The University of Florida’s long-term offensive identity remains a mystery, but the Gators have settled on a game plan against No. 9 Georgia on Saturday in Jacksonville: Run, run, run … and hope it works.
“Last year against South Carolina when we had [third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg] in there we said we were going to run the ball until the wheels fell off,” senior center Max Garcia said, referring to UF’s 19-14 loss. “If we have to do the same thing this year against every team, then that’s what we’re going to do. It has been our strong point this season, running the ball, so why not do it?”
Added sophomore tailback Kelvin Taylor: “We’re going to pound the ball.”
The Gators, who average 169 rushing yards per game, are dusting off their old ground and pound approach, opting to go uber conservative following 15 turnovers in the past four games. Former Miami Booker T. Washington star Treon Harris replaces beleaguered starter Jeff Driskel, but Florida isn’t giving the freshman quarterback much freedom in his first career start.
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Harris’ sole responsibility Saturday: Protect the football.
“You do want to be explosive, you do want to make plays, you do have to score points to win in any league,” UF offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “But right now until we figure out how not to create those [turnover] issues, that’s where our mind-set has to be.”
The Bulldogs lead the country in turnover margin (plus-13), and the Gators hope their ground game can conquer the nation’s 12th-ranked rush defense – simply because they’ve literally run out of all other options.
“I think we can [win with a one-dimensional philosophy],” Garcia said, halfheartedly. “Whatever we can do to win the game, that’s what we’re going to have to do. I can’t tell you what that is because we haven’t been doing that.”
Muschamp, a former UGA safety, has never won in the series (0-4 as a player, 0-3 as UF’s coach), and a lack of offensive foundation and continuity have put the fourth-year coach’s job in jeopardy.
“It’s been a rough tide,” senior right tackle Chaz Green said. “It’s my fourth offensive line coach, third offensive coordinator. ... It’s rough. Because you look at spring ball when that’s going to be a time when you usually fine-tune an offense, we’re trying to learn a new offense in three weeks. So it’s definitely rough every year.”
Under Muschamp, the Gators’ offense – ranked in the bottom 20 nationally for three straight seasons – has had 10 different offensive assistants. Muschamp believed Roper’s no-huddle scheme would jump-start an anemic attack. Instead, the results have been more of the same.
Florida ranks No. 99 in total offense, and a ghastly No. 116 in passing efficiency.
“I don’t think we’ve played up to our capabilities,” Muschamp said. “For whatever reason, from a confidence standpoint, lack of production has been there.”