With a prime-time showdown with archrival Florida State looming on Saturday, motivation shouldn’t be an issue for Florida this week.
But just in case, first-year coach Jim McElwain is pondering taking his team on a field trip.
To a fish market.
“Here’s the visual. When you guys go to like a seafood market or if you go to the grocery store, you see all those dead fish on ice? That’s the energy we’re playing with right now,” McElwain said, lamenting his team’s listless effort after squeaking past the lowly Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday.
“Now think about that visual. How excited are you to hang out with that dead fish?”
Following last Saturday’s 20-14 scare, McElwain rehashed the same “dead fish” analogy that surfaced multiple times during his introductory news conference almost exactly a year ago.
The No. 10 Gators are 10-1 and positioned for a potential spot in the College Football Playoff, but Florida — especially its offensive line and quarterback play — has regressed over the past month, and McElwain is tired of fishing for a solution.
“We just got some guys on this team that refuse to take off the governor and that ain’t the way to go through life,” he said.
“Seize the moment. Be excited. Enjoy what you’re doing. Enjoy the people and company you’re doing it with. And affect them the way you want to be affected.”
McElwain was particularly disappointed by the performance of Florida’s offensive line — a unit that allowed five sacks and generated minimal push up front.
The Gators averaged just 2.9 yards per rush, and quarterback Treon Harris was under constant siege, with McElwain saying the sophomore looked “spooked.”
Florida gained just 227 yards against the nation’s 92nd defense. Although energy shouldn’t be an issue against No. 14 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game, execution might be problematic.
Both the Noles and Tide tout top-10 defenses, and lately, when the Gators have been punched in the mouth, they’ve refused to respond.
And in the past three weeks, Florida has needed late heroics to get past 4-7 Vanderbilt, 3-8 South Carolina and 2-9 FAU.
“It’s the attack of the killer dead fish because we got some energy vampires right now that need to understand that isn’t how we’re going to do things around here,” McElwain said.
“Body language. I mean, you watch it. They mope around. When something bad happens, they mope around. … It’s tough to get them off ice sometimes.”