GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you’re anything like me, you watched with glee as North Carolina hit a 54-yard field goal to down Florida State at the buzzer.
You probably also watched Georgia QB Jacob Eason hit Riley Ridley for 47 yards to take a lead over Tennessee with 10 seconds left and give the Florida Gators a chance in the East Division. Then you watched Georgia be Georgia as it gave up a Hail Mary touchdown to Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings as time expired.
Hopefully you’re not like me and didn’t suffer through the rock fight that was Florida vs. Vanderbilt.
The scores of the first two games I mentioned: 37-35 and 34-31, respectively. It doesn’t look like Florida could score 30 next week against LSU if it were spotted the first 21.
You can make the excuse that the Gators are playing with backup QB Austin Appleby. Against the Commodores, he performed exactly as his track record at Purdue suggested he would (Boilermakers QB rating of 108.4 vs. 110.8 career).
But he’s also 23 years old. If the Gators have to coddle a senior QB this much, what’s the harm in throwing out Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks and seeing what they’ve got?
You can make the excuse that the offensive line was in shambles when former head coach Will Muschamp left.
But three of the five starters against Vanderbilt were recruited by coach Jim McElwain. The left side of the line in particular — David Sharpe (4-star recruit) and Martez Ivey (5-star recruit) — should be dominant based on their pedigree.
But worse than any of the player performances was the performance of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. There was no imagination. No misdirection. He took one shot deep to Antonio Callaway (that Appleby airmailed) and never tried again.
I watched Louisville vs. Clemson later Saturday night and it was like watching the Daytona 500 after spending the early afternoon watching my 4-year old continuously crash his bumper car.
Look, I get it. The defense is so good that the offense doesn’t have to be. A road win in the SEC shouldn’t be taken for granted. Blah, blah, blah.
I watch football to be entertained. Callaway is entertaining. I’m told freshman Tyrie Cleveland is entertaining. Those two had 5 total receptions compared to 8 for tight end DeAndre Goolsby.
Looking at the play-by-play of the first 16 second-half plays against Tennessee, 8 were direct handoffs to a running back (6 total yards). There were 4 completions, all to tight ends or running backs (11 total yards). There were 2 sacks and only 2 incompletions (1 to Lamical Perine and the back-breaking interception).
Could we try a jet sweep? Perhaps a reverse? Maybe put Callaway or Cleveland in the shotgun and run some read option?
Heck, there’s been so much talk about how Appleby is more mobile than Luke Del Rio, why aren’t they running any bootlegs to move the pocket when the offensive line struggles?
I am on record believing that McElwain is a good coach, perhaps even an excellent one. But excluding the Kentucky game (and the Wildcats are ranked 104th out of 128 in defensive efficiency), the offense has been excruciating to watch.
I understand what McElwain is doing. Limit turnovers and weather the storm until Del Rio comes back. But when the best weapon your offense has is punter Johnny Townsend, that’s an issue.
And if you don’t trust Appleby enough to let him just chuck it downfield hoping for a pass interference call with Callaway or Cleveland running deep, then what’s the point of having the senior in there?
Hopefully Del Rio is back next week and the offense looks much different with him. But if not, Gators fans can take solace in one thing.
LSU starting QB Danny Etling is a transfer from Purdue, too.