PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – From Fun ‘n’ Gun to Gloom ‘n’ Groan, these are trying days for Florida’s offense. Gone are the exhilarating falls when the Gators under Steve Spurrier were more speedboat than slog.
On Saturday, when Florida faces Georgia and the SEC’s best defense this side of Tuscaloosa, frustrated Gators fans could be reminded how far those offensive glory years have faded into life’s rearview mirror. Then they might pull out their hair, or what’s left of it after living through this stressful season.
“It’s tough to see when you’re so passionate, and you want to see them do so well and score points,” Danny Wuerffel, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Gators from 1993-96, told SEC Country before he and former Florida and Georgia greats took part in the Desire Cup on Friday at TPC Sawgrass.
“I think we’re all probably a little spoiled from the last 20 years of Gator football and the success that we’ve had, especially on offense. So I think at times, I join a lot of the fans in wishing that we could get a good bit more production. But I remain hopeful that we’re going to get there.”
For now, hope is all Wuerffel and other Florida observers can do heading the annual showdown in Jacksonville with Georgia. After all, the 7-0 Bulldogs look like a lion when compared to the lamb-like 3-3 Gators.
They hope that members of a Georgia defense that has allowed only 12.6 points per game this season oversleep. Hope that Florida freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks, who has thrown for more than 200 yards in only one game, straps on a jet pack to escape Georgia’s defensive front. Hope that another wild result is produced in this heated rivalry in which Florida has played the banana peel to Georgia’s heel often since 1990.
But hope goes only so far for an offense that ranks seventh in the SEC in rushing offense, 10th in total offense, 11th in passing offense and 12th in scoring offense. Hope doesn’t deliver championships or chase doubts.
Hard results, the kind that used to toast SEC defenses during the Gators’ golden seasons, are needed to restore faith.
Problem is, reasons to believe in Florida’s offense are harder to find than a picture of Uga above a bar near The Swamp. Even Spurrier, the mind behind the Gators’ former offensive mastery, is staying out of the advice business.
“I’m not in the position of giving advice,” he told SEC Country. “Yeah, they’re struggling. But a lot of teams struggle. I read in the paper the other day that our offense is ranked higher than South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt [in total offense]. So we’re not as terrible, maybe, as some people think. But we’re not near what we hope to be. But maybe it will all come together [Saturday].”
Then again, maybe clouds will open above the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and drop $100 bills.
Look, the Bulldogs’ rise magnifies the Gators’ weaknesses. There are injuries in Gainesville. There are suspensions. There are Jim McElwain’s comments about death threats and Florida’s curious response.
But the Gators can’t begin a climb past all that uncertainty and all those distractions without pumping life into their offense. The fact that the program used to be an annual firecracker on that side of the ball makes its recent decline that much more striking.
Florida’s offense must make Saturdays fun again to move the program forward.
“Me and my wife went to the LSU game a couple of weeks ago. It was hard to sit there in the stands and watch them not move the ball, not going up and down the field. Really hard to watch,” Terry LeCount, a quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back at Florida from 1975-77, told SEC Country. “We’re in the state of Florida, so you’ve got to have some athletes. We’ve got athletes in the state of Florida, and it’s kind of hard to see them not be able to put it together as a team. Not as an individual, but as a team, and be able to move that ball down the field. Right now, it’s kind of suspect if they can’t do that.
“They had some major problems early with [suspensions] … and that created a problem, because you expect for these particular guys to play. And then with the quarterback position, it’s not so much Feleipe. I think what people don’t realize, when you start looking at coaches, coaches really know what their offensive tackles [will do], what their guards are going to do, what their halfbacks are going to do. We as fans, we don’t know all that.
“They haven’t really jelled as a team unit. … And being a quarterback, anything that doesn’t go right with the offense, it always goes back to the quarterback. I’m not going to blame him. It’s a bigger picture than that.”
That picture for the Gators offense needs an improved look. And fast.
“Being able to take some more shots down the field that we can actually complete and keep moving and have some bigger plays would be fantastic,” Wuerffel said.
Until those things return, Florida’s old fun will seem far, far away.