big, I think, to try to get the bad taste out of your mouth, whether it’s a play, a quarter or a drive,” quarterback Luke Del Rio said after Saturday’s 40-14 win against Missouri. “We need to get better at that.”
Del Rio looks to rebound from his subpar return this past Saturday.
In his first live action since spraining his MCL on Sept. 17, the redshirt sophomore completed just 18 of his 38 passes and threw a career-high three interceptions within a span of seven pass attempts.
And although the offense had 523 yards against Missouri, Del Rio only led Florida’s offense to four scoring drives.
“I’d say the biggest thing that was hurt is just his competitive nature and how he played the game,” McElwain said. “He didn’t do bad, but he didn’t do as well as he wanted to either.”
And a gauntlet of a final stretch upcoming — a slate that includes four games away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, three of which are against ranked opponents — Del Rio and the offense don’t have much time to figure things out.
After the bye, Florida’s final five regular-season games are against Georgia in Jacksonville, No. 17 Arkansas in Fayetteville, South Carolina in Gainesville, No. 25 LSU in Baton Rouge and No. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee.
“When you go through life and start whining about stuff, that drives me crazy,” McElwain said. “It is what it is. It’s gonna happen. Let’s go and just prepare this week and get ready for going to Jacksonville in a great event. Whatever happens after that, that’s the way it is.
“I just know we’re in a pretty good place. That’s good thing.”
McElwain said Wednesday that five players are sitting out practice this week as they recover from injuries: senior linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle); defensive linemen Joey Ivie (thumb) and Bryan Cox (hand); running back Jordan Cronkrite (leg); and tight end DeAndre Goolsby (hand).
The injuries are a blow to a Florida defense that ranks third in the country in yards allowed (252 per game).
Davis is Florida’s leading tackler this season and one of two linebackers on the team with extensive in-game experience.
Ivie and Cox, both seniors, anchored Florida’s defensive line before sustaining injuries before the Vanderbilt game.
McElwain said Ivie will be reevaluated at the end of the week, but the status for Cox is potentially more grim. The former St. Thomas Aquinas standout could be sidelined for the rest of the season, pending medical results.
“We’d sure like to have him back,” McElwain said, “but you never know.”
Goolsby and Cronkrite should be ready to play against Georgia on Oct. 29.
Defensive lineman Jordan Sherit (knee) returned to practice without pads this week. His status for the Georgia game, however, is still uncertain.